Not all travel stories are about places, most of them are about people. This is one such story.
Pontremoli is a small town in the north of Tuscany at the bottom of the Apuan Alps and for more than 20 years it has been very special to me. Life sometimes writes wonderful stories, and this is mine:
Many do not know that I was born in the late 80’s in Croatia, in the area which was hit by a war in the early 90’s. Because of that, I was forced to live in exile with my family for several years, we moved to the Croatian coast. In order to brighten up the Christmas holidays for children, humanitarian associations have organised holidays in Italy. Each child went to visit an Italian family and spent two weeks with them. I was one of those children, also the youngest one.
I was 6 years old when I went on my first trip without my parents. We can call it my first solo trip. I know the times were different but honestly, I think my parents were very brave when they made this decision and let me go. The trip seemed challenging from the beginning, I didn’t know in which city I was going to be (nor my parents) or what kind of family I was going to end up with, I didn’t speak Italian at the time, I was just starting to go to school and learn English (I knew the whole Hockey Pokey song). Coming to Pontremoli and meeting my Italian family removed all fears, a family of four accepted me as their own.
In the beginning, we were communicating in all sorts of ways. Pantomime, along with pocket dictionaries, played a major role (Google unfortunately didn’t exist then). I liked them so much that I continued to visiting them and they were coming to Croatia too. They became my second family, we celebrated birthdays, weddings and Christmas together, we are still in touch and when I have the opportunity I’m happy to visit them again. With them I learned Italian, saw places I didn’t even know existed, because of them I also fell in love with Italian cuisine. Although it did not go smoothly. As a child I was very picky about food, my favourite dish was pasta with sugar. Italians do not understand how I could eat that. Neither do I.
I’m so grateful for their time, love, patience, knowledge, everything they have given me. They brought so much joy into my life and the life of my family.
Recently, I was in Pontremoli again. Town with two rivers (Verde and Magra) seems so small now and it used to be a huge undiscovered world for me. It will forever remain a place full of beautiful memories.
I hope you like this little photo diary I put together to share my time adventuring through Pontremoli. Let me know if you have visited Italy and how did you like it. If anyone has any feedback I’d be so appreciative to receive your comments and questions below.
To Elena and Giovanni, my two Italian brothers and their families, thank you for opening your home and hearts for me. Without you my life would be less fun. Grazie.