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Tripping in Italy: A midnight encounter leads to a photographer's dilemma

Hotel La Giada del Mesco in Levanto.

I am lost and want to be found. I am in Italy to turn my life around after a dark period in what has seemed a charmed life. Maybe this seven-week escape will reawaken my body, soul and creativity.

By the third week, I am craving the sea and drive to Cinque Terre, the five fishing villages – each suspended from cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean.

It is already midafternoon when I check in to the last hotel room in the area at La Giada del Mesco, my Garden of Eden. But there's no time to rest. I quickly set down my bags, take in the vast sea view from my patio and rush off to explore. I hike, ride local trains and ferry boats to visit each of the villages, returning to my town, Levanto, for my late-night feast of local fish, al fresco.

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It's midnight before I head back to my room, the last one along a dark path at the edge of a cliff. I notice an unusually bright skyscape with rolling clouds and sense the moon over the water "tangoing" with me. Something sparks within me. After a quick shower I set up my tripod and camera equipment on the patio, eager to begin a midnight moonscape series. This is the first time in months that I feel excitement, creativity and productivity. I envision several showpieces for an exhibition at my gallery back home.

Suddenly, out of the darkness, a smiling handsome Italian man, wearing a crisp white shirt and tight trousers, materializes just below my raised patio. He is casually holding a bottle of beer and, leaning toward me, playfully attempts to make conversation. It becomes apparent that he cannot speak English – and I cannot respond in Italian. I am not sure if I should return the smile, as I am not wearing anything but my nightshirt. I consider what to do. While attempting to communicate through body language, I try to share my enthusiasm with what I am photographing by pointing to the sky behind him and to the images on the back of my camera, which he reservedly peeks at without any reaction. What a dilemma – where to put my attention – on him or on my work? Remaining captivated by the luminous moonscapes and reflections on the water, I am determined to make them mine. Eventually, my visitor sits down by the pool, and when the moon finally disappears into the clouds, so has he.

That night, I fret about my broken door lock and wonder – is he a peeping Tom or an axe murderer, a wanderlust tourist, a curious George, or perhaps a roving Romeo?

Surprised to see him again at breakfast, we each squeeze out a meek "buon giorno." His demeanour has changed from stud to dud. He looks defeated – or is that me? The last glimpse of my Italian stallion is of him walking away after breakfast, downcast in his bathing suit.

At first, I am upset at myself for being both moonstruck and dumbstruck. But I console myself with the thought that I did not get the man but I did get my moon.

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