Before I left on my solo trip to Italy, you asked me, Isn’t travelling alone weird? What are you going to do all on your own? And I said, Nah, it’ll be great. I‘ll visit art museums and won’t have anyone nagging me to hurry along cos they’re bored. I’ll sit at swanky cafes and work my way through the literary classics that have been on my TBR pile forever. I’ll keep a leather bound journal, jot down poetry and travelogues and amusing think-pieces to post on my blog. I’ll meet new crazy colourful people who’ll serve as inspiration for the characters in the roman à clef I’ve been saying I’ll write these last twenty years. I am not some sad loner who no one wants to be with. Tourists and locals alike will see me and say: There she goes, a brilliant and beautiful enigmatic recluse.
Three weeks into mia vacanza Italiana, turns out what I actually am is a pathetic forty year old spinster prone to fits of hysteric sobbing in public. Who would’ve thunk!?
Walking around the little lakeside town of Nemi, I came across this pretty outdoor restaurant. Not a soul sitting in the pretty curlicue-backed chairs. Not a soul at the round tables with their pretty strawberry patterned tablecloths. I stood there, taking in the scene, and before I knew it I realised I was weeping which turned into crying which turned into full-blown sticky, snot-nosed blubbering.
And then I was six again, and I was at home, and I was dressed in my strawberry patterned frock waiting at the dining table laid with cream custard biscuits and jam tarts surrounding a big spongy rainbow cake that said Happy Birthday Laura in pink icing. I had a party hat on and I was waiting for my guests to arrive. And I waited, and I waited, and I waited some more. But nobody came. I spent my sixth birthday alone with mum and our cat Gizmo who wasn’t the slightest bit interested in playing Simon Says with us. I was upset, but I didn’t cry that day I don’t think.
Now here I was, alone in Italy, crying my eyes out for the entire world to see. Except, there was no one to see. The baking afternoon sun had banished all people (and shade) indoors. I dried my eyes and took a seat at one of the tables. I didn’t have the heart to leave them vacant. A waiter came out to take my order and I sat there sipping my Aperol Spritz, thinking. You were right Rose, travelling solo is weird and lonely. That’s why I’ve booked you a ticket to fly out here to join me this weekend. Details attached. You can’t say no.
photo by Davinia Marie
words by Dean