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Happy Accidents

“O Mio Riomaggiore”


AS OUR TRAIN pulled up to the coastal village of Riomaggiore, Italy, I reached for my iPhone—before my brain reminded me I didn’t have it.

My trip through Europe had been like a poorly orchestrated symphony played without sheet music—and losing my phone in Rome was the final snap of a violin string. I had been wandering wide-eyed and open-mouthed towards the Fontana di Trevi one day, when my hungry hand reached for the device that stored my precious memories, only to grasp at air.

Sullen, I stepped off the train platform at my final destination. After making my way up a cobblestone street toward colorful homes nestled deep into the cliffside, I sat on a retaining wall and looked around. It was dusk, and the warm wind smelled of sweet earth and salty ocean. Behind me was a backyard, with a little lemon orchard right next to the laundry lines. The squatty trees were thick with giant, perfectly shaped lemons so vibrant they looked surreal.

I noticed a portly Italian man heading up the road toward me, carrying a large casserole dish. He stopped to knock on the door of a square pink house, where a woman greeted him with a bright smile. I became so absorbed in watching them embrace that I didn’t notice the smile forming on my own face.

It was an insignificant moment, ill-suited for an iPhone screen—not Instagram-worthy or eye-catching—but the realness of it drew me in. A scene I might have missed, had I merely been looking for the next photo op. And though I had been to dozens of places on that trip, it was the first time I arrived fully present.