This past month, Eve and I travelled to Italy to celebrate a milestone wedding anniversary. We had a wonderful time enjoying delicious cuisine; being amazed by breath-taking scenery; and most of all, interacting with the warm and friendly Italians we encountered.
We decided not to go to Rome, Florence, and Venice, which are heavily touristed, preferring instead the northern lake region of the country. Lake Iseo is not usually high on the list of must-see places in Italy (except for the artist Christo’s Floating Piers installation late June and early July which drew over a million visitors). Just north of the lake is the small town of Capo di Ponte, which is a site for prehistoric rock carvings that date back 5,000 years.
We’ve never seen carvings this ancient, so we booked a night in a lovely B&B located not far from the excavations. After checking-in, we walked to a local restaurant for dinner. Since neither the waitress nor the owner of the ristorante spoke English, however through our gestures and our beginner’s level Italian, we managed to communicate just fine with our hosts.
On our walk back to the B&B, as we strolled by churches and Christian shrines, Eve remarked, “I bet we’re the only Jews in this town.”
Back at the B&B, just before we entered our upstairs room, we passed a family who spoke a decidedly familiar language: Hebrew. I could tell immediately that they were Israelis. Imagine their surprise when I shifted from conversing with Eve in English and wished the family “Laila Tov” (good night).
Not another word was said between us until we joined them for breakfast. The father immediately asked us how we know Hebrew. We then engaged in a wonderful, lengthy conversation “B’Ivrit.” My spoken Hebrew is pretty good, but I think being in a foreign country for over a week primed me to speak Hebrew even more fluently.
We had a memorable time getting to know the Ness family, who, like us, had come to Capo di Ponte to see the rock carvings. Before parting, we exchanged contact information. Who knows whether we might see them here in Fremont or the next time we travel to Israel?
It is deeply enriching to explore another culture, to visit a foreign country, to step out of your comfort zone and expand your personal horizons. It also is very satisfying to have times like we did with our Israeli friends, where language and history bind us together.