Joshua Scott, guest contributor
Just a few years ago, God gave my mother and me a miracle trip to Italy with Adventures By Disney. We got to have an experience unlike any we have ever had and unlike any since.
This article is the third in a small series I have written. I did not set out to write this in three parts originally, but as I wrote I would remember more and more about my time there. All of the memories came rushing back and I kept running out of room on the paper. Here are Part One and Part Two about my time there. I could probably write two or three more of these, but three feels like a nice number.
After learning the consequences of ordering alcohol in a different language, our group got a night of sleep in Florence and then headed to Venice. In order to get to the floating city, we boarded the ITALO bullet train, which is a high-speed train that connects Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan, and Naples. I had never been on a bullet train before, but I imagine it was like many of the others around the world. It was comfortable, came with a free lunch, and it was very fast. The views on the way there were spectacular as well. The almost Hogwarts Express type of feeling was very present as we sped through the Tuscan countryside on the way to Venice.
I can tell you that Venice is just as beautiful as any picture you have seen of it. The unique, colorful buildings lined the spectacular canals full of boats and gondolas. The smell of saltwater caught us in the wind as we saw merchants and tourists alike climbing in and out of boats and hurrying along the streets. Disney also saw to it that we would all get to take a gondola to our hotel, but before that, there were some things we needed to know about this new city.
Venetians are a different type of Italian we were told. In Venice, there are a lot of narrow alleys and bridges and everyone walks on the right side. There are plenty of empty or remote places to take pictures or stop to chat, but these were not the places to do so. Venetians live there and they have jobs to do and places to be. We were told that they would not stop to wait for us or tolerate tourist stupidity. If we held up traffic, we would get pushed into the canal. By this point, we were all pretty aware of how respectful Italians are of each other's space and time, so we weren’t all that surprised. Still, it felt kind of like we were in the New York City of Italy.
Apparently, they also speak a slightly different dialect of Italian. I heard it described as almost a Venice accent one has to learn. One of our tour guides, Marco, could use this dialect perfectly. Right before boarding our gondola, Marco and the “driver” began to argue. I could not tell you what they were arguing about, but I could tell Marco was advocating for us in some way. However, it may have been in vain as the first gondola left with only two people. The next would have to fit the 6 of us. Uh oh. We all clambered inside one after the other, and with each new passenger, I was more convinced that we would end up capsizing. I absolutely did not trust the thin watercraft we were all balanced in.
I tried my best to stay as still as I could, but it didn’t really help. The water was only an inch or two below the rim of the boat, and I kept a close eye on it. As my mother took pictures and looked all around, I was gauging the distance between me and any window sills I could see, ready to jump out if the boat tipped. On one of the larger canals, I looked across the water to see what was supposed to be our gondola, occupied by the two ladies I mentioned before. They were lounging in the length of the boat like princesses in a carriage. Needless to say, I was relieved when we got to our destination.
After we “landed”, we were guided on a private walking tour of the city. We were taken through the winding streets and over lots of bridges while being told stories of Venice’s history and architecture. We were taught that anything on wheels is banned in the city. The streets are over an ocean after all and were not designed to withstand the constant wear and tear of vehicle wheels. Cars, bikes, mopeds, and even roller skates were not permitted in the streets. So how did everyone get around the 415 square Kilometer city? They walked. So we also walked, and walked, and walked. By the very nature of the city and its culture, Venetians had a whole different perspective. No one I saw was really “out of shape” as most locals walk several miles every day. My mother and I also learned that “around the corner” meant over a mile-long walk, which we took on our way to get lunch that same day.
Finally, we had reached the last full day in Italy. Before the farewell sailing, we were taken to a small shop in one of Venice's many alleys and were taught to make masks. Well, taught to paint masks I should say. We all got to pick out our style of Carnevale mask and paint them however we chose. I opted for the half-face phantom of the opera style covering, and painted mine bright red. I added a lot of small designs in black as well but didn’t have time to finish it all. One of the mask makers liked mine so much, she told me she would finish it out for me. That evening on our private sailing away party, we were given our masks back. Mine was the only one that was created with the help of a talented, authentic Italian artist. I proudly gave it to my father when I returned home. As I stood aboard the Jolly Roger, watching the sunset over the Italian seaside, I knew I would come back one day. Hopefully, that day is soon.
This Italy miracle really was just that; a miracle. There is no reason I should have been able to have the trip of my life right after I had the desire, but that's just how God works, isn’t it? He instills a desire in us and then He fulfills it. Much more recently, my wife came to me and told me she wanted a baby. This wasn’t new, as we both entered into marriage with plans to have a baby one day. What was news to me, was that she wanted one so badly that she wished she didn’t. Her desire was so strong that it actually hurt to not have it. At this time, I was not able to support the two of us on my just income, let alone a little baby. I didn’t know what to do, so I told her we needed to pray. This had to be from the Lord, so let’s pray for the means to have a baby. Surprise surprise, the Lord gave me a second job, and a house, and finally a little girl who just turned 4 months old. God gave us the desire, and then he met it more than I thought possible. Italy was, I could say, a small preview of what was to come. It was a testament to the God we serve and His willingness to pour out blessings on us. The Lord doesn’t just protect us but prospers us as well.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11