The Travel Bug Keeps On Biting.

A number of years ago, my wife and daughter were approached in a Honolulu bookstore by a young man from Italy who needed some advice. He was in Hawaii for the summer and was spending nearly every daylight hour windsurfing off of Kailua Beach on the windward side of Oahu. But in the evenings, he said, he wanted to improve his English. He had picked out a book pretty much at random and he asked my wife if reading it would be beneficial. It was a good thing he asked. The book was Moby Dick, a tome I had given up on years earlier about a dozen pages in. My wife gently steered him to something else.
At any rate, we have become friends and have stayed in touch over the years. He’s married with a couple of kids now and comes to Maui almost every year with the whole family. A couple of years ago, he even brought the family dog.
At any rate, I once asked him where I should go if I wanted to visit Italy and had just a week to spend there. He thought a moment or two, then said, “Siena.” It’s an medieval city, he added, well preserved, but not too big or crowded, and it’s in Tuscany, a beautiful part of the country. OK … great … duly noted.
Then, several months ago, I was on a flight coming back to Maui from the West Coast and happened to be seated next to another native Italian. I asked him the very same question … and immediately got the same answer: “Siena!” Then he added, “But you must also spend at least a day or two in Venice. To go to Italy and not see Venice is unthinkable.”
And so, next month, after a stop on the east coast to attend a high school reunion and take in a couple of Red Sox games at Fenway Park, I will indeed be heading to Italy for several days. And, yes, I will see Siena. I’ve also added the walled town of Lucca and my final stop will be two nights in—yes, once again—Venice.
As always, getting there is half the fun. I’m flying from Boston to Zurich, then on to Chur, which is the terminus in Switzerland for the Bernina Express, a narrow gauge train that crosses the Alps to the town of Tirano in northern Italy. I was on that train some 20 years ago and it is a truly spectacular ride.
Finally, and this is likely to turn into a real highlight for me. I’ll be in London on my last night before flying back to the U.S., and I’m going to meet and have dinner in a pub with Mark Smith, better known as The Man in Seat 61. Mark is behind what is far and away the most complete and most authoritative web site dealing with train travel anywhere in the world. What a treat that will be! I’ll try to do justice to all of this in posts on this site.
Damn! I just got back and I can hardly wait to be off again! But isn’t that what travel is all about?