words + photos by Melanie Fidler
My mom and I just got back from a mother-daughter bonding trip to Italy to visit my little sister, Jaclyn, who is studying abroad in Florence. We traveled hand-in-hand to Venice, Florence, and Rome in 10 days. It was the first trip we took, just the two of us. It was my first trip to Italy and I was happy to have my Italian mother with me.
We started off in Venice, a magical wonderland of masquerade masks, Murano glass, gelato, and romance. If only I was on my honeymoon! It’s an amazing place that almost seemed fake, like a movie set. Instead of streets and highways filled with car traffic there were quaint canals and waterways with gondolas and boats. We really did nothing all day but wander the streets, get lost, find our way, and eat, drink and be merry with the locals. I’m lucky to have had my mom there to experience such fine treats with me.
Every night we walked over the Rialto Bridge to St. Mark’s Square to catch a few free concerts. There were 3 live bands switching off playing old fashion Italian songs for anyone who stopped to listen. They took turns playing the waltz and local favorites. For some reason a song from the Addam’s Family movie, when Morticia and Gomez dance, kept popping into my head.
Florence was spent touring the city with my sister. A bit touristy for me. Despite popular female culture - I’m not a big shopper. My mom, however, was happy to shop with my sister who had been eagerly anticipating our arrival. That’s the thing about my mom; she is always so giving to her children. It honestly makes her happy to see us happy. She offered time and time again to get me whatever I wanted, but the trip in itself, and spending time with her, was more than enough to appease me.
The best part of Florence was our cooking class where we learned how to make artichoke soufflé, homemade lasagna and lemon chocolate crepes. The hike up 463 claustrophobic steps to the top of the Duomo was also a trip.
We left my sister in Florence, and boarded the Eurostar train to Rome, our last stop. I allowed my mom the freedom to find us a Bed & Breakfast in Rome, since I took care of our previous accommodations. Boy, does she know how to pick ‘em. My mom thanked her lucky stars that I am an experienced world traveler who knows how to read a map. This place was definitely off the beaten path, far away from any tourists. We took the local public bus and tram everywhere.
I’ll never forget our 3:30pm ride home from the Colosseum to our hotel. After a rainy tour of the famous ruins, we had enough walking and needed some rest. We decided to take a little siesta before dinner, our main event. On the way home, the bus got more and more packed with Italians. Think rush hour on a New York City subway times 100. My mom and I were clearly the only non-Italians onboard. Fortunately my mom snuck her way into a seat. As the bus filled, old men were pushing and yelling when all of a sudden the bus pulled over and kicked everyone off! For no reason, we all had to get off the bus and figure out the way home. I had my trusty map and managed to navigate us back to our area on foot in the rain.
Whether it was downing limoncello or grappa after dinner and laughing at our waiter all the way home, or walking all day through the pollen-infused streets practically blind, listening to poetic music, or sleeping with ear plugs, valium, and wine just so I could sleep through the night without waking up to my moms ridiculous snoring, I really couldn’t ask for a better travel companion, or mother.
I love my mom for encouraging me to follow my dreams. I love my mom for vicariously living through my travel experiences. I love my mom for supporting me and loving me no matter what I do or where I go. I love my mom for giving me aspirin and water in the morning before I even tell her I’m hung-over. I love my mom for always telling me to put on lipstick before I leave the house. I love my mom for doing my laundry, even though I’m a grown woman who can do it her damn self. I love my mom for cooking wholesome meals just about every night and inspiring me to want to cook like her one day. I love my mom for having good genes and teaching me to take care of my skin. I love my mom for being patient with my lifestyle and love life. More than anything she ever said, it’s how she lives her life that’s inspired me most of all.
Happy Mother’s Day.
Melanie Fidler is a freelance photojournalist who has covered ongoing and emerging conflicts from the war in Israel and Lebanon as well as personal feature stories. Melanie began her career traveling the world with Semester at Sea, a unique study abroad program involving fieldwork and cross-cultural exposure in 11 different countries.Upon graduation in 2005, she boldly moved to Jerusalem to work for Flash90 photo and news agency covering social activities, spot news, conflict, public relations, and politics amongst other topics. Currently based in New York freelancing for The New Jersey Nets and The New York Times, Melanie is working on several new projects.
Editor's Note: For Mother's Day, co-founder Judith Fein wrote about her mama. We decided to check in with our other writers to see what they have to say about the women who birthed them. You may be very surprised. Feel free to leave comments for any of the writers and Happy Mother's Day if you are one, have one, or plan to be one!