A wonderful addition to this trip is a chance to meet and visit people to whom I am related in one way or another. In the coming weeks I plan to see friends I know and love in their village in Germany, see extended family again in Denmark and Sweden, and put faces to names of old family friends in Norway. My first chance to do this was in Italy. I have a Swedish cousin who married an Italian man and lives there still with her family.
I knew about Eva and her family through stories from my grandfather and cousins who still live in Sweden. But I had obviously never had the chance to meet her. She and her family live in a small village about three hours south of Venice. So of course I jumped at the chance for a visit. A peaceful train ride later I arrived in the town of Rimini which is just a short drive from their home in Villa Verucchio.
Eva, her husband and daughter, were instantly welcoming and excited to show off their town and surrounding mountains. Her daughter and I formed an instant friendship and we questioned each other constantly about what it means to be a young person in our respective countries. I did feel a little guilty not knowing more Italian because Eva spent much of the time translating things for her husband. But we made it work.
We managed to pack so much into my short one-night visit. They explained the proper way to drink Italian coffee and we had a marvelous lunch of homemade pasta gifted from another relative. A whirlwind walking tour of the village showed lively street markets that were more like outdoor malls, piazzas with dark WWII history, caves used for food storage and bomb shelter through the ages, medieval town walls, and the sites of Roman villages. There are stories for every brick and stone in Europe, you just have to ask the right questions of the right people. Eva and her family were more than happy to share their home’s beauty and history, both ancient and modern.
I arrived around 9:30 in the morning. After a tour of their town and a lunch taken in their neat and cozy apartment, Eva and her daughter took me up to the castle Verucchio which is on top of the mountain above the town, and is where the town gets its name. The castle is made from brick and is perched at the very edge of a cliff. Though not large, it is very imposing. The tiny village that clusters around the base of the castle like chicks around a mother hen is so picturesque it is almost painful. Red-tile roofs, cleanly plastered walls, cobblestone walkways, latch-key gardens, a constant chorus of birdsong, and wonderful views over the valley and of surrounding mountains. Such charms combine to create the kind of place where a person just wants to sit with a glass of wine and let the world turn, quietly, without interruption.
Castle walls (with half my cousin’s face)
Every town should have a tortoise fountain!
Back down the mountain we went, laughing at the gang of cyclists trapped behind us on the narrow road, to get back in time to Skype with my Dad. After some difficulty with technology, and a few human errors, we were finally able to talk for a while. It was great to see my Dad and Eva reconnect, they had not been in contact since they were teenagers. Dinner consisted of an aperitif at a nearby restaurant followed by a local speciality that is somewhat like a very thin calzone or pizza quesadilla. It was all delicious of course. Finally I sank into bed, grateful to have a room to myself again.
Wonderful local honey that you could almost see through.
The next morning we had a lovely breakfast of salami and cheese on bread before making our way to the beach. Rimini has a wonderfully long, sandy beach. There is also a pier where people often fish or just go for a leisurely stroll. At the end of the pier there is a statue of fishermen’s wives keeping watch for their husbands’ return. Many of the large boulders have been marked by visitors, mostly with love notes from what I could tell.
So romantic I almost cried.
All too soon it was time for me to catch the train back to Venice. With hugs all around and promises to keep in touch, it was a marvelous first meeting. I am so happy to finally know Eva and her family. It is such a blessing to have family in far off places. It gives you an instant connection and a feeling of familiarity to a part of the world you may only see a few times in your life, but you know where your family is living and thriving. Everywhere you know of, and the ones you don’t, is someone’s home. Thinking of the world this way helps to make it feel like a smaller, safer place.
This post was written several days after the visit described. I had so little time in Vienna I didn’t want to waste any of it writing. I am currently on the train to Salzburg. My car is nearly empty, which is a nice change, I have a whole table to myself, and the views of the Austrian farmland are quite charming. I will write about my time in Vienna once I am settled into Salzburg. I have several days there so will have time to do some essentials, like laundry. Until then!