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Italy, Day 1 &2: A bit of Roma and Santo Stefano

I arrived mid-afternoon with just enough time to catch a local pasta dish and a bit of walking around the neighborhood where my B&B was located. I was literally just a few walking minutes away from the Roman Colosseum.
Not your average street backdrop, The Colosseum

With just a half-day in Rome, there wasn't enough time for a formal guided tour. I will try to do that next week when I return from Santa Stefano. The owner of the B&B I stayed in offered a scooter ride around the city by night, and I accepted. When in Rome...
Post-scooter, I am now of the firm opinion that Rome is more lovely by night than by day.

A dream come true

Sleepy Santo Stefano di Sessiano

Santo Stefano has about 70 full-time residents

My heart is already too full for words and I am only Day 2 in Italy. Giovanni, a Santo Stefano local and manager of the "hotel," described Santo Stefano as "not a place where you begin, but a place where you arrive." He believes the beauty and mystery of the medieval fortess village cannot be fully appreciated unless you arrive from the outside, in. He says it is only then you can see the mirror of its beauty. Otherwise, you grow up believing life here is simply normal when it most certainly is not.

Italy, in other words

Santo Stefano di Sessiano

I am days away from experiencing life in the least inhabited region of Italy and I find it utterly surreal. Who is this woman saying "time-out" to life as I know it? I almost don't recognize her.

As I move to tie up loose ends at work and worry what to cram in the suitcase, I do wonder how I'll adjust to such a quiet zone. I mean, I did ask for this. One week to indulge myself in the thing that brings me the most joy in life--the simple act of putting one letter in front of the other to string along coherent and creative thought. One week to learn to be better at it, to go deeper, to stir myself out of tepidity. One week to figure out where the heck I fit in as a writer in the creative non-fiction genre. And if I'm really being honest with myself, I'm on a quest to see if what I sporadically do on this blog is even worth it.

No one knows self-doubt like writers do. We wallow in it, wrestle with it, and sometimes, if we're lucky, we triumph over it in a published piece that is usually met with only mild applause. You couldn't even begin to imagine what a few Facebook thumbs-up, a couple of comments, and a spike in blog traffic will do to our fragile egos. We write to breathe, to know we're alive, and to matter to the world we write for.

As the red flashing LED light on my beloved Crackberry goes dark for 10 days, I hope it does something good to me. Eliminating some of the technical clutter from my mind should free up some creative memory space, displaying a crisper panoramic view of this gorgeous world around me.

What started as the whimsy of a foolish girl has become a reality. That's the funny thing about creative non-fiction. It's not the stuff of imagination with conjured up characters and storybook scenes. It's real life, with real people, offering up a curious reflection that is often more interesting than we like to give ourselves credit for. While dreams carry us sometimes from the drudgery of our physical existence, they don't sustain the soul. They're lovely, but they're calorie-light, staving off the hunger only temporarily.

As my steps take me to the uneven cobblestone streets of old Europe, I will flourish. And when expectation meets the painful reality of blisters from the travel, I will smile, because that's where the growth happens. That's where the true story is made. Stranger than fiction, better than you could believe.

We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again -- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more.
~Pico Iyer