To Truly Be There
noun deep mental involvement in something
”Her immersion in everyday Italian culture.”
I am writing this from a hotel room in Capri, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. My view is the one you see in the photo above of the Gulf of Napoli. Across the gulf is Naples itself, where I will return by boat tomorrow before taking a bus to Rome and from there, home.
This is my fourth time in Italy, each visit to a different region. I am beginning to understand the culture a little, just a little, as I slow down, look around, and smell the scent that is everywhere on this island—the luscious fragrance of wisteria.
On a quiet morning walk, I wound my way through narrow paths away from the tourist areas and hotels, up weathered stone steps and uncut paths, to where the water is clam and the boats look like oblong leaves floating on various shades of blue, I tried to image what it must be like to live in this peace every day.
On the path, I came across a stone bench built into the wall. Ahead was the Gulf of Napoli, and below, the beautiful village of Capri. Surrounding homes, set back far from the walkway, up steep inclines that discourage all but the heartiest visitors to homes inset in solid rock, are creatures of intent. Like my own. The spaces around them are the blank canvases their inhabitants paint to suit.
The villas themselves were simple, rustic structures that all look like they’ve weathered many storms. Being around them, sitting on the stone benches in little alcoves up the winding inclines they’re perched on, is where I felt like I knew the people of this island. A friendly dog sniffed my leg. A workman smiled. A delivery man driving a narrow electric cart waved and called out, “Ciao!”
Just like at home.
I am a piece of Italy.