Commentary: Humor from Celia Rivenbark: Our Italian adventure — Part Due

Published 11:00 am Thursday, July 13, 2023

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By Celia Rivenbark

It was Mother’s Day, and I was in Italy, fairly bursting with gratitude for this trip, a long-planned bucket list goal. I had merrily envisioned a late breakfast, maybe some bottomless mimosas, followed by leisurely window shopping along Rome’s fancy shopping district, Via Veneto.

Instead, I was listening to a local guide who was showing us the Colosseum’s depressing underbelly. Oh. So this is where they kept the animals and the prisoners who would fight them. There followed a thorough description of why 55,000 Romans might want to spend an afternoon here back in 80 AD. Let’s just say it wasn’t the Home & Garden Expo with one-day deals on swim spas.

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Finally, leaving the lust for blood sport behind, our group had “free time” and Duh hubby and I happily stumbled upon a pretty little restaurant where I ordered Prosecco and the best plate of Spaghetti Carbonara that has ever been produced anytime, anywhere. One thing about me: I don’t care how grossed out I’ve been mere seconds before, my appetite isn’t affected. It’s a gift.

Not so when it came to the windy, curvy, oh-my-God-we’re-all-gonna-die Amalfi Coast bus ride. Look. It’s probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen. My eyeballs fairly ached from seeing so much beauty. The curving Amalfi highway is the postcard everyone sent home until postcards went the way of landlines. Terraced stone homes hanging impossibly in layers up to the sky over the bluest sea imaginable.  It’s magnificent. But it can really make you queasy if you’re sitting – like a fool – in the back of an uncrowded bus.

I was a bit green when we stopped for a photo opp high above Positano. A kindly Italian woman who was selling her wares nearby offered “help.”

“Eat this! Will make you better!” She poured a yellow spice into my palm and watched approvingly while I licked it up like a cat. I’d like to tell you this was a medical miracle but, no. I felt instantly worse and had a weird yellow stain on my palm for the remainder of the week.

Our tour guide, the loquacious Leandro, was uncharacteristically quiet when we asked if we were headed to Ravello. He mumbled something about a change of plans. Fine by me. Ravello was even higher up and we were already in the clouds. Days later, we learned another tour bus had plummeted off the narrow road the day before, killing the driver who, mercifully, had just dropped off his 32 passengers.

I felt very small for whining about a little carsickness, a possibly permanent yellow palm and, later that week in Orvieto, church bells. Ancient beauties with impossibly melodious tones that rang 24/7. When you hear them in the village in the daytime, you almost weep at the beauty of the sound.

Who knew no one turned them off, so to speak, at 11 p.m.? With my trusty “Starry Night” sleep mask in place, I tossed and turned and chewed Melatonin given to me by my new tour buddy Cindy from Dallas. But the Melatonin was no match for these bells, tolling the hour all night long.

At breakfast, I inquired: “Can someone please turn off the bells at night?” I was half kidding but oddly hopeful.

The desk clerk looked at me like I’d just dropped a ham hock into her cappuccino.

“Mamma Mia,” she said softly. I had come to understand this is the two-word response for anything an idiot tourist might say. Because I had watched “Moonstruck” on the flight over, I felt like a local but perhaps it takes more than that?

“So that’s a no?” Well. I’d spent days being nice to everybody and frankly it was EXHAUSTING.

Next up: Ciao baby! We wrap up It-lee with speedboats, an abundance of nekkid statues and, of course, Covid.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write her at Courtesy NC Newsline.