Dispatches from Riomaggiore

I am sitting on my balcony overlooking the Mediterranean, it is a grey day, about 12 Celsius, the proseco I am drinking, a little colder. I can see the little harbour of Riomaggiore before me, the small boats, mostly blue, arranged in a tidy row up the ramp, one coming in from fishing. Tourists, most in Riomaggiore for just an hour or 2, are rushing to get the best vantage point from which to take their pictures. They will then board the train to their next stop.

There is a restaurant in the harbour a few steps from our from door, Dau Cilla, and a few days ago I heard the saddest words ever spoken by a group of tourists “such a beautiful place, does anyone remember the name of where we are? When are we leaving again….?”

I don’t mean to judge them, myself only staying 6 days, hardly long enough to really connect, but yet, long enough to know the names of the butcher, the barista, and a few others we have come into contact with while doing groceries for our little apartment. Home for the next few days. The point I am trying so awkwardly to make is, that while whistle stop tours of all 5 villages in this region at least gives folks a taste, there is no real connection with the place, the culture or the history. In a few years, the pictures will cause them to question ” where was that taken again..” They will not have known it was Father’s Day in Italy because the focus was ordering their lunch and drinks in order not to miss the meeting time. Theyimage image image image image did not have a chance to ask what was going on, why there were balloons…. They will head home, their trip a jumble of memories. They will remember the trip but not their destinations. They will see what they came to see and nothing more.

That is the difference between a tourist and a traveller. It takes longer to travel, it takes time, you may see fewer places, fewer churches but you will always remember them. You may collect less pictures, but those memories you do have, will feel more vivid. A traveller will make time for moments of tranquility to simply be still and enjoy without worrying about the next stop, the next train.

As I write these words, my wife is napping. A pause. Unheard of for tourists, whose schedule necessitates constant movement:, stop, train, stop, church, bus, stop, food, train, stop, museum, stop….are we there yet…..why can’t that other couple keep up, how long till we are back at the hotel…

On this trip to Italy, it is true we will see less villages, less museums, less churches (less bang for our buck perhaps) but will have gained more perspective, more true connection with not only this place but ourselves. We will be richer for this time.

For the others, No time to nap, no time to linger on a balcony sipping cold proseco overlooking a steel green sea. Pity.

I dedicate the post to my brother in law, Paul, whose family, both in Spain and in Canada, have helped me become a better traveler. A few years ago, in Valencia, the time and effort his family spent on mine,led me to start to understand that it is not about the destination, it is about the connections to the people and places that make travel worth it. But truth be told, I am new to this, myself, only recently one of those collecting destinations but not really getting the point. A work in progress,


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