“Tourist” has always struck me as a bad word, even as I’ve filled the role. When we go out here in Italy, I take care to wear nice clothes and speak Italian… as if locals could possibly overlook my freckles and accent. I have a proper horror of becoming one of those intruders who bosses her way through other cultures with too-loud laughter and flip-flops on cobblestone streets. All the same, the Italians were the ones sticking out like dissonant notes as we wound our way down the Amalfi Coast three Saturdays ago. Despite the shimmering sunwaves, locals trudged the beach in coats zipped tightly over sweaters. I had only to imagine the sweat pooling in their Armani boots before realizing I didn’t mind looking like a tourist so much. Sleeves up, camera out, adventure on!
The town of Amalfi looked like I’ve always envisioned Caribbean cruise stops—gimicky souvenir shops, colorful paint jobs, and a wealth of sunburnt tourists. But instead of dance halls, it had cathedrals, and instead of coconuts, it had lemons. Correction: LEMONS. Asteroid-impersonating, substance-abusing, borderline-pornographic, “holy crap, is that a fruit?!” LEMONS that were sixty different kinds of impressive. In addition to crates of these yellow footballs, shop owners offered an array of lemon-themed products that would have done Bubba Gump proud: lemon liqueur, lemon soap, lemon jewelry, lemon chocolate, lemon glassware, lemon pasta, lemon candles, lemon zesters, and a teensy bottle of lemon perfume that I immediately claimed as my own. One vendor even gave us each a slice of freshly peeled lemon to eat, sour pulp and sweet pith combining in a magical springtime flavor. We were powerless to resist.
We spent the day with absolutely no plan except enjoyment—the perfect antidote to my to-do list disorder. My only jobs for the afternoon were to wander the sun-dappled streets of Sorrento eating gelato with my family (tough, huh?) and to lean out the window like a breeze-drunk puppy as we drove the coast. Not a mop in sight, just the bright April air and peace. Every vacation should be so lucky.
If I could, I would take you all back with me to breathe in every blue nuance of the Tyrrhenian. We would stand above the Emerald Grotto memorizing every sparkle of the sea and the mysterious architecture of cliffs. You could help me amuse my husband by gasping after every one of the bajillion bends in the road and swooning over each bloom of wisteria. You would help me find friendly faces and flesh-eating zombies in the rocks above. We would soak up the sunshine like the thirsty sponges we are and come home smelling faintly of paradise.
Three weeks later, I still haven’t written a to-do list.