Today’s post comes one of GK’s members based out of Austin, Texas.
Katherine Mayer: world traveler, private investigator, business owner, badass.
It was my idea: We’d rent a car in Florence and drive the few hours north to the famous Cinque Terre. “But this is Italy, all the cars will be manual transmission”.
My brother proudly assured me that it would be no problem. He could do it. I made the reservation, and we got a ride from the farm about an hour outside the city where we had both been staying.
Card swiped, papers signed, I handed the keys over to my brother who, as we were pulling away from the rental agency with a jolt and a laugh, confessed that he would basically be learning how to drive stick on the way to the mountains.
“I mean, I know how it works, I just need a little practice!” Typical. We both still laugh at that.
We finally made it up to the northwestern coast, with only a few close calls from my brother trying not to roll into parked cars on the steep mountain roads that wind their way to the Italian Riviera. It’s a touristy place to visit, and when you make it out to one of the five villages (no cars allowed), it’s easy to understand why. They’re centuries-old villages hugging the edges of these huge cliffs that overlook the sea.
Each building a different hue of pink, blue, red, yellow, all subtly muted by the sun.
After a cappuccino and pastry on the plaza, we strolled around with no destination in mind… just taking in the elegance of this old fishing village. We ended up spotting a hill, on top of which was an ancient fort with a tower that looked over the town.
My brother and I climbed up, somehow we were the only ones, and rose up above the hustle and bustle. When we got to the top we were speechless. It was completely silent, except for the unexpected sound of a tenor singing Italian opera accompanied by a piano. We looked at each other and turned toward the sound of the music.
From that vantage point, high above the village, we could see through a fourth-floor window with its shutters wide open, perfectly framing an older man standing with his hand on the edge of a grand piano belting out what I guessed was Verdi. Surely we were the only ones that could see him.
It wasn’t a performance. It wasn’t for the tourists- he was just rehearsing with his accompanist, though it felt as though he could have been singing purely for the joy of singing. And how special did we feel? An audience of two, unbeknownst to our special performer in our silence above it all, receiving what felt like a gift. I remember in that moment of repose, the wind in my hair and the sun on my cheek and the sound of this man singing in my ears, feeling just astounded, in disbelief, at how beautiful life can be.