Published in "A Woman's World Again", Edited by Marybeth Bond, Travelers' Tales, 2007:

Castle Beds
By Serena Richardson

“I want a castle bed in the tower,” I announced to Luciano, waving the brochure, “See, they are less expensive. How romantic!”
“Top or bottom?”
“Excuse me?”
“A ‘letto a castello’ is a bunk bed.”
“Oh. Um, listen, don’t tell anyone I asked you that.”
“Absolutely not.”

I shifted the weight of the pack a bit to get some circulation back into my shoulders and moved deeper into the meager shade provided at the train station. This plastic backpack, an imitation leather item abandoned at the school’s lost and found, was an important prop to this adventure of mine. Without it, and forced to use a conventional suitcase, I would not have been able to complete my fantasy. Now I stood, alone, a 45 year old woman in the scorching August sun, impersonating a vagabond teenager roaming the Italian countryside looking for adventure. What a gas.

A garbled voice came over the loudspeaker and I could detect a shiver of anticipation in the crowd. We were three and the train, one of the few to actually stop at this one-platform station outside of Padova, must be arriving. Montagnana awaited.

Treviso, my new home near Venice, was an hour away, yet it felt as if it were on a different planet. There I was a student on a break from school, the proud owner of a maroon one-speed and learning how to be a girlfriend, all over again. It had been over twenty years since I had so shaken up my life, twenty years of stressful, life-consuming, back-stabbing, yet familiar, corporate work in California. Having left all that behind and in a virtually unknown language and land, everything was different.

I existed in a bubble as I slowly adjusted to life; I suspect, in part, a result of the protective fretting of Luciano, my brand new Italian boyfriend. Just beyond this bubble of security was a grey hazy world which I could just make out, but couldn’t yet process. Like the first days at elementary school, everything looked bigger, the distances farther and other people smarter. Who knew what was happening on the second floor; I was still trying to figure out homeroom. For me to venture out alone, one floor up into the next grade so to speak, was a monumental undertaking.

Luciano had helped organize this trip by making the reservations and worrying. He could not join me, nor did I really want him to as it was important for me at this point to be alone. After six weeks of my depending on him for pretty much everything, and six weeks of intensive Italian classes, I needed to get back some of my familiar independence. I wanted out of the bubble, and to take this new language out for a spin.

... (continues in the book)