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Report 2069: Return to Italy: A Travel Journal

By VT_Professor from Vermont, Summer 2013

Trip Description: June 4-20, 2013, the wayfaring journals of a single woman returning to Italy for the third time.

Destinations: Countries - Italy; Regions/Cities - Florence, Rome, Tuscany, Veneto, Venice

Categories: Hotels/B&Bs; Art Trip; Day Tours; Sightseeing; Independent Travel; Single Traveler

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Page 1 of 17: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 - The Odd Year Curse

photo by VT_Professor

Iím not a superstitious person by nature. I donít read tea leaves, play with tarot cards, or knock on wood. I donít balk at the sight of a black cat, or avoid walking under ladders, and I only rarely cross my fingers for luck, and yet Iíve come to believe in the Odd Year Curse.

Perhaps an explanation is in order.

Whenever I travel to Europe in years divisible by twoósay, in 2006, 2008, 2010, or 2012 ó I have a jolly good time wherever I go, be it London or Paris or Rome. And yet in those years in between, things have a way of going horribly awry. It rains in torrents, day after day, for instance. Or thereís a global outbreak of swine flu. Or my camera lens breaks. Or I catch a mysterious illness and have to come home.

Iím a social scientist by trade, so of course I know that the correlation is weak at best; it rained every bloody day last year in England, but I still enjoyed myself, and that ridiculous volcano in Iceland that scattered airplanes for weeks on end with its plumes of drifting ash happened in 2010, the year of a very safe integer. The curse is also based on a limited number of data points from which little of the future can be extrapolated, but this isnít about knowing something, this is about believing. And I believe in the Odd Year Curse. Granted, in its folklore and longevity, it doesnít rank up there with the Curse of the Bambino or the curse of King Tutís tomb, but itís real nevertheless, and in 2013 it has struck with a vengeance. Iím starting to take it personally.

Letís weight the evidence, shall we?

First, six weeks before Iím set to leave for Italy, I develop whatís called a posterior vitreous detachment (PVD) in my right eye, followed by a more serious one in my left eye a few days later. I tell my optometrist about my plans to fly and he sends me immediately to a specialist because heís worried that the change in air pressure on the flight might cause a tear in my retina, which would be very bad indeed. ďThis almost never happens in both eyes at once,Ē he says, but somehow Iím not surprised. I am cursed.

Second, just four days before my scheduled departure, I pick up a bad sinus infection and Iím so congested the doctor thinks itís prudent to warn me about the risk of a burst ear drum were I to fly in such a condition. This has me imagining life as Helen Keller, both blind and deaf after an ill-advised adventure. She gives me an antibiotic and ó fingers crossed, just in case ó we hope for the best.

Third, the day before my flight, I discover a number of fraudulent purchases on my credit card. Someone has been downloading computer software and pornography and itís not me. I call Capital One in a morose state of mind and they immediately shut down my account, effectively stranding me in Pennsylvania until a new card can be delivered.

Itís at this point that a friend of mine from work suggests that I read the Book of Job. It gets me thinking about biblical pestilence and whether I might be smote with dreadful boils next.

I stop packing and start making phones calls and typing emails. The effort of dismantling a yearís worth of planning makes it feel like 2011 all over again, the year in which I got sick and was forced to leave half of my itinerary and the entire country of Austria behind. I was supposed to fly U.S. Airways to Italy on May 29. I had booked a hotel with a rooftop terrace facing the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore so that I could see the new Popeís candlelight procession on Corpus Domini from high above the streets of Rome. Then, I was to head to Umbria for the annual infiorata festival in Spello and the start of the Giostra della Quintana in Foligno. None of that is going to happen now.

I need to delay things and to simplify. I decide to fly to Venice on June 4 and from there skip the trek over to Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure in favor of five nights in Florence instead. Iíll keep my reservations in Lucca and Pisa for now, and end up, as planned, in Rome. If I can manage that much, it will still be a good trip, but the disappointment of what I canít do stings.

By now the Odd Year Curse has burrowed so deeply inside my head that all the way down to the airport Iím convinced that the other shoe is about to drop, or rather the fourth shoe, or the fifth ó a virtual hurricane of shoes. I keep waiting for something bad to happen. Will a traffic jam on I-476 cause me to miss my flight? Will security pull me aside as a suspected terrorist? Will I trip on the escalator and break an ankle?

Iím holding my breath as the wheels on the airplane leave the tarmac and we ascend into a dusky sky dotted with the first stars of night. Only then do I believe that Iíve left my troubles behind.

It seems I am going back to Italy after all.

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