Sometimes an old travel journal is as good as any other book on the shelf. Its inevitable that memories will get lost along the way and I’m very thankful to have my journals to remind me of all the wonderful experiences that have enriched my life. While reorganizing my bookshelf this week, I came across a journal I kept during my first trip to Europe. Waaaay back in 2003, I took a whirlwind tour of London, Paris, Florence, and Rome, which I documented in full detail.
One of my favorite stories comes from Rome, where I met a funny old man on the main road leading into the Vatican. I had wandered away from the group to explore the trinkets for sale in various kiosks and to take in the surrounding architecture without an annoying tour guide babbling in my ear. A cart selling “silver” charms caught my eye, so I walked over and marveled at all the beautiful baubles.
The old man running the cart jubilantly greeted me, “Buongiorno!” with his arms in the air and a smile on his face. I was instantly delighted and returned the greeting, though horribly pronounced. Lucky for me, he thought it was cute. He then asked me if it was my first time to Rome, to which I answered yes. I went on to explain how much I loved Rome and how I hoped to one day return. He smiled and asked if I had tossed a coin into the Trevi Fountain. As it happened, I engaged in that tradition the night before, which pretty much sealed my fate that I would see Rome at least one more time in my life.
It’s funny how old men flirt with young women. My grandpa does it and so did this Italian charm salesman. He took a hold of my hand and asked if I was married with a twinkle in his eye. I wasn’t wearing my promise ring, so I guess it was a valid question! When I answered I would be soon, he pulled me closer and said, “Tell him he’s a very lucky man.” Ha! So Italian and so adorable.
He then reached into one of the boxes on his cart and flipped my hand so I could hold his gift. In my palm, he placed a small silver charm and said, “This is for you. For luck that you return to Rome. I give it to you. When you come back to Rome, you can give me a kiss or you can give me one now.” Laughter filled the air, both his and mine. What a little player! I promised him I’d repay the debt on my next trip.
So far, I haven’t been back and sometimes I wonder if he’s still alive and still flirting with all the tourist girls. I’m sure I’ll find my way back to Rome one day and I’ll likely look for him down that same street. I keep the charm he gave me on a bracelet, along with a few others I’ve collected over the years.
The old man wasn’t lying when he blessed it with luck. A year later, my house was burglarized and all my jewelry was stolen, except this charm. While the burglary was horrific, I am quite thankful there was enough luck for one thing to remain untouched.
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