LOOK NO FURTHER

June 13 2013

Yesterday was one of those days you just ‘do.’ We’ve known for months that the lease on our car would expire yesterday and that we’d have to return it to the Rome Airport in exchange for the next one. We originally thought we’d make an adventure out of it; pick up the new car, drive down to Positano and spend a week exploring the Amalfi coast. But in spite of it not being high season yet, every place we looked at online was either fully booked or didn’t appeal to us.

We’ve just spent 5 weeks making this place home, why would we want to stay anywhere less wonderful? In fact, why would we want to go anywhere else, period. We’re in the heart of Tuscany for chrissakes, who needs a vacation from that?

However, as Rome airport is a 3-hour drive each way, we packed an overnight bag in case we – a) ran into an adventure or – b) got too tired to complete the drive. Porto Ercoli seemed like a possibility, especially as several people said there was a great hotel there, Il Pelicano. I’ll say it’s great. On making enquiries we found out that rooms start at 900 euros a night. Euros. A night. 900 of them. Make that 1,200 buckeroos a night for a room that doesn’t even have a sea view. Those rooms start at 1500 euros, or $2000, a night. Can someone please tell me why?

What can possibly be worth $2000 for sleeping? I mean, when you insert your key in the slot does it activate a chip in your brain that enables you to revisit the best fu-k you ever had? Do the sheets perform liposuction during slumber? Instead of a chocolate on the pillow perhaps there is a gold nugget under it? And if you eat all you can eat at breakfast, do you never have to eat again?

Not only did we not stay at Il Pelicano, we also did not run into an adventure. By the time we exchanged cars we were starving and, following another recommendation, drove some 15 minutes north to have our picnic lunch on the beach of a small town, a beach which turned out to be the skeeviest beach I have ever seen. I’ll let Joel’s photo give you an idea of what I mean.

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We walked through sand that resembled the grit you find at the bottom of a deep-fat fryer before spreading our blanket at the water’s edge where a vicious wind whipped us in our faces while we stuffed them with bread, cheese, tomato, and a drizzle of oil. Fortunately the sand was too heavy to fly.

As we walked back to the car, through what one can only describe as a smattering of slum vacation huts, I had one of those moments one experiences when ‘feeling one’s way around;’ a moment of such utter desolation that it completely obliterated all the wonderful ones. Italy, in that moment, seemed like a squalid third-world country that had abandoned all hope. We drove into the little town to find gas. The only gas station had a sign saying it was ‘open’ but it wasn’t and the slot for the credit card was taped shut.

We looked across the street and, seeing a gelateria, decided to go for broke; may as well have the worst cone known to man. Yet once again, Italy proved us wrong. The ice cream was homemade, supreme, and of generous proportion. Cost: $1:50 apiece.

Then we drove home. Home. Such a lovely word. And as the last few miles of road disappeared beneath us and the hills of our village came into view we were suffused with happiness and gratitude for living where we want to be living; to realize we need no more than this, today.

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Sometimes a day like yesterday turns out to be the gift you didn’t know you needed. Somewhere, between a scurvy beach and the preposterous cost of a luxury hotel lays everything you ever wanted. Throw in an ice cream cone and be happy.

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