Often when I travel, I remember the little things – not the images I bring home in a photograph or a postcard, nor the grandeur of antiquity or the self-importance of men – but an unexpected phrase that voices a larger reality or a gilimpse of a passing scene. • “I want to ask you,” our 72-year-old driver, Vittorio, says as we sit down to dinner the first evening, “what you think is the difference between life and death.”
• As we look out over a broad valley from an amphitheater the Greeks built on a high hill 2,500 years ago, someone asks why the highway below is elevated above the plain. Is it to protect the road from flooding, or an earthquake? “I suppose,” our guide answers with a smile of bemused resignation, “because it costs more.”
• As we descend from the ruins of a 14th-century castle, we meet a young couple whose two-year-old son is gathering stones. Someone wonders if he is making a barricade. “We know how to build barricades,” says the mother sorrowfully. “We are from Ukraine.”
• In the seaside town of Cefalu, in a small chapel with plain whitewashed walls and stations of the cross hand-carved from dark wood, and on whose ceiling is a simple fresco of Jesus and the words, “Come to me, all who hunger,” a choir of six women and an old man at the organ fill the space with music of incomparable beauty.
From such slight memories come the lasting imprint of my journey.