Italy Has My Heart
Losing someone dear to us brings a new perspective about spending time with the ones we love while we still can. Thankfully, dad and I had this realization several years ago and began to make yearly treks together, three of which were with MTS. We had not traveled together, just the two of us, in about twenty years, and we were both excited about new adventures and time together. He’d say, “Let’s book a trip, Schatz (my nickname).” We grew even closer through our annual father/daughter trips, and these memories of time with him are some of my most cherished.
Our first trip together with MTS was in 2012 for the Best of the Dolomites. We met up with our group in Venice, and there was an instant connection, in part due to many of us who unknowingly shared in the same experience of seeing the opera Carmen the prior evening. We left sweltering Venice, and within a couple of hours we were in beautiful and much cooler mountain villages. Everyday, our guide with his bright smile would say, “First, we are going a little bit up and then we have lunch,” which usually consisted of spec, eggs and potatoes. Some days that little bit up felt like an eternity. I was convinced we had been tricked, but sure enough, out of nowhere and as if by magic, a refugio would appear tucked into the side of a mountain.
Refugios are truly refuges for the weary hiker offering shelter from the elements and a hot meal. One day, as we all lounged on the patio with full stomachs enjoying a nice rest, our amazing guide brought out shot glasses and a bottle of grappa. With a twinkle in his eye and a cheeky smile, he poured us all a glass. “Saluti!” Down the clear liquid went like fire, clearing sinuses and everything else along the way. There was a collective ‘wow!’ yelled by all of us and laughter at our faces following the initiation into the Italian after dinner drink. With smiles and continued laughter, we gathered our packs to continue on for the rest of the day’s hike, now fully awake and out of our post lunch sleepiness.
Day in and day out we hiked through mountain valleys carved by glaciers, along scree slopes in the shadow of the Tre Time de Lavaredo, up the sides of mountains and through WWI history. Each day was diverse and beautiful, and I wanted to fully savor each mountain, waterfall, wildflower, and glacial lake. In every direction, there was evidence of forces so powerful, it renders one speechless and in awe of such grand beauty created over millions of years. At night, in the quaint mountain villages, we feasted on exquisite food and wine while reliving the day’s hike. Through each day and night, perfect strangers became friends and shared a small portion of their lives together.
Travel to places like these inevitably changes us because it touches something deep in our soul. We hike on new trails one way, and we come out changed on the other side. Hours and hours, miles and miles, nature does her work on us. Italy was our first annual trip, and four years later, Italy in the Cinque Terre would be dad’s last ever trip where he passed away after a full day of doing what he loved most, hiking and seeing new places. While the painful sting of suddenly losing someone never truly goes away, the fact he was so happy on an adventure, makes it bearable. And for that, Italy will always have my heart. Here’s to you, dad. Saluti!
Andrea Ross, MT Sobek Guest
MT Sobek Trip: Best of the Dolomites, 2012