To travel means to open not only your mind to new experiences but also the opening of ones heart to the unexpected beauty, tastes of the culture, and roll with bumps along the way…

Italy called me back year after year since studying abroad in Firenze in 1999 and each year I would say to myself, “Someday, I promise to return!” That someday became Friday, July 17, 2015.

Social Media…it’s a small world after all…..

Social Media continues to make the world smaller as it connects people with similar life passions. Over a year ago Turin Epicurean and I connected on Twitter over something foodie related. Our friendship quickly moved to email. This year would mark the second year of Turin Epicurean Capital that she, Lucia Hannau, organized to promote tourism in her native Torino, Italy. She invited me to participate as a panelist in February for the roundtable that would be held in July. How could I pass up this opportunity? I was honored.

Stories are one aspect that truly make us human. To share an experience with others that can be carried down for generations or to educate others through the spoken word. I feel in order to properly share my stories I need to share a bit of what is happening below the surface during each adventure…

Change. Cambio. Bellissimi ricordi….o piu?

On June 1st my life took many turns in one day. This day brought the decision to move to a new apartment. I purchased a new phone after work. Then, that same evening, I began chatting online with an Italian chef and as the fates would have it—we both were attending the same event the following evening only to learn we were also neighbors.

Three solid weeks of spending time together until he left for Italy on vacation for a month to visit his family and friends. Si. He would be there the same time I would be there. My trip would begin in Rome where he was coincidentally from and would be most of the time. He said we could meet if it worked with his travel schedule.

I find it amazing how you can connect with people sometimes even when there are moments of being literally lost in translation. Personality, chemistry and similar background stories make it possible to have a friendship. This happened twice before with two friends. One was from Japan and the other the Puglia region in Italy who I would spend time with first when I flew into Rome. This also happened with him yet it was too soon to ask questions—simply enjoy each moment.

From Russia With…Love?

Uber took me to the Rosslyn Metro Station to pick up the 5A bus to Dulles. My flight was at 3:00 p.m. and my first stop was Moscow, Russia. Why—you may ask, the flight cost was too good to not book.

The airport selfie.

The airport selfie.

In line to board, a tall blonde stood behind me and we both started chatting immediately. She was from California and half Italian like me—and our seats were beside one another! Then laughed after learning we both booked this random “Moscow” flight since the price was too damn good. I was not the only one! Lindsay and I became fast friends talking about everything from boys to health and science over the course of the near ten-hour flight. Once in Moscow, her flight from to Venice took off before mine.

The final flight from Moscow to Rome was only a few hours and I found myself more anxious by the minute. The second the planes wheels skidded on the Italian runway, I closed my eyes and thought, “Ciao, Roma!”

I met my dear friend Vania over four years ago when she was on holiday in D.C. In very broken Italian and English we were still able to communicate and build a friendship that extended to Facebook. Time and again she invited me to Rome and I finally took her up on her offer! She told me which bus to take and waited minutes till I recognized her walking toward me. Italian cheek kisses and hugs ensued!

11745929_10152897920936587_7680366117900368533_n The heat wave in Italia was no joke. The wave originated in  North Africa and had wiggled its way north planting itself for  weeks on end upon Italy’s fairytale land. Vania’s apartment  was absolutely beautiful! Clean, fresh and the walls were  adorned with impressionist paintings by the artist who  owned the apartment she was renting. She prepared  antipasto dishes of Italian meats and cheeses. A bottle of  Donna Marzia Vermentino from her native Puglia had been  chilling in her fridge waiting for my arrival. New varietal to  me; loved every drop!

The Mozzarella di Bufala melted in my mouth the way no American mozzerella could. The cheese originates from Campania from domestic Italian water buffalo. One bite and the inside of the cheese ball was soft with a subtle saltiness; savory and creamy all in the same taste. She paired the usual olives, prosciutto and another meat that was new to me called mortadella. I could live on dinners like this—snacking, sipping good wine and among good company.

After hours of catching up, laughing and finishing off the Vermentino.. jetlag and lack of sleep hit me

like truck lost on a dark Nevada country road. I fought sleep, hit the snooze button and somehow found20150717_164941 a second wind to walk with Vania to see San Pietro lit up at nighttime. Magical. The statues seemed to come alive and turn to speak to one another. What were they saying? Joking about the tourists who have looked up at them in awe for hundreds of years? Discuss the latest pope?

She told me that sometimes she just comes to sit and think here and I could understand how a place such as this could offer such comfort and inspiration.

20150717_170019 (1)The joy of traveling is to always appreciate the unexpected.  No matter how random or absolutely magical. We stumbled  upon a VW rally. You read that correctly. Stepping between  revamped VW’s of all kinds and even one with a stuffed  Minion chillin’ in the back seat!

That first night I slept with a permanent smile.

Written by Lisa M. Comento