The first time I found myself in Italy, I was married. We were traveling from Venice to Capri with a camera, a leather-bound journal, and far too much luggage. We ate individual pizzas and drank Campari and sodas. Gelato twice daily. Charred octopus salad eaten in open-air piazzas, a rest for our feet and a chance to consult maps.
We traveled the only acceptable way there is when visiting a city for the first time: we walked. Everywhere. Though in Venice we didn’t use maps. We roamed, over the Rialto bridge, we got lost, sat on a bench and watched a man with his accordion. I purchased paper for my journal, some pencils fitted with marbled hand-made paper, then fine leather flats, broke them in along with the bank. I envied how put-together the women were, how their handbags were always the exact match of their shoes (though I’d witnessed this more in Florence and Rome than in Venice or Capri).
We never took time to ourselves, each of us on our own, which I regret. I think even on a honeymoon there should be room for small "I" moments, to weave through a museum or church, into a newsstand to browse, through an outdoor market. I feel memories more when they’re quiet ones, the sound of a broom on wet cement, the pigeons, the light at Harry’s Bar. I’d love one day to travel abroad alone and regret that I haven’t yet. Though, I’d be more guarded alone, frightened for my safety at night. I suspect I’d run through the streets because nothing bad happens when you’re in motion. It’s when you’re moving too slowly, when there’s time to plot, when you become a mark. I know, tell that to Central Park joggers. I don’t know what I’m talking about, of course. But it sounds right.
The next time in Italy, I was thankful to visit smaller places. Siena, San Gimignano, Portovenere, Cinque Terra. Bologna for the food, chased down the streets by men. I was single, abroad with a close girlfriend. I wouldn’t wait on lines this time or do touristy things. I searched for dive restaurants with communal tables. I found them. I cleared out for Guam, which I encourage everyone to do, even in their own cities. Upon seeing my car GPS system, a friend said to me recently, "It must be so much fun to just explore and let yourself get lost knowing you can always press the HOME button." There’s always a direct link back home, which makes it feel safer to be dangerous.
And this time, I’m in Italy on the printed page. NUDA & CRUDA. Yes. How awesome is that? Nude and Crude all in one sentence. Though I don’t suspect it translates that way exactly. There’s something to do with a "knot" in the direct translation. Either way, it’s fun when your book gets translated into different languages. Aside from Italian, Straight Up and Dirty has also been translated into Russian and German and (for India and all of the UK), the Queen’s English. I wonder what it will be called. I wonder when I’ll be back in Europe. This summer, I’ll be back in New York. A week in June and three weeks in August… with the beans, when we will most certainly explore without maps.