Hit The Road
Small town in Italy proves welcoming
My friends and I have been back in the United States for three weeks now, and in many ways we still have one foot in Italy, where we had traveled to attend a wedding.
Sharing our thousands of photographs, watching and re-watching wedding videos, and recounting stories that will soon begin to take on the sepia-toned quality of old memories, we haven't quite settled back into real life yet. How can we, after the sort of fairy-tale experience we had in Castiglioncello?
After spending five days in Florence, we boarded a train to Castiglioncello, a small coastal town where our friend Erica spent all her summers growing up. While sitting there, we caught sight of one of the groom's friends, Nick, the first familiar face we had seen in a week!
Once we arrived in the town, we were surrounded by people we had become acquainted with through Erica and her husband, Rob, and we made new friends with Erica's three cousins, who became our thoughtful and thorough guides.
Massimo, 10, translated a menu for us at a restaurant at the beach; Mierco, 15, gave us a tour of the town; and Alex, 17, explained Italian pop culture to us (and demonstrated it, too, through his music and dance moves).
In Florence we felt foreign despite the fact that almost everyone spoke to us in English. In Castiglioncello we were constantly seeing people we had just met, being welcomed in a way that never seemed forceful, and because of those things we felt at home in a way that is rare and precious when traveling abroad.
THE WEDDING was held in a grand 12th-century cathedral in a hilltop town called Massa Marittama, where nothing of the scale of this wedding had ever taken place. As our buses pulled up in the cobblestone streets, tourists whipped out their cameras and kept having to be chased out of the back of the church, which created a magical setting, dressed with candlelight and roses, with the sounds of the string quartet.
Afterward we drove through the Tuscan vineyards to return to the reception site, a restaurant on the cliff overlooking the beach of Castiglioncello. After eight courses, a slice of cake, lots of champagne and dancing, it was 2 a.m. -- an early ending for an Italian wedding -- and we were walking back to our respective hotels with the bride and groom.
The next day we recovered on the beach, had dinner with our new friends and walked two miles to a pier to look for "stella cadente," shooting stars. It was then that we decided to stay an extra day in Castiglioncello and made plans to study the Italian language for a return trip next summer.
Joy Uyeno travels frequently throughout the year, and her column geared toward beginning travelers or youths experiencing their first extended stay abroad appears the second Sunday each month in the Star-Bulletin Travel section.