The most hospitable place Fatima and I stayed at during #FLEuro2016 was, without a doubt, Val Gardena. Fatima had a friend she wanted to visit and her friend was kind enough to let us stay at her home. Little did we know that her home meant a beautiful and recently renovated hotel in one of Italy’s special regions.
Stefanie and her family runs Hotel La Pineta, and if the hotel itself wasn’t darling enough, her family, friends, and other guests, made our stay in Val Gardena so marvelous that Fatima and I vouched to return one day for the winter ski season.
Val Gardena is exactly what you think it sounds like – it’s a valley in between two gorgeous mountains. If you’re from Vancouver, think Whistler but even larger.
Obviously, there was no snow when Fatima and I went, but the rolling green mountains and picturesque cottage-styled buildings with flowers made me think of old Holland and Switzerland mixed together. During the train ride from Venice, my eyes were glued to the window as we zoomed by green landscape. There were fields and fields of vineyards, perhaps a cottage or farmhouse here and there, and an infinite outline of mountains in the background.
At this point, Fatima and I had visited 7 cities, well past our halfway point in Santorini. I can’t explain how refreshing it was to arrive at Selva. The air was great, the weather was cool, and being surrounded by mountains was a sweet reminder of home.
Except, of course, we weren’t home, and this became evident as Fatima and I walked around and realized that we were the only Asian people around.
Picture this: you are on a hike. The scenery around you makes you want to frolic to the soundtrack of The Sound of Music. You see cows. Cows! They are so cute. Ew, there are a lot of bugs flying around them, but look at their cute little ears! Their nose is so soft. Oh, calm down, there are children around. Yes, let the children look at the cows. Never mind, they are not looking at the cows; they are looking at me. Yup, the mom is explaining to them that I am Asian. Okay, yup, guess I am more interesting than the cow.
Shocking, but not really, considering we had reached the same epiphany in other cities before throughout our travels. By then, we were used to having this conversation (or something along the likes of) with other people:
Them: Ni Hao!
Them: Oh, where are you from?
Them: Oh, but where are you really from?
Growing up in a multicultural city such as Vancouver, I became accustomed to seeing people who look different – who are different. While Fatima and I oohed and aahed at historical sites and landmarks, we were never surprised to see people of different ethnicity.
Stefanie, Federica, and their friends and family in Selva made Fatima and I feel so at home that we forgot we were million miles away from home, where there are arguably many more Asians. On top of meeting a Fabio, playing cards late at night and belting to Spice Girls, Selva and Val Gardena became the city that blew me away the most. I had gone in with zero research about the place and left with two new friends.
Cheers to that and whether it be Vancouver, Selva, or New Zealand, I hope the four of us meet together again.
We are all the same and we are all different. What great friends we will be.
― Kelly Moran, The Tiny Caterpillar and the Great Big Tree