|This may, or may not have been our golden lit and redemptive albergo…|
When traveling in foreign places and walking among solemn strangers and around old gray buildings on darkly overcast days, a traveler’s great treasure is to chance upon a beckoning ray of golden & hospitable light that spills into the gray and gloom offering the weary a respite from the aching cold and flat callousness of asphalt. Once, in Italy, after driving many difficult hours and struggling to stay on pavement as we climbed mountainous roads in thick, blinding fog and holding our breath each of the several times we were passed by speeding cars who were somehow magically impervious to the near zero visibility, we finally came upon a town and were dog-tiredly determined to stay the night. The first albergo we tried had a dark and unwelcoming entry with a television blaring over the unlit reception area and though we could see people in the back, they made a point of ignoring our presence. We retreated, somewhat disheartened. Outside, the fog was now beginning to break and a half a block further up the road was another albergo. As we approached the door opened and a couple emerged, backlit by golden light that issued warm invitation within. When we got to the door and opened it we were greeted not only with smiles, warmth and light but a room full of happy people at dinner, the gentle buzzing of conversations in full flow, incredible aromas emanating from the kitchen and a roaring fireplace. We were home. A room was tendered on the second floor and after we settled and came back down for dinner, small smiles were shared among those of us fortunate enough to know we had stumbled upon this rare little gem. It was owned by an Italian couple, the husband was the chef and the wife ran the restaurant and inn. An enormous spirit of gracious hospitality was in the air making for a lovely evening that dispelled the treacherous travels and fog fatigue from earlier in the day. Pavarotti likewise must have made the perilous trek to partake of the divine offerings as several personal pictures of him were hung about the restaurant.
The next morning we pulled back the curtains in order to venture out onto our tiny balcony and were astounded to now see what arriving in the near blindness of fog and darkness the night before had concealed; our view looked out from high up the mountainside and down and all across the valley below the trees were filled with vibrant autumnal colors, the air deliciously crisp with brilliant blue sky and beautifully puffed clouds. Bellissima!
Overly researched and chronologically rigid itineraries be damned. Unplanned travel can offer the richest and most unexpected rewards. You may not find a bathroom shower like what you have at home. It’s entirely possible (and usually much more fun!) to find no one that speaks your language at your restaurant/inn/small town. Smile. Hope. Seek out the golden welcoming light. Keep your eyes and mind wide open for the right reception. The language of kindness & hospitality speaks to the heart without need of translation.