Written by Holly Boyd
As some of you know, Don & I plus Joanne and Peter (and Joanne’s twin sister Ruth) had scheduled a dancing trip to Italy way back in October 2019. This trip featured 6 nights of dancing, 15 dances per night, to a live band. If you can do math, you will realize that is 90 dances – about 75 of them unknown to us! We spent every class at TMR, from November to February, learning these dances. When trip time came, Northern Italy was experiencing a virus outbreak but the rest of Italy (and our world) was fine and there were no restrictions to travelling so…….off we went.
When we arrived in Italy, everything was normal. Our transportation to the hotel was a little scarier than expected but that was because of the long, dark tunnels through the mountains and the twisty, climbing roads up to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast.
The only thing we could say when we entered our hotel room was ‘WOW’. The view from our balcony was awesome. Who knew then that it was the closest we would get to Mt. Vesuvius.
The dancing was terrific. 50 people (about a third had cancelled), mostly good dancers; live music (accordion but still, really GOOD accordion); lots of splendid food and wine in a private, family-run hotel well away from any sickness or strife. But it wasn’t long before the outside world changed.
Our first hint was when the staff changed the tables from seating for 8 to seating for 4 – one of the first government rules we would experience. This was actually nice since we then got to know our table mates and changed at every meal (Don & I got to use our name-remembering tricks from our memory course!).
Our next sign was the cancelled planned visit to Herculaneum that was booked for the day that Italy declared itself a red zone and closed ALL the museums and popular tourist destinations.
Thus, we have become part of an elite group of people who have visited this region and NOT gone to Herculaneum, Pompeii, Vesuvius or the Isle of Capris (which also was closed off the day we were supposed to go there a few days later – our timing definitely wasn’t great).
We did visit Sorrento and walk part of the Amalfi coast. Plus, the area was chock full of gorgeous walks through olive orchards, old monasteries and quaint little towns – so we still managed to experience a lot of the charm of that part of Italy.
We were all supposed to stay until March 16th but, by Wednesday, it was obvious that things were getting serious and our group changed our departure date to March 13th (we were flying Lufthansa – can’t say enough good things about them). On Thursday morning a large group – including the band – headed off by train to Milan to try to get home to Britain (their airlines just STOPPED and left them hanging). That day we were informed that we were not even allowed to leave the grounds of the hotel anymore, so we took drastic action (well, the twins and I did) and went into the pool (unheated, the night temperatures were around 7°C, you get the idea).
Throughout all this, the dancing went on. Walk-through in the afternoon, dance in the evening.
We even did some extra dancing in the afternoons when our plans were cancelled.
Even on Thursday, the 20 of us who were left did the dance program using my iPad and Peter’s little computer speaker. And enjoyed ourselves.
The hotel closed as the last of us left on Friday morning. My heart breaks for the people of Italy who we met and were so helpful and kind. I have written a dance called “A Reel for Renato” for the hotel owner who moved heaven and earth to make our stay enjoyable despite the restrictions and who helped the Brits get home. I also wrote a dance called ‘No Hands’, which is a 40-bar strathspey (sorry, Annie) where no one ever touches another – we’ll do it first when we start up again.
Though the trip feels like it happened months ago, we are just finishing our 2-week self -isolation (not that we have anywhere to go now that we are ‘clean’). The world is an entirely different place now. I don’t think anyone ever expected to experience times like these.
We miss our dance friends and the dancing. Looking forward to the day when we can all get together, hug, dance, talk and laugh again. In the meantime, stay well, stay home and practice your pas de basque.
Until we meet again, repeat our new mantra (stolen from Facebook): If I can hit you with a hockey stick – and I WILL – then you are too close!