After the sudden loss of her husband in 2018, Suzanne vowed to take their dream trip to Italy in honour of what would have been their 40th wedding anniversary. From returning to her mother country and connecting with her Italian roots to making her husband proud by accomplishing her dreams, this was a very moving trip for Suzanne. She travelled from New York, United States to touch down in Rome on our Italian Concerto tour in 2019.
Suzanne’s Trafalgar Unlocked Awards entry
This is what Suzanne shared in her moving Trafalgar Unlocked Awards entry:
“This was a lifelong dream for me. My husband passed in April 2018 from a massive heart attack. He was three months shy of retiring from his job of 46 years. We were married for 39 years. He promised to take me to Italy. So, on our would have been 40 years of marriage on our anniversary date of September 1st, I boarded a plane to Italy. I knew he was with me in spirit.
I embarked on the journey of my lifetime on the Italian Concerto tour. Our tour guide Giuseppe was fantastic! I met wonderful people on the tour. I remember seeing the Sistine Chapel for the first time. Looking up at the ceiling, I cried. I’m a fine arts major and a retired teacher. I had only seen photos in textbooks before, but not in person. The Amalfi coast was amazing! I tried to burn the images of the coast and the sailboats in my memory so I’d always have them there to get through my moments of grief.
My heart aches to travel again. I still keep in contact with other travelers who were on the tour with me. Made lively friendships. I created a photo album to look back on my beautiful trip. I know my husband was with me in spirit on that trip. It was amazing! The gondola ride and the colosseum were unforgettable. Thank you for making my 40th wedding anniversary special. My husband would have loved it.”
We reached out to Suzanne to find out more about her incredible trip to Italy, why it was so important to travel, and where she’d love to go next.
You can read more inspiring stories and entries from our past guests, received as part of the Trafalgar Unlocked Awards on The Real Word blog.
Why did you choose Italy as your dream destination?
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, United States in which I still reside. My grandparents were born in Italy and traveled to the United States for a better life. Both my maternal and paternal grandparents became United States citizens. Life was very difficult for them in the beginning, adjusting to a new country, new language and customs.
Italian was the language spoken around me, but I was never engaged in conversation with my family. Most Italian families who migrated to the United States encouraged their families to speak English as much as possible because “America” was now their home. Therefore, I understood the language, but could not speak Italian. My maternal grandmother would tell me stories about growing up in Calabria, Italy. She spoke about the beautiful countryside of Calabria, and how her brother would hunt for rabbits. Her stories fascinated me. I desired to learn more about my ancestry and learn to speak the Italian language.
During college, I studied art history and became fascinated with the Italian artists: Michelangelo, da Vinci, Botticelli, Bernini and Raphael. I was captivated by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and dreamed that one day I would see it in person. That’s when I made a promise to myself that I would return to my “mother” country, Italy. It was important to me to reconnect with my ancestry and discover where my roots originated.
Why was it so important for you to take this trip?
With the sudden loss of my husband in April 2018 to a heart attack, I learned life is precious and short. Do not put off what you can do today for tomorrow… Take that leap, and do it. My late husband and I had plans to visit Italy for our 40th wedding anniversary, on September 1, 2018, but that never happened.
After my husband passed, I decided to retire from my 20-year position as an elementary school teacher. I needed time to grieve. My husband worked for 46 years and was supposed to retire, but passed away three months before his retirement date.
So, on what would have been our 40th wedding anniversary, September 1 2019, I took that leap. When my plane landed in Rome, I felt I was finally home. I had done it. While I did it to make my late husband proud of me, I also did it to be proud of myself. I had to prove to myself that after 39 years of marriage, I had accomplished something by myself… Without him, and that I was strong.
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What are some of your favourite memories from your Italian Concerto trip?
The Italian Concerto tour was my first trip to Europe. I chose this particular tour because it covered a lot of what I wanted to see in Italy: Vatican City, Rome, Florence, Pompeii, Capri, The Amalfi Coast, and Venice. I would finally see Michelangelo’s ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.
I’ve got so many favorite memories of the tour. My favorite was seeing Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. I cried when I first looked up at Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam” on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I became emotional… It was real. All those photographs of the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling I had looked at in college textbooks, had come to life. It was all real and I was looking at it. It existed.
The piazzas and fountains of Rome, the Colosseum, Tivoli and Gardens of the Villa D’Este. Walking the cobblestone streets through the ruins of Pompeii. Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Duomo, and the wonderful ride on the gondolas in Venice. The breathtaking Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Positano… Having dinner at the 1,000-year-old Norman Tower in Maiori on the Amalfi Coast was amazing!
This was a trip of a lifetime for me. I met so many wonderful travelers from all parts of the world. We still keep in touch today through Facebook wishing each other happy birthdays and holidays.
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What is so special about travel?
What’s so wonderful about traveling is the knowledge you acquire through experiencing a different country about its people, history, culture and customs, while additionally, meeting travelers from different countries sharing their stories while you share yours. Knowledge is power and my trip to Italy on Trafalgar’s Italian Concerto tour has given me the power to move through my grief. There’s a world out there waiting for me to explore.
Where else is on your bucket list?
Someday, I would love to visit Scotland, and England. I visited Paris, France with a friend independently last year, and have also found Key West, Florida, USA to be quaint, magical, tropical, and a relaxing place. However, it is second to Italy.
As an entrant in our Trafalgar Unlocked Awards, you have the chance to win 2 places on our Balkan Delight tour. Have you ever been to the Balkans? Who would you take if you won?
I have never visited the Balkans. It looks beautiful from the photographs posted on Trafalgar’s website! This is a trip I would love to take my daughter on, since she has helped me so much after the passing of my husband her father. She has been my right arm, my rock, helping me while she was also grieving… grieving her father, raising her two children, and taking care of her husband.
Thank you Suzanne for sharing your remarkable story!
Head to The Real Word blog to read more inspiring stories from our past guests, received as part of the Trafalgar Unlocked Awards.