You never have to go into the sun to turn red~
With the dog days of summer quickly approaching, the heat has me thinking about the beach and, with it being high travel season in Italy, I am sure Italy’s beaches are packed with the touring throngs.
I spent five days in the small coastal town of Amalfi once and the view from the hotel room over the bay could not have been more stunning.
Before I take any trip, I spend months surfing the web for the most idyllic places to stay and visit…and part of their beauty always involved price—a bargain price. There are bargains out there, if you search long enough.
Once such bargain was the Hotel Aurora. It took me countless e-mails back and forth with the hotel’s booking agent, Andrea, to reserve the rooms I wanted. I would write to her in my elementary Italian and she would respond in a very proper British English—with all of the gracious overtones of exceedingly polite conversation. There was nothing Standard American about her English.
For months we corresponded back on forth trying to insure that the rooms I booked would have terraces overlooking the bay and that they would be right next to each other, since Richard and I were traveling with friends, adjoining terraces were a must. I thanked her for her continued vigilance about contacting me first, before anyone else on the waiting list, should a vacancy open up. We joked about the unending throngs of tourists and I tried to be as charming as I could with my Italian—making sure to use all of the correct feminine word endings. I wanted to be as polite and formal with her as she was in her writing to me. After weeks of touching base and daily emails, by the end, I felt that Andrea and I had developed a relationship…a friendship…as basic as it was. I was excited to meet her and she responded in kind. It is in moments like these that I am quite proud of the fact that I can speak some Italian. And sometimes I catch myself gloating to Richard about how I have charmed another Italian with my fundamental knowledge of their native tongue. He congratulates me, but I can see that, in his mind, he is rolling his eyes at me.
We arrived at the Hotel Aurora hot, tired, and exhausted from the harrowing journey by private car from Salerno to Amalfi. If you have ever heard of traffic on the Amalfi Coast being terrifying—it is no joke. The narrow, cliff-side roads twist with breakneck angles, while being packed with motorized vehicles of all sizes—cars, motorcycles, small Italian three-wheeled utility trucks (envision an enclosed motorized wheelbarrow), and enormous tour buses. At times, traffic stops so people can pull their side-view mirrors in against the sides of the car or bus—there is that little clearance. There are literally only inches, and sometimes less than inches, between the passing lanes of traffic.
We approached the hotel counter, pleased to have survived the drive, and I very proudly said to the balding, middle-aged man behind the counter, “Buona sera, il mio nome è Mark Leslie e ho una prenotazione. Anche, è Andrea qui? Lei vorrei conoscere.” (“Good evening, my name is Mark Leslie and I have a reservation. Also, is Andrea here? I would like to meet her.”)
The man behind the desk looked oddly at me. I thought, “OK, my Italian isn’t perfect but he should be able to get the gist of what I said. I mean I know I am close.” Here my arrogance, much like my gloating to Richard, started to take over.
“È possibile? È Andrea qui?” I asked.
Again the man looked at me plainly before smiling and saying, “Sono Andrea.” (“I am Andrea.”)
Ugh! Andrea was a man! I am such a fool. For months I had been charming, practically flirting, with the woman “Andrea.” I knew my attempted Italian would endear her to me—and get me the rooms I wanted. That is what gloating and arrogance gets me—every time—my foot in my mouth! I completely forgot that in Italian the feminine name is “Andria” (“Ahn-dree-ah”) and the masculine name is “Andrea” (“ahn-dray-ah”). I was looking at his Italian name the whole time and thinking it was the feminine “Andrea” for the masculine “Andre.”
I turned three shades of red. For months I had been calling the man behind the counter “her”—I knew our rooms were going to be the broom closets in the basement.
Luckily, Andrea is accustomed to silly American tourists slaughtering his name and language and took pity on me. We were given the terraced rooms with adjoining balconies as promised—with the most wonderful views of the bay.
Our five days there were glorious and Andrea was the most gracious concierge the entire time. One morning on our way to breakfast on the bougainvillea-covered loge, I stopped and apologized to Andrea for the entire feminine/masculine mistake. He was forgiving, though despite my attempts at making him laugh it off, he never did crack a smile.
I hope to return to the Hotel Amalfi again and, this time, Andrea will know that I remember “him.”
Ciao e a presto~
(1) The mosaic tiled map that is embedded in the wall above the main gate into Amalfi.
(2) The town of Amalfi viewed from the bay.
(3) The view from our balcony. Thank-you Andrea!
(4) Boats moored at night outside the Hotel Aurora.