It has been another whirlwind of a week. The original plan was to meet up with one of my oldest and dearest friends and her two adult children whom I adore like my own, for a couple of days in Cinque Terre. But in true gypsy form, my daughter and I woke up one morning and spontaneously booked an earlier ticket to join them in Venice. With a few clicks on the keyboard our plane and train tickets were booked and we rushed to combine our clothes into Avery’s backpack. And we were off. For those who have followed my blogs over the years you may recall my last trip to Venice. Where, in the city of love and yet newly divorced, I had a moment. With my head hung and my feet sadly draping over the canal I felt a considerable amount of fear and discomfort  in the face of all that change, loss and adjustment. Now, with a handful of years behind me and the ever growing awareness of my capacity to cope in the world on my own, I was able to appreciate the romance of Venice without rolling my eyes in quiet resentment.

We met up with my friend and her children before even checking into our hotel. We greeted them with arms and hearts wide open, our bags spilling awkwardly in our embraces. This is the thing about traveling alone, once you see someone you know it is like you are no longer invisible among the masses. I felt a sense of home that I had clearly been craving. We were giddy with an excitement that landed us in some florescent lit alley tavern, that ironically blared the 90’s soundtrack of our youth. We were intoxicated by the stories and memories… and perhaps the fish bowl size cocktails we may or may not have had too many of.

The following days we shopped and explored, spending little time in the tourist areas and instead strolling mostly along the canals in the Giudecca Art District.

For those visiting Venice for the first time, don’t worry about finding accommodation near the main attractions like San Marco. It is my opinion (key word: opinion) you will tire quickly of the hordes of tourists and wish to seek refuge in the quieter areas. Within two days our bags and bellies expanded and it was time to move on to Cinque Terre.

I had never been to Cinque Terre but it certainly was on my list. After a month of traveling, I was keen to hand over the travel planning to my friend Erika. And, as usual, she did not disappoint. She chose for us to stay in the smaller village of Riomaggiore, nestled in a valley between two steep hills. Avery and I stayed in a flat near the water that overlooked the colourful stone houses and harbor lined with fishing boats.

Riomaggiore is one of Cinque Terre’s five villages. With only a couple of days to explore, sadly we were not able to visit them all. Once you get to Cinque Terre you can purchase a pass that allows you to train hop to all the villages. On our second day we took the train first to Monterosso. Green hills protected the crystal green sea below. We grabbed some beverages and snacks in preparation of a relaxing beach day. It didn’t take any of us long to dip our bodies, all a little tired and dusty, into the turquoise sea.

On the way back home we stopped at the village Vernazza which, like Riomaggiore, was beautifully lined with colorful homes  that hovered around the rugged coastline.

Once back at our village my friend and I decided to ditch our lovely children (who at this point were happy to have us ditch them) and catch up over a nice meal. We chose La Cantina del Macellaio. While there were actually two Michelin recommended restaurants in the village, the reviews for both were disappointing. I was glad we trusted our instinct with this one and ate outside of the box. Within minutes of being seated, one of the owners approached our table and sensing our curiosity and excitement spared the time to tell us the story of how this little gem came to be – from a family owned 4th generation butcher shop to what is now. She and her partner have seen their share of obstacles over the past few years and yet they have continued to overcome them. We first ordered the roasted veal with tuna and mayonnaise sauce.

As well as the egg and porcini mushroom casserole that neither of us could enough of. I would be sure to replicate this back home. 

Second, Tonnarelli Carbonara with sous vide egg.

Followed by beef medallions served with potato puree and seasonal vegetables.

We finished with chocolate Panna Cotta and a glass of Merlino dessert wine.

As with any noteworthy meal, it was not just the food that left me satisfied. It was the overall feeling of connection between the food, the staff, and in this case, a wonderful evening with my lifelong friend, whom l missed dearly, that left me feeling grateful.

While my romantic life over the past few years may, at best, be questionable (insert eye roll here), I have succeeded in surrounding myself with friends who are exceptional; friendships that I honor and take seriously in life. I’m a lifer when it comes to these friendships.

It is Thanksgiving as I write this. My daughter Avery has flown back home. My friend and her children have carried on with their journey and I have found my way back up the mountain in Sicily. It is the first Thanksgiving in my adult life that I have not hosted a big feast. And my first alone. But the climb up wasn’t so bad this time and my heart not so heavy. The gratitude for all I have in my life and those I share it with follow me. As that saying goes: wherever you go… there you are. And in this case, it is a marvelous place to be.