One. Crowds = NOPE. I’ll take a tiny, quiet chapel over St. Mark’s Basilica any day. If I’m there, I’ll gladly snap the requisite photograph, but I’ll be wishing the entire time that I was somewhere soft and mysterious and smelling of candles.
Two. Traveling with people I love is better than traveling alone. “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with,” wrote Mark Twain. Even a short stroll down a shady alleyway in Venice was better with my dad that by myself. I don’t need multiple companions. I just need one person who will breathe the same air, ingest the same beauty, cackle at the same ironies, and maybe get a little drunk with me at two in the afternoon.
Three. I’m a slow traveler – and that’s okay. A half-day in Venice was not enough. Three days in Venice would not have been enough. I need enough time to find my favorite spaghetti carbonara, the best coffee, the cheapest local wine. I want to return to a place I haven’t yet left, and know it better than I did the day before. In the returning, I feel at home. I feel braver.
Four. Public transit rocks my socks off. Taxis, trains, busses, boats… it’s such a luxury to experience a place through a pane of glass without worrying whether I’m in the correct lane or if I’ve missed my turn.
Five. Every window has a view. Sometimes it’s the Tyrrhenian Sea; sometimes it’s a courtyard with a tiny table gracing a green patio.
Six. I do not need to be religious to experience the spirit of religious spaces. The ancient stone cathedrals, in particular, are teeming with ghosts and history and mysteries. They are truly quiet sanctuaries, silent in a way our modern places of worship are not. But there are voices echoing and whispering if you’ll sit still and listen.
Seven. Watch where people are going. Imagine why they are there. I don’t want them to tell me. I find it so much more interesting to observe and guess at their stories. Everyone remains good that way.
Eight. People make the landscape better. When they are people I love, my heart is at its fullest.
Nine. Green is the new black. Green is so very much my favorite color that I see it and find it beautiful everywhere it exists. From freshly-painted shutters to lines of waste bins, green takes my breath away.
Ten. Italy has the best food. EVER. I understand that this is a wholly subjective statement, and that I am predisposed to prefer cheese and pasta and olive oil and ripe, red tomatoes and thick-cut bread. But I’ll say it again, Italy: NOM NOM NOM.
Eleven. Embrace the juxtaposition of Old and New. I’m obsessed with texture, and what better texture than a row of plastic chairs stacked against an ancient stone wall? I think there was a time when I would have felt that the chairs ruined the visual. Now I see the humor and loveliness in the coming-together of such far-removed designs.
Twelve. Signs of life are everywhere. In lampposts and in bedsheets.
Thirteen. Wait for the photograph. I waited for the above photograph for… ten minutes? Fifteen? I liked the alleyway, and wanted a person to walk through and humanize it. I photographed a jogger with her dog, and a child on a bike. But this man, dressed in black, carrying his briefcase… he was a disgruntled banker going home to a cold, lonely dinner; or a spy carrying top-secret documents, sweating through his wool suit; or a ghost from another time, walking to the train, caught unwittingly by my lens.
Fourteen. It’s never too early to start drinking wine. Fattoria Il Poggio presented us with a midday feast complete with six bottles of wine – three whites, three reds. We were all drunk by 3pm.
Fifteen. Al fresco is oh-so-awesome. I would eat outside year-round if I could. And an outdoor meal consisting of six (eight?) courses is, quite simply, Heaven on earth.
Sixteen. I have never seen the same sky twice. I may stand in the exact same spot and look in the exact same direction, but it is always different. It is different because the clouds have shifted or the sun is bolder or the water is deeper. But it is also different because my eyes are wiser, my heart is lighter, my questions are fresher, my dreams are bigger, my body is stronger.
Seventeen. The best hotels are small and quirky and oddly-placed and full of smiling faces. Sorrento’s Hotel Prestige hit all of these marks – AND fed us incredible food and wine. Life doesn’t get much better.
Eighteen. Take the roads less-traveled. I went to Capri because, well, that’s what you do. But I think I am more suited for NOT doing the things one is supposed to do. I’ve rarely done such things, and have no reason to start now. I made precisely two photographs in Capri: boats in the harbor, and the skyline from a small, unremarkable pizza restaurant at the top of the cliff. The rest of Capri was all tourists and luxury boutiques I can shop at in my local mall. Done and done. (Note: Capri is pronounced CAPP-ree, not kuh-PREE. Ask a local.)
Nineteen. Meander. I realized in Italy that I have built my life around Days Off. I rarely make plans that cannot be unplanned. I rarely commit to more than two or three things at a time. I only photograph one wedding per weekend. I prioritize sleep and mealtimes and long conversations. My Day Off in Sorrento was one of my favorite days of my visit, because it was so wholly unstructured, so completely free of demands. No dividing or conquering for this girl. I’d much rather meander.
Twenty. Photograph the memories you most want to keep. I did very little shopping. I have enough things. And things are all temporary. But the things I DID purchase are lovely and useful and one-of-a-kind. Especially the beautiful jewelry I bought from artist Daniela Pollio in Sorrento. Her shop, Ping, was tiny and almost hidden in the corner of Piazza Sant’Antonio. I’m so grateful that I stepped inside, and even more grateful that she allowed me to photograph her. All I had to do was ask.
Twenty-one. Music makes everything magical. We zipped through Positano on our way to dinner – not enough time, but somehow plenty. My dad and I decided to walk down to the sea with the limited time we had, and as we neared the water, we heard voices floating through the salty air from the cathedral below us. They belonged to the worshipers in the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, and their song begged us into the square where we lingered outside the open cathedral doors until the music had ended.
Twenty-two. Find your Soul Photo. I am forever in search of THAT photo: the photograph that defines my travel experience; the image that will forever remind me of the colors and the sounds and the smells and the feelings I had in that space, at that time. The photograph, above, of the woman reading on the shore in Positano, is that photograph for me. I knew when I made it. I could have put my camera away for the rest of the trip, and the photograph of The Reader would have reminded me of every lovely moment in Italy.
Twenty-three. “Love is the only prayer I know.” – Marion Zimmer Bradley. I prayed often as I traveled.
Twenty-four. Share a meal with strangers. If you have the opportunity to eat with strangers, to sing songs in a language you do not know, to wave napkin-flags and stomp your feet and laugh until you cry in a room full of people you will never see again: do it. The Amalfi Coast’s Fattoria La Tagliata gave us just this experience. Go to there.
Twenty-five. Stop and look and listen and be still. When you encounter a place that freezes your steps, that calls to your heart, that enflames your imagination: stop. Stop and look and listen and be still. For me, the ruins of this old mill were such a place. They also warranted my only feet photograph of this adventure: my boots on the bridge, high above the damp ground; a little piece of today layered with a looming piece of yesterday.
This entire trip was photographed with my Canon 6D and two lenses: the Canon 50mm f/1.2, and the Canon 24mm f/1.4. They are my babies.