There is a special charm in returning to a beloved holiday spot. Some may argue that taking the same holiday year after year can become monotonous or predictable but can you imagine the bliss of basking in the unparalleled joy of familiarity and nostalgia? Every trip brings back a rush of memories, reminding us of our favourite activities, cherished restaurants, and the friendly faces we have come to know. It’s like coming home to a place that holds a piece of our hearts.
In this article, 50-something Lorenza Bacino, who recently returned from a summer break in her family home in a village in northern Italy, has been reflecting on the ties that bind and re-evaluating the significance of returning to the same familiar place for decades.
The role of nostalgia in repeat holidays
I was a very shy child and an only child. I remember summers at the family ‘Castello’ in Rosignano Monferrato, an ancient crumbling structure on a village hillside in northern Italy, where I’d spend the holidays very much alone, inventing things to do during the heat of the day and peering longingly over the wall at the piazza below. Kids on mopeds would be having a fantastic time, shouting and laughing loudly, enjoying water fights and just being together. How I yearned to be a part of that gang.
But I was too shy to go down and join in. I was known – I later discovered – as the ‘inglesina’, the little English girl, who hid in her house on the hill.
One day everything changed forever. A small group of girls made their way up the dusty driveway and invited me out to play. I followed them down through the ‘portone’, the large wooden entrance to the house, assuming it would just be me and them. As I turned the corner, I was met with a huge crowd of boys and girls, all curious and eager to ask me questions, which I struggled to understand with my limited grasp of Italian. Taken aback I gasped and tried to retreat. But it was too late as I was propelled by them and their curiosity, to the dusty piazza below to play football and have fun in the mid-afternoon heat.
My life changed that day – for the better and forever. I had the first of the best summers of my childhood. I became part of the gang, enjoyed the banter, learned Italian, played hide and seek, had water fights, climbed trees, stole fruit ate vast amounts of grapes fresh from the vines, and ran wild in the hills.
Embracing the joy of returning to a beloved holiday spot
Year after year I returned and was always enveloped back into the group, which grew as the years went by and more kids were swept up. I spent delicious warm evenings on the back of a motorbike exploring these wonderful UNESCO world heritage site hills and vineyards and enjoying the simple fun of village festas. That was what my childhood summers were all about and I loved them.
During the long harsh English winters, I yearned to be back and waited impatiently for the postman to deliver long-awaited letters from my friends. These summers were quite simply paradise to me and I didn’t want or need anything else.
Of course, over time I became curious and travelled, visiting many countries and even living and working in them. But decades on, my midlife memory may be blurred, but the good times, the stories and the ties remain, consolidated over the years. Ties that go beyond this place, and that are woven into the fabric of a community, woven into my memory and into my very essence. I am part of this place and, with age, I recognise it as a beautiful and precious thing.
As a midlife bloomer, I realise it’s been a privilege to have experienced being part of something so unique over the years. The privilege of returning to the same place, creating memories passed down through the generations and continuing to amuse us as we tell and retell the same stories, embellishing and adding nuance each time we meet. Bumping into people who remember my parents, even my grandparents, and who welcome my own children as they, in turn, create their own bond with the place. Different from mine, of course, but no less significant.
Building traditions and creating lasting memories
Over the decades, we have grown up, gone our separate ways, lived our lives and created our own stories. That also means sharing in the sadness as some of us are no longer here. But I also know that this is a part of life as I continue to visit the castle on the hill, where there are bats in the roof, mosquitoes whining under the trees at the entrance, the sound of the water pump that bursts into desultory activity from time to time and the electricity is random at best, where people are ready with open arms, food and wine and most importantly – deep friendship and love.
We have shared the joys and the tragedies that life has thrown at us. We have felt loved and nurtured always. We still enjoy catching up and bringing our own children to share a meal overlooking these beautiful hills in the golden light of the evening sun. From time to time we bump into each other – after decades – in a bar or a restaurant, and share a glass of wine and reminisce. After all, it is the people who make a place and make you feel valued and loved.
Sometimes, in a fit of nostalgia, I remind myself that things cannot stay the same. The past is the past, but we can remember it and share our memories, and embrace the changes too.
I will always be curious to travel and discover new places, but this year, for some reason, I did not yearn for newness, but revelled in the comfort of what I know and appreciated the comfort of old friends and familiar places. There is always something new to discover below the surface if you scratch hard enough. And the more time you spend, the deeper the ties and the more you become woven into the fabric of a place. With age, I realise how important this place is to me and I will never take it for granted.