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My Romantic Week in Italy

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“It should have been a romantic week in Italy.”

That was the phrase that was hammering in my mind. After all, I was on the Amalfi Coast, in a four star hotel in Positano, for a kind of pre-honeymoon with my probable future groom, but, well… the man was not there.

Maybe he would still be, if we hadn’t had that fight once we set foot in the hotel. Or maybe not. Because, after what I had heard, I didn’t want to marry him anymore.

So, the only thing I could do was to close the room’s bill (I couldn’t pay for more than one night there) and catch a plane back home. I made a terrible mistake thinking that Eduardo was the right guy. I should have known that he knew an Italian female he would give everything up for.

And this girl wasn’t me.

I was the least Italian person you could possibly find. I didn’t like pasta, didn’t speak a word in the local language, had never ridden on a Vespa and hadn’t even tried a gelato. I’d suggested France, but, as always, I let Eduardo guide me. And look how it ended.

He was probably in Naples by now, while I contented myself with a white sheet and some foreign chocolates until the day was over and I could go back to my good old Brazil, which I should never have left.

The next day, before leaving the hotel, I took one last walk around the city. Positano was lovely. Walking along the edge of the canteens and the sea with rocks replacing sand, I thought about the beautiful moments I could have had there in that vertical city.

Following the streets leading to the highest part of the town, where I could buy a souvenir for my family in those cute stores, I almost got hit by a motorcycle. The motorcyclist honked at me, and, startled, I stumbled, luckily away from anything that could hurt me. He got off the motorcycle and helped me up.

Stai bene, ragazza?” I was only able to understand it because that was the same phrase in Italian the hotel receptionist said to me when he saw me crying after the fight with Eduardo and his immediate departure (“Are you okay, miss?”).

“Estou bem,” I muttered in Portuguese as I stood up. The man on the motorcycle looked at me with raised eyebrows, not understanding. Then I repeated the answer, now in English (“I’m fine”). Maybe I could try French if he continued not getting it.

He smiled, probably relieved for not having hurt me, but it was all my fault, for being in the middle of the street. For being in Italy, to begin with.

“May I ask your name?” English, after all, would make him at ease. I shook my white shorts, now dirty, and looked at the man, observing his face for the first time. I guess I was too distracted before to have noticed that he was a very handsome Italian. His smile shone like the white clouds of Positano, and his skin, tanned by the Mediterranean sun, had the most attractive color I had ever seen.

“Vanessa,” I said, noticing now that he seemed quite happy to help an almost-hit-by-a-motorcycle girl to compose herself.

“I am Cristiano,” he introduced himself, offering his hand to me. I shook it, trying to tame, with the other hand, my hair, which was flying chaotically with the wind. “Where are you from?”


This time he raised eyebrows with a surprising kind of interest, a smile following his words.

“And what are you doing here, so far from home? Tourism… Honeymoon?”

I shook my head vehemently.

“No. I just… well, I—”

“Would you like to talk about that? I have nothing to do at the moment.” He shrugged.

I frowned. I was being flirted with by an Italian, precisely when I didn’t want anything more to do with men, especially if Italy was involved.

But after all, what else did I have to lose? I just had to prevent anything from being built, so there wouldn’t be any risks.

“The only thing I have to do is to go back to the hotel and pay the bills before one more daily rate is applied.”

“Where are you going after?”

“I don’t know. Somewhere with an airport…”

“I know one place. Do you want a ride?” He approached with the motorcycle, gesturing for me to climb.

I hesitated. If a man I knew for about a year had proven to be unreliable, what could I say about a stranger?

But this stranger could take me away from here, and he has beautiful green eyes. I didn’t need more than that at the moment. Perhaps never again in life.

“You can’t close your doors to love,” that’s what Cristiano commented when I got off the motorcycle, in front of the hotel, after sharing with him the reason I would leave Italy in less than forty-eight hours upon my arrival.

“I don’t know why you assumed that, if I just said I was left by a jerk,” I said while walking to the half-wall at the end of the slope, where I rested my elbows and stared at the blue ocean below. He stopped by my side.

“Because it is what one can presume about women like you left by jerks. That you will close yourselves to love.”

“What do you mean by ‘women like you’?” I asked, somewhat annoyed. I shouldn’t have accepted his ride.

“There are two types of women. There are those ones that, facing such a situation, would want to meet a lot of guys to vent their frustration. You’re the second type. You accepted my ride, but only because you plan to leave this country as soon as possible.”

“And your advice is for me to be the first type?” I asked with a raised eyebrow, and he didn’t see my expression – he was still staring at the blue waters – but disbelief leaked from my voice, which made him look at me.

“If you want your ticket here to be worth it, maybe we can make a few stops before the airport.”

I laughed at his suggestion and at the carefree smile playing on his face.

“Are you offering yourself to give me that romantic week I should have had?” I was still laughing. If I told anyone, when I got back, no one would believe it.

“I hadn’t mentioned romance, but now that you did…”

The interesting thing is that I didn’t care about his provocative words and suggestions. I was actually having fun with it. Perhaps it was his bold (and polished at the same time) manners that made him so charming and his offer so irresistible…

“We barely know each other…” I said.

“Maybe that’s what it’s all about, don’t you think? We, getting to know each other better. And you getting to know Italy. It would be unfair to leave with such negative memories.

“They are not negative anymore.” I smiled honestly. He gave me his bright white grin, which made me see that perhaps he was right. There could be more madness in having thought about marrying Eduardo, even after a year living with him, than to accept an unplanned trip with an almost-stranger until the date of my return ticket.

“How do I know I can trust you?” I asked, still not convinced this was a good idea.

Cristiano glanced at the boats on the horizon, then at me again, looking thoughtful.

“I guess I was wrong after all. You don’t want to close yourself to love, but quite the opposite. You’re already thinking about loving me, and you don’t even know me yet.”

“W-why do you say that…?” I stammered, outraged.

“Because if you wanted to just have fun, you wouldn’t be afraid. Don’t you think that you should get to know me first, and then decide whether to love me or not?”

I couldn’t help but smile. His logic was totally crazy… and made perfect sense.

“Cristiano, I would like a ride,” I said, happy and much more relaxed. His eyes conveyed calm, like that wonderful — and romantic — scenery around me. He grinned again.

“Where to? Crossing the coast? Naples, Rome, Siena…?”

“All of them!” I had on the biggest smile I could remember in a long time. He laughed with me, and then we went into the hotel for me to pay my bills and get my stuff up on the back of the motorcycle of a stranger who I was dying to get to know better, as well as the country that brought me there for the wrong reasons.

But in the end, they were the right ones, as I ended up having my romantic week in Italy.

And a little more than that, actually. Because, a year ago, in Positano — being left by a man — I met an Italian whom I left everything for…

 Paula Ottoni 

Short story also published in the anthology of the UFF Prize of Literature 2011.

Copyright © Paula Ottoni, 2017.