My ancestors came to America from the southern regions of Italy and populated New York City, as well as many small towns in Upstate New York and Pennsylvania. It surprised people unfamiliar with the unique and specifically local and regional nature of Italy that, even though I am of Italian ancestry, I did not visit Venice in northern Italy until I was nearly 40 years old.
I was there for my honeymoon. It was a glorious, sunny day. The Grand Canal and especially the Rialto Bridge at dusk captured me like love itself, and though northern and southern Italy are as different as the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox, I knew I had, in some deep sense, returned “home.”
My new wife and I were headed to the site of La Fenice, the iconic opera house which had mysteriously burned to the ground in the late 1990s. She loves opera and I love walking in cities and meeting people.
This was before the 2005 launch of Google Maps, and even if the app had existed then, I had no interest in anything related to technology on this trip. I was practicing my human contact – and in Italy you cannot avoid it.