Part II of My Adventures Backpacking Throughout Italy
We got into the taxi, giggling and catching as many glimpses of Antonio as we could in his rearview mirror. Every time he turned around to ask us a question in his Italian accent, the three of us tried to answer first so he would keep his gaze on just one of us. This made us laugh even more because we knew what we were doing, but we still continued to wrestle for his individual attention for a few moments of steady eye contact with him.
He asked us where we were traveling from and how long we were staying in Positano. He suggested a few restaurants and excursions, as well as his favorite spots to take in the breathtaking views of the island. When we arrived at our hotel, we asked him if he'd like to meet us at the restaurant he suggested that was just down the road from where we were staying.
"I get off in an hour, girls. I'll try to come by for a glass of wine." He said smiling, and then gave us a wink.
One thing I learned while traveling in Italy is that Italian men love to wink - old men, young men, attractive men, and the not so attractive - bat their lashes all day long. Antonio was definitely interested in us, but he knew of his good looks and charm, and we weren't blind enough to see that we were one of many taxi rides brimmed with women captivated by his magnetism. His winking was both flirtatious for us and a stroke to his ego.
Still, we were hoping he would meet us for a drink when he was done with his shift. The thing about being in another country that's so different than your own is that it brings out the dreamer in you. Everyone and everything that comes across your path is magic. If only we were able to cultivate this perception in our everyday, ordinary lives, then maybe we would open ourselves to more possibilities and interesting encounters.
After settling into our hotel and unpacking a few dresses and shirts, we got dressed and headed toward Il Tridente, a small restaurant owned by a family friend of Antonio. When we arrived and waited for a table, we saw that what Antonio had told us about it being a family run restaurant was true. An older woman and man were in the kitchen stirring sauce and cutting vegetables, a younger woman in her thirties was standing by the hostess stand and greeting guests, three men in their twenties were waiting tables and chatting with their customers, and the youngest of all was clearing dishes and resetting silverware. The whole family came together to create a cozy and intimate dining experience for their clientele.
The mother and father came out of the kitchen every once in a while to take in their packed house and make rounds to laughing couples and families, asking how their meals were. Together as a unit, they all made sure that things were not only running smoothly, but that everyone was more than satisfied with their dinner and the family's homemade wine.
I'm not sure how things could ever not run smoothly in a setting like this. Everyone was happy to just be somewhere so lovely. I couldn't imagine anyone getting upset or annoyed over anything - it seemed to go against the natural demeanor of the island.
We ordered pizzas, pastas, salads, sides of grilled vegetables, and bottles of red wine. As we ate, we recounted all of the memories we already made in just four days in Naples and Capri: dancing until 5am to "Stereo Love" by Edward Maya and Vika Jigulina on repeat every night after our three hour dinners; the jokes we played on each other, like snapping close up photos on our Polaroid cameras of whoever passed out the earliest; watching our friend lay on a blow up float in the ocean and pass out because of too much jungle juice, to then be toppled over by a wave as we roared in laughter from the shore; talking with local families in the only Italian we knew when dining at night, that being, Ciao! Bella! Prego!; and waking up to such severe thirst and no water bottles in the house that we trekked almost a mile down the road to a nearby restaurant, walking in and imploring, 'Acqua, please...' as the restaurant staff didn't know what to make of our hungover appearance.
For less than a week of traveling, we had already lived with such intensity and presence that we couldn't wait to see what the rest of Italy would offer us. After finishing our pasta with the freshest tomato sauce from the most organic tomatoes (if you've never been to Italy, then you should know that tomatoes taste a million times better there than they do in America) and gathering up the last bits of mozzarella cheese with our forks, we ordered gelato for dessert.
When the waiter walked over with our chocolate and Nutella gelato, we saw a Ducati pull up and park just ahead of the restaurant. The driver took off his helmet and turned around looking out to the diners.
Antonio had arrived, and he somehow managed to look even better than he did when he picked us up just two hours prior. We caught his glance and he smiled as he walked over to us, saying hello to everyone he knew, which seemed to be everyone in the restaurant. Suzie, Katie and I were kicking each other underneath the table and cracking up, because when the three of us are together, we don't do anything but laugh at everything, even when nothing is particularly funny. That's what makes us laugh even more though, when we realize our incessant laughter derives from essentially nothing.
"Ciao, girls. Come stai? I see you've finished your dinner. Can I sit down for a glass of wine with you?" Antonio said, standing by our table in his black collard button down shirt, tucked into fitted jeans.
"Of course, please sit. How are you? How was the rest of your night?" I said, grabbing the bottle of wine and pouring him a glass, as he took a seat next to Suzie, directly across from me.
We stayed at the restaurant for another hour, drinking and getting to know Antonio better. He grew up in Positano and had lived there his whole life, but he always dreamed of going to New York one day. Any time he referenced New York, he would say, "Ah, the Big Apple...gorgeous." The way Antonio viewed New York City was how we viewed his home. It's interesting how the grass is always greener no matter where you are.
We all shared our own stories, jokes and ideas, laughing and engaging in meaningful, fun conversation. Sometimes the best conversations are ones with people you've just met. It's refreshing when you can let your guard down with a stranger and enjoy the ease of a conversation that so fluidly runs back and forth that you don't need to worry about awkward silences or what to say next. When you find someone who you can talk to in this way, you know you've met a soul friend - a person who sees things the way you do and understands life through your lens.
Although the four of us were talking, Antonio kept returning his gaze to me, where I met his eyes and smiled. He asked if we've ever been on a Ducati before and if we'd like a personal tour of the island, to highlight some of his favorite, hidden spots.
None of us had ever been on a Ducati before and we all certainly wanted a personal tour of Positano and surrounding towns, like Sorrento, from the charming Antonio. We each said yes probably a little too quickly and he laughed.
"Ah great," Antonio gleamed, "Danielle, would you like to go first? Perhaps tomorrow around 4?"
Suzie and Katie kicked my leg under the table, although I was sure Antonio sensed that, then giggles of course resumed.
"Sure, yes. I'd like that." I replied with a smile lit across my face.
"Great, tomorrow it is! Now, let's order some more wine, shall we?" Antonio said, before calling over the waiter and getting another bottle of their homemade cabernet.