Reentry, Reminiscing, and Reconciling,

Valerie Anne Burns
7 min readDec 29, 2022
My lovebug kitty, Lucia who is happy to have me back home

Being away for a month in a foreign country such as Italy presents a certain culture shock upon returning home. What I missed most at home, was Lucia Fortuna and her unique and sweet snuggles. Otherwise, I feel at home in Europe, especially Italy and getting away from crazy MAGA news was a relief. I relished in the daily rituals while immersing myself in the culture. One of the treasured moments was sitting in a quiet neighborhood café in Rome enjoying an apricot cornetto and macchiato while watching people.

walking from their apartments to begin their day. I felt more like a resident than a tourist. In fact, I avoided the tourist crowds by wandering early morning to choice sites like the Trevi Fountain. As life can be, there were a few harsher moments that I continue to reconcile.

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Reentry came about after the most endless travel (25 hours door-to-door) and sick as a dog to boot. I became sick in Rome, which put the kibosh on plans the last four days there. Too complicated to try and change my flight(s) to get home. Well, to LA and then a shuttle to Santa Barbara in a dark abandoned drop-off spot waiting for the tardy taxi to finally drop me home. When I saw Lucia’s face in the window, I broke out in tears from pure exhaustion and relief to see her, and to be home to my own comfortable bed with Lucia cuddled next to me. FYI-The mattresses in Italy are quite hard. It took nearly two weeks to recover. The travel didn’t help one bit with the flu. I put out the most important fires of what needed to be done and otherwise, comatose.

It’s interesting how I seem to have more of a social life in Italy than I do in my own hometown. Single in Santa Barbara is not optimal and I find that there is an element of exclusivity where in Italy, the culture is to include you. It’s quite lovely. A friend from Santa Barbara, Milena is renting an apartment in Rome and we traveled a bit. She journeyed with me to my friend and Airbnb super host, Laura in Trebiano, (in the Liguria area of Italy) who has become family to me. Laura loves to cook for those she cares for as well as new guests as I was back in 2019 when we met. Everything comes from her garden.

A beautiful lunch Italian style

Sitting outside on her terrace with a trellis of grapevine overhead looking out to the ocean on a beautiful October afternoon and being served ravioli in homemade marinara and a Caprese salad was indeed a highlight. It’s exactly why I love Italy. They truly know how to live life. Sitting around a beautifully set table with delicious food and a glass of wine is fantastic! It’s a lifestyle that I easily resonate with. I think it’s a big reason why people return to Italy.

When people ask me how my trip to Italy was I respond by saying, “It ran the whole gamut, there was bliss, drama, and even trauma.” I will always be truthful. Most importantly. is that my trip had a purpose, which was to write a blog for seven days to describe my experience in Rome as the first international freelance participant for www.sendmeonvacation.org It was so important to me to do a great job and I cherished having a writing assignment. Within that seven days, I landed in an Italian hospital from severe dehydration and not being able to catch my breath after climbing and descending the 365 steps to and down from the Cupola (photo below is inside Cupola and where you see slats is where walkway is on the outside) at St Peter’s Cathedral on a hot day in a claustrophobic stairwell.

The Cupola in St Peter’s Cathedral, Rome

Although the elevator takes you part way, the winding 365 steep stairs is beyond aerobic. It was very scary. When I came off the elevator, I began to pass out on the marble floors of the Cathedral. The Cathedral medics came and took it seriously as if I could be in cardiac arrest. I landed in an ambulance. Long story short, the nurse couldn’t get into my problematic and fragile vein to give me fluids and electrolytes. This brings up PTSD from the multiple hospital stays and surgeries during my breast cancer ordeal. I had to escape the hospital to avoid more trauma and got the electrolytes in packets at the pharmacy. I survived. After downing a big glass of water with electrolytes that I continued for the rest of the trip and gobbling down a vegetable lasagna at the café near my hotel, I went back to my room and wrote that day’s blog. Then, I conked out. I included the hospital drama/trauma as a cautionary tale with advice of bringing along your water carrier with electrolytes for the Cupola (or some similar strenuous) adventure.

Another thing I’ve been reconciling is having to be on the receiving end of the most vicious personal attack 😫 written in message while in Rome I’ve ever encountered! A few things came to mind in the midst of shock and untruths: It is the most significant example of projection I’ve ever witnessed. I also thought of the sayings, “hurt people hurt people’, and “people will show you who they are, believe them”. It’s true and crucial to put these things in perspective. I suppose this kind of thing can strike us human beings at one point or another. If a person tells you they’re truly happy then spewing such venom wouldn’t even be a consideration. In contrast, I recently received amazing notes from two friends who know me well (and they are from different worlds) that expressed such kindness and love toward me and for who I am to them and the world. 💖 Admittedly, the notes actually made me feel shy. I’m deeply grateful. I am also still learning (after all these decades) to take this kind of sincere compliment into my heart without question or doubt.

Back to Italy for a moment, I would be remiss to not add the trip down to the Island of Ischia and Amalfi Coast as blissful. Most especially, the island of Ischia (St Angelo area in particular) is a jewel. I felt like Jackie O staying there. It was so elegant and when you look down into the sea, it is a combination of looking into jade and sapphire. Extraordinary. After the long travel to get to Rome, my hospital visit extravaganza, and diligently writing my blog, I was exhausted. It was a random choice because Milena and I didn’t know exactly what to expect with all our research. I ran across the Villa Maria on a search for accommodation. We lucked out. So reasonable and so fabulous. Charming and family owned. I never relax on the beach (water too cold here and always power walking by the beach in Santa Barbara) but I told my friend, Milena, “you will find me on the beach for the next couple days”. It was sublime and while that gorgeous, clear water was chilly in mid-October, I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t take the plunge. It took a while, but I swam around the long rock formation at least three times and it was worth the goose bumps. I will leave you with a couple photos from Ischia. Think about it as a destination, if you travel to Italy. Avoid the summer if you can, especially August.

Thanks for reading and Happy New Year to all. Love, joy, and light.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne

--

--

Valerie Anne Burns

Author of Caution: Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter”; Blogger; Breast Cancer Survivor; Hollywood Survivor; Workshop Leader; & Beauty Seeker.