by Emily Monaco
When I was 12, my parents took our entire family on a whirlwind trip through Italy. It was the time of, amongst other things, my first glass of Champagne at a restaurant in Florence, the first foreign money gracing my palm as I purchased gelato in the streets of Siena, and the first time I was struck with the strange but not altogether unpleasant realization that, “That’s what I want to do when I grow up.”
Her name was Laura, and she was Italian through and through. A university professor by trade and a personal tour guide, Laura met us on our very first day in Rome, and, completely jet-lagged, we set off following her on a walking tour of the city. I was in awe of the sheer number of things she knew; the history of the Romans and the Etruscans, where you could find the artist’s self-portrait on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the age of archways due to their details. I completely forgot how tired I was and spent the next few hours hovering at her elbow, listening to her answer my inquisitive eight-year-old brother’s endless questions.