Escape to Italy: Finding a Way to Heal
A couple of weeks ago, I took my first international flight in 2 years to Italy, leaving my home in NYC or as I call it, my “Pandemic Prison”, behind. My first stop was Bellagio on peaceful, idyllic Lake Como. While I was certain this trip was to be different from my first time in Bellagio, I really was not sure what to expect given how much the world had changed.
When I first visited Bellagio 12 years ago, I sat in cafes and soaked up the view while enjoying a cappuccino or wine, depending on the time of day. I explored historic palaces, wandering through their immaculately landscaped gardens. In some random, cute corner restaurant, the cheerful and very proud Chef Bruno prepared a dinner I can still taste to this day, which involved a clay pot of slow-cooked Italian goodness.
I was young and carefree. It was sheer bliss.
My time in Bellagio on this trip was a bit different. I was in a very different place in my life. After spending a year and a half confining myself to my home in NYC trying to avoid the virus, I was left feeling lonely.
Loneliness is not an emotion I am very familiar with. My life had always been a good balance of time to myself and time spent with friends, both of which I cherish. That ended with the pandemic hit and redefined life for everyone in different ways, with different challenges.
For me, it introduced me to my first true feelings of loneliness. I could make do for a while in NYC. I had good friends there and we stuck together during the pandemic, always helping each other out when needed. However, travel had always been an important part of my life. Most of my friends had chosen to have families. I had chosen to see the world. Right now, I was missing the world outside.
Until my second day in Bellagio, I did not realize how much I had missed exploring the world. It hit me like a tidal wave the day as I was wandering the Greenway in Lake Como. After arriving via ferry at the start of the Greenway, a path that allows you to walk a long stretch of the lake and enjoy all the towns along the way, I had a lot of energy and was ready to explore every inch.
Around noon, I stopped in Tremezzo and had a lovely lunch. I was enjoying improving my Italian language skills and the locals there were happy to help me as I ordered in Italian. Simply interacting with new people was such a joy for me. Since landing in Italy, a huge smile had never left my face.
That changed about halfway down the Greenway… I stopped at an absolutely beautiful spot and sat with my feet in the water, enjoying one of the most peaceful spots on the lake. No one was around but me and the view. It was magical.
Then it hit me. The past year had been tough in a way I don’t think I truly accepted until that moment. My eyes filled with tears and I just let the feelings wash over me. Sitting by the lake, I felt like I was in a beautiful, protected space. It was as if the mountains were shielding me from all the darkness of the last year in this tranquil setting, allowing me to finally feel what I needed to feel.
As I sat there, I had flashbacks to all that happened in the past year. I just let the images come as they would. Tears came when the dark images appeared. Smiles came when I remembered moments of joy in all the sadness.
Finally, I felt the mountains urging me to move on. I made it as far as a cute little cafe just down the street. It was the perfect place to sit and take in the beauty of this place. There were just a few people there so I took a table by the water and ordered a drink. I felt such peace there. In that place. In that moment.
I never finished my explorations of the Greenway, instead just going at a pace that felt right. I had a full week in Lake Como and I loved the feeling of being in this beautiful safe space. The mountains kept the world out for a while, allowing my soul to feel sadness and joy as it needed.