The greatest day I spent in Italy was my last. Why is it that you can only truly appreciate a place and its potential as you're leaving it?
After missing my flight home (the perils of stand-by), I was facing an unexpected day trapped in Venice. This would have been fabulous if I’d had more than 7 euros to my name and the entire city’s hotels weren’t booked up due to a local holiday.
I was carrying 200lbs of luggage in the pouring molten gold that is Venice’s May sunlight, going from door to door, asking for any room to at least store my luggage. Finally, I broke down and cried after being turned away for the 20th time.
Stranded and poverty-stricken, the hotel manager took pity on me and led me to a janitor’s closet in the corner. It was fitted with a cot and a sink and had a lock on the door. A home for the night.
All my money spent, I sat on the steps of the Rialto Bridge that evening watching the lights reflecting in the water and the gondolas gliding by.
An Italian family joined me and we chatted all night. They had two children, ages 8 and 10, who practiced their English on me. I practiced my Italian with them. They shared their pizza with me, and I shared my last water bottle full of Pinto Nero with them.
I went to bed that night in the janitor’s closet, happier and more in tune with the true Italian nature than I’d been in my entire three months of study.