The first thing he said to me was, “what are you doing back in this country!?” Romeo DiLoreto was one of the people I had on my absolutely non-negotiable list of those I had to visit while I was in Italy. I was surprised and happy that he remembered me, especially since, as one other former student pointed out to me in a pub one night, “everybody loves Romeo.” Sometimes when I am taking photographs today I still hear things he used to say, and sitting in his class again his voice carried the same wonderful cadence that I remembered (similar to Anthony Bourdain’s voice but a little smoother on the edges).
What was I doing back in this country…I asked myself this continuously while I was there. Aside from a few meetings that were scheduled in advance, there was wide open time and space available for serendipitous events. I quickly realized how uncomfortable I was at first with said time and space, and also how dependent I have become on having (fast) internet access at all times. It was my first time traveling completely alone outside of the U.S. and what was amazing about going alone was the number of new people I met every single day. I wish I could have everyone I met together in one room at the same time. I do not have photographs of them all, and I do not have a photograph of Romeo (which seems strange but exactly how it should be at the same time). I do not have a photo of Sadako, but I do have two hand-painted bookmarks that she gave me. She is from Japan, and was also traveling alone (through Servas). We met on the street after she asked me a question and told me that I spoke good English, and I said, “I hope so.” These are just a few of the people who I met for the first time and shared a conversation, coffee, or a good meal with…more to come.