VIAGGI – FAMILY TRAVEL
The streets are still fairly quiet. The natives are still smiling. The stores and restaurants have just reopened and are showing off their Sunday best – new curtains, a bedazzled window display, or the promise of the freshest octopus you’ve ever eaten. It’s springtime in Ischia, a small island off the coast of Naples in Italy that is the home of my ancestors and husband.
While summer is the epicenter of travel to Ischia, which offers beaches at every turn, and the fall is a beautiful alternative for those who want to experience the glory of the island, including the grape harvest for wine making, without the crowds, spring is perfection. Unfortunately, with its unpredictable weather and just-the-start-of-the-season feel, it often gets ignored. I probably shouldn’t be letting you in on my little secret; consider this revelation a gift. Spring is when the island – and the islanders – spring back to life.
I relish the silence when you walk onto the street in the early morning as the sun is just starting to kiss the sky. I love walking on the shore in ripped jeans and a button-down shirt and sweater, allowing myself to feel the sand between my toes but falling short of getting wet. Then, I sit still for but a moment and let the breeze gently push my hair and stroke my cheek. Instead of people watching in the piazza, I gaze at the budding blooms, getting enthralled by the island’s natural beauty as it returns from hibernation.
Sure, it may rain and I sometimes feel the deep freeze in my bones. But my favorite zia (real or adopted) will make me a hot cup of minestrone while we gossip about the neighbors and wonder aloud about when Nonno (real or adopted) started to lose his mind. I’ll lose track of time and we’ll have to eat dinner together, too. Maybe we’ll order in some pizza. We won’t have to wait because there has not yet been a deluge of tourists. And we’ll be able to chat with the delivery guy about the prospects for business this season (never good enough) and the lousy weather (which probably isn’t as lousy as we make it out to be).
All over the island, wherever I go, I will find pockets of sanctuary without many other souls in sight. The ones I do find will be welcoming and will not intrude on my quiet (unless I signal that I want them to). In my single days, I might have just pulled up a bench in one of the pine tree forests, tied my scarf a little tighter, and read a good book. With my son, it’s a chance to play on the swings and grab a gelato in peace. Now, if only we could find a way to bottle up that tranquility and unleash it in the middle of the August intrusion of an otherwise perfect place.