Memories in Italy are the most valuable souvenirs we can bring home.

I had a client return from Italy a few weeks ago. She and her husband had taken a special anniversary trip, and neither of them had ever been before. As we discussed the places they went and the people they met along the way, I heard something new in her voice and recognized it immediately. The joy that fills your heart after experiencing something new with the one you love.

When clients come to us, we spend a good bit of time getting to know each other. My favorite part of what I do is hearing that familiar joy as they tell me what they discovered and experienced along the way. The people they met, the things that made them laugh, their favorite meal, and the memories they’ll always cherish.

October is a hard month for me. I lost my mom four Octobers ago to cancer. As she took her last breath, I stood at her bedside with two of my best friends, who happened to be two of her favorite students as well, reminiscing about our time in Italy together. The few grey hairs we gave her, and the many special times we shared.

Mom had the courage to take a bunch of teenagers and introduce them to a world of wonder. The lives she changed in the process are too many to count. There is something so special about experiencing new things together. It can strengthen the strongest relationships and create lasting bonds in only a few days.

During our first trip to Italy, Mom witnessed me change from a shy, miserable kid to a passionate, determined person. In just a few days I discovered the smell of jasmine, a culture I felt a part of, that art in situ brought tears to my eyes, and that Italy had melted my heart completely, and forever. Less than two weeks in Italy, and I was never the same.

Neither was she. She decided to go back to Italy the year she began her battle with cancer. It was her turn to be insecure as she fought with her wig but refused to let her students see her without it. Then, Capri to the rescue! When she leaned back in the boat to squeeze into the blue grotto, the wig fell in the water. She panicked and then laughed. Her students laughed with her as they helped her fish it out of the brilliant blue sea. It was her first moment of freedom. She never wore it again.

How many times she referenced that moment, and the fact that Capri always made her feel free, and strong. Now in the hardest moments, I look back on those memories and they strengthen me. Memories are the most cherished souvenirs.

When clients ask me about bringing their children to Italy, I catch myself almost jumping out of my chair. Tears well up in my eyes as I tell them, “Yes! Take them! Go!” It was the best gift my parents ever gave me. Not only for the experiences we had then, but for the great gift of being able to go back to those moments in my mind years later.

Last September standing in front of Pietro Bernini’s Fontana della Barcaccia, I had to laugh as I remembered Mom trying to touch the water and almost falling in. It was her favorite place in Rome, and so many years later, I can still feel her presence there next to Keats’ house at the foot of the Spanish Steps.

We tend to think of vacations as fun, and without a doubt, they are. A vacation to Italy, however, is more than fun. You can come home with a million treasures, but the most special cannot be bought: the light in your loved ones’ eyes as they see and experience Italy for the first time.

Your daughter the first time someone calls her beautiful. Your son picturing himself as a gladiator on the Colosseum floor. Your spouse squeezing your hand as a musician on the street happens to play your song.

Italy has an incredible ability to make you feel like moments were created just for you. If you fall in love with Italy, it has a way of assuring you the feeling is mutual.

My husband and I met studying Italian in college. We had both spent quite a bit of time in Italy, but it took us several years to save and plan before we could go together.

He had studied in Milan and never made it to Rome, though its history had fascinated him for years. As our taxi from Termini whirled around the streets, I poked him and pointed out the window as I watched his face. There was the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, regal as ever. His eyes lit up, jaw dropped, and those are the moments I live for.

We dropped our bags and immediately headed to climb the steps of the monument, walk around to the Campidoglio, and catch our first glimpse over the edge. The Forum emerged like a pop-up book and the Colosseum beckoned in the background. Again, that face. The face that says, “I’ve waited my whole life for this. And it’s better than I dreamt.”

What makes Italy so special is that there is constantly something to discover. Always someone wonderful to meet, who takes a moment out of their day to make you feel welcome. A sunrise to take your breath away. A splashing fountain that makes you feel like a child again. The tremolo of a mandolin. A sense of wonder that will captivate you for the rest of your life.

If you are considering a trip to Italy, remember to give yourselves time to make memories. To bask in the sunlight. To sit for hours at a table, talking with each other, with your waiter, with the couple at the next table. Sip a great wine together, eat a delicious meal, and experience every moment. Focus on the ones you’re with, as well as the beauty around you, and you are sure to have an experience you will always treasure.

Contact us to plan your trip

Lindsay Sinko

PFI Travel, Tampa Office, USA