About the Author
My most memorable vacation in my life – Lian Dolan
In 2018, my college son Colin was spending a year abroad, studying history, archaeology and art history in Greece and Italy. My husband surprised me at Christmas with a trip to Rome to meet-up with my son at the end of his term. For reasons that I can’t exactly pin down, I hadn’t been to Europe in thirty years. Life just got a hold of me—children, work, mortgages, college fund, a husband who isn’t too fond of travel. When I unwrapped the homemade Trip to Rome gift certificate in my husband’s jumbled handwriting, I jumped at the chance to plan this mother-son vacation.
Of course, being a writer, there was also a critical research angle. After telling a friend about my upcoming trip, she recounted a tantalizing true story of her visit to Rome as a twenty-something. My writer brain recognized a plot bunny and filed that story away as a great premise for a novel. I wanted to soak in some atmosphere to see if the idea stuck around. (It has.) Rome is too romantic not to be inspiring.
But I didn’t let the writing get in the way of the seeing and walking and eating and laughing and talking. I landed in Rome on Mother’s Day 2018. My son, who had been in Florence for a month, took the train into the Eternal City, his first visit. He brimmed with the confidence and maturity that comes with travelling on your own in a foreign country, especially one where you don’t speak the language. I brimmed with jetlag from my unsuccessful attempts at sleeping on the 14-hour flight from Los Angeles. But Rome was glorious, the weather was perfect and we spent our first day wandering through the Forum, eating gelato and catching up.
From there, I let my son drive the agenda. He had a list of sites and statues and vintage clothing stores that he wanted to see. I lined up a few guided tours, including the Vatican because the last time I’d been there, the Sistine Chapel was a dirty, smoky mess! Now, you can actually see the paintings. We took our time in museums. We walked like crazy. We bought those “overlay books” with photos of what the Circus Maximus looks like now and looked like then. He rattled off facts about Michelangelo and Bernini and I choked out a few coherent phrases in my college Italian. Rome had changed tremendously in the last 30 years—more archaeology uncovered and restored, more English and many, many more tourists. But the sense of glamour and history and vitality are still the same.
For our grand finale, we planned a day trip to Pompeii, a do-it-ourselves excursion to a place that I’d always wanted to visit. I was a Classics major in college and Pompeii captured my imagination. My son was totally game, having studied the site in his courses. Pompeii lived up to our expectations in every way. It was a mild day, the prefect weather for the adventure. We outlasted the crowds and stayed until sunset, wandering the ancient lanes with our map and another essential overlay book of Pompeii Then and Now. We ate delicious pizza in the Napoli train station and headed back to Rome and then home.
Our mother-son trip seems particularly bittersweet now, with all the restrictions on life and travel. I was so glad to have that time with him in the moment and even more so now, as cancelled plans and study abroad programs are the order of the day. My son will graduate from college this year, in a virtual ceremony. He’ll start his “real life” back in his childhood bedroom, waiting for the world to come back to bloom. But, as we know from history, it will return.