It was 2002 and as part of my job I put together a travel program. Being the smart woman I am, the list of countries included in the program coincided with the list of countries I wanted to visit. That fall a group of about 36 people headed to Italy for an 8-day excursion with yours truly as the group leader.
Our trip began in Mestre, just a boat ride away from Venice, and would end in Rome with a lot of stops in between. This meant a lot time on buses and stays at various hotels. From the breathtaking gondola ride around Venezia, turning a pizza joint into a dance club and having the owner of a shoe store threaten to call the ‘polizia’ on us in Mestre, here are so many stories I could tell about this trip and maybe someday I will. Today I will talk about Firenze (Florence) and Francesco.
We arrived in Firenze sometime in the middle of our trip. Right away I knew I was somewhere special. There was an energy there that I just loved. It was such a mixture of old and urban, and as with every place I visit, I fell in love and immediately decided I’d have to move there someday. Everything was so beautiful and the shopping was a shopaholic’s dream.
After spending most of the day with the tour group a few of us decided to get dressed up and see where the nightlife took us. My memory for details is fading and I don’t remember everything about that night before we ended up at a dance club. I do remember that we danced, we drank, and I met Francesco. He and I talked and danced, and before I knew it I was in his car after he offered to show me Firenze at night.
We drove past my friends as they made the walk back to hotel and we drove on. He showed me his parents house and then drove some more. All I could think as he continued driving up hill was, “Am I crazy? Wait, is he??” as I felt a rush of excitement from this very crazy adventure. We arrived at this beautiful place and got out of the car. I looked around and there it was, the Statue of David (a replica), it overlooked the beautiful lights of the city. We sat and talked and I found out that he worked for DuPont and occasionally traveled to the U.S. for business. “We’ll meet,” he said. “Definitely,” I replied. I looked at my watch and realized it was almost 5 a.m. The responsible me returned and I told him I had to go as our tour guide was meeting us early for another tour.
He drove me back to the hotel, walked me in, gave me his phone number and asked that I call him that evening so we could go out. He kissed me goodnight and in a daze I went to my room. I don’t remember if I slept. The next thing I knew it was time to make sure everyone was in the lobby and ready to get on our tour bus. I somehow managed to be alert, do my job and get all 36 people on the bus (a more difficult task than you’d imagine with a group of adults). Still in a daze and lacking sleep I didn’t realize that the bus was going up hill. It stopped, wee got off and there it was, the Statue of David I had seen only hours earlier. I could only smile as I thought about my secret adventure and my new Italian friend, Francesco.
I don’t remember what my friends and I did that night, but I know that I chickened out and didn’t call Francesco. That night I decided that I would just store Francesco and our magical night in my memory, I was too afraid to see what it could be in the light of day and unfortunately I will always wonder, what if…