“Piano, piano,” our tour guide Giacomo advised our group of ten as we navigated the cobblestone streets of medieval towns in Tuscany and Umbria. “Piano, piano,” he repeated as we climbed stone steps that have been worn down by centuries of use and had no handrails to steady us.
Piano, piano means slowly, slowly in Italian.
Good advice, I thought. Not just for traversing medieval towns in Italy, but for me, good advice for daily life, because I tend to move too fast, rushing as though I was always running late.
Travel makes me slow down, because I am aware of how dangerous rushing across cobblestones can be.
Traveling with a group makes me slow down because I sometimes need to wait for those who can’t move as quickly as I do.
It is good for me to slow down, and every time I had to stop and wait for someone to catch up, I felt invited to look up and take in the sights around me (walking on cobblestones requires lots of looking down). Those moments of waiting were invitations to notice what was in front of me, like little carvings in walls or unique shapes of doorknockers.
Slowly, slowly invites me to appreciate the here and now.
Travel also shakes things up. It is like a snow globe where I am tossed around a bit and when the snow settles, everything looks different. The people, places and food are unfamiliar, and my equilibrium is off. I join Dorothy in saying, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
A man at church recently toured the Holy Land. Before he left, he told me he had been nervous about traveling to such a potentially dangerous place until he learned they were staying in a Westin Hotel and then he thought, “If I didn’t know any different, I could still be at home.”
“Then what is the point of going?” I asked.
When I travel, I want to be shaken up and to experience what is different. I want to know how it is for people who live in that place and to have my assumptions and stereotypes challenged. I want to be changed by my experiences, to learn something about another people and place—and about myself.
One of the features of touring with Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) is that we visit people in their homes. On this tour, our group was split up among three homes in Carrera (after a tour of the nearby marble quarry). My small group had lunch with a couple and one of their sons.
Later in the tour, we visited Spello and were entertained by an Umbrian folk music group in the home of one of the musicians.
During my two weeks in Italy, slowly, slowly became my go-to gear, and I pledged to myself that when I got home, I would try harder to stay in slow gear, to remind myself every day (and even multiple times a day), piano, piano.
Madeline, I love your reasons for traveling to foreign countries. The majority of travel bloggers I follow just focus on the sites and share little or nothing about the people. I was unaware that there are tourist companies like the Overseas Adventure Travel (O.A.T.) that program visits to people in their homes. The selected homes could be staged, but it does offer the tourist a window, however small, into the lives of people in cultures different from our own.
This was my second tour with O.A.T. and both in-home visits allowed me to see how others live. This time, we had home-made pasta, a real treat. Over and over, we met local people (like the musicians), and all the local guides were local. O.A.T. groups are small (we were 10 and my last tour was 8) so it is easier to visit homes. We also visited a goat farm, met the farmers and goats, and helped make goat cheese; and we had a pasta cooking class in a woman’s home.