Just returned a week ago from a business trip to Italy.
Somebody had to do it. Somebody had to go to Bologna and represent our children’s literary and entertainment properties at the once-a-year Children’s International Book Fair. Yes, somebody had to toil and labor for the good of our company.
“Okay, okay, I’ll do it this year,” I conceded to my husband. After all, it’s just the two of us in this start-up company and he attended last year.
After a Tampa-to-Atlanta-to-Milan overnight flight, I managed to take an early morning commuter train to the heart of Milan’s central city. I settled in to a nearby hotel and got myself acclimated, jet lagged and all.
The next morning, I was up at 6 and off to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair. Another trip to the Milan train station afforded me a seat on the express train to Bologna followed by a local bus to the Bologna Fair Grounds. A jam-packed schedule of pre-arranged meetings, bump-ins and networking through the Exhibitor Hall, Agents Center and Licensing Pavilion ensued.
After a long and arduous day, it was back to the bus, back to the Bologna train station and back to Milan where I could rest up. I’d already worked overtime, skipping lunch and settling for a mere cappuccino and flaky hot bun along the way. It was time to find a bowl of home-made pasta . . . .somewhere.
The job, however, had only begun. A business trip to Italy required much more effort and strain.
First, I worked my way through Milan’s Galleria – the oldest and grandest mall in the Western world. After my mall research, I graduated to the more advanced, trudging through cobblestone streets that held flagship operations for names like Ferragamo, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.
After working Milan, I joined the throngs of daily commuters on the cattle car train to Florence. Yes, Florence. Old, dingy, filled with far too much architecture, art, leather and outdoor vendors hawking things no one can find in the States. Does this mean I have to buy stuff and bring it home, I wondered? And carry it, too? Where else could I find Florentine stationary, hand-sewn Florentine pillows and gold-leaf serving trays? As Buyer for our small company, I’d have to make the purchases while here and carry them back on the plane.
The business trip didn’t conclude in Florence. I had yet another city scheduled on this business trip. Rome. But not before having to make a pit stop in the hilltop town of Orvieto along the way.
The train station in Orvieto had nowhere to check baggage. I was forced to walk 100 meters to a nearby pension that did. No one told me the pension was 100 meters straight uphill. The trek to the baggage drop-off was followed by an additional 800 meters – again up a near wall – to the Medieval town above.
Whew! What a lot of work, I thought, gazing my eyes ahead at Umbria’s rolling countryside from the mountain I’d just scaled. It must be time for a little wine tasting and olive sampling, not to mention studying the distinctions between prisciutto, salami and reggiano parmigiana cheese. I’d already switched to another entrepreneurial hat: Research and Quality Assurance.
Back down the hill to reclaim my luggage, I made a rush-hour dash to catch the Orvieto evening train to Rome. Finally settling in to my hotel room later that night, I fell sound asleep, exhausted. Better conserve my energy, I told myself, or this business trip will wear me out.
While in Rome, I set another itinerary – another agenda. An entertainment company like ours required that its owners study the history of media. I added to my role that of Media Historian. Italy was celebrating its 150th year of unification. An exhibit featuring the country’s legendary contributors enabled me to labor through things like Carusso singing opera on an antique Victrola and learning about famed inventor Olivetti who developed multiple methods for carrying sound.
The Media History work was advanced. I had more to do, barely stopping for a lunch break but managing an on-the-go coconut gelato. I trudged onward along the city streets to a full-scale display of Princess Borghese’s photos from her trips around the world. Yes, the same Princess for whom the fine line of cosmetics is named is also renowned for her ground-breaking work as an early 20th century photojournalist. Surely, this stuff was going to inspire us onward in our soon-to-be media empire.
But there was still more work to do. If I was putting on a History hat, I’d better not overlook the Forum, the Coliseum, the Fountain of Trevi and the Spanish Steps. By now, my worker feet were killing me! To ease the stress, I made an executive decision. I bit the bullet and paid extra to take a trip to Tivoli. Here, I could still study history – like Emperor Hadrian’s architecture, horticulture and pools and Villa d’Este for gardens and fountains that put the Las Vegas’ Bellagio to shame – while a bus driver in our luxury coach narrated and I could give rest to my weary feet..
By the time I returned to Rome that evening, I was beat. I needed sustenance. All that work was making me hungry. Some home-made pasta (al dente) served with gorgonzola cheese, black pepper and crushed walnuts was all I could manage. After the fresh salad, bread and a glass of Chianti.
This business trip has really been taxing, I mused, before calling it a day. Just one more day and it would all be behind me. Figured I could relax a bit on my final work day, but no.
No. Wouldn’t you figure that a few local boutiques were working to rid themselves of end-of-season fashions. Despite the euro to dollar variance, the deep discounts couldn’t be overlooked. It would be irresponsible of me not to consider the economic advantages of this rare opportunity. Ever mindful of the need for entrepreneurial flexibility and a carpe diem mindset, I chose to put in some overtime.
A few hours later, one spring coat, two taffeta skirts, silk blouses and a few additional items had to be added to my already bulging luggage. I hope my husband realized the sacrifices I was making on this business trip. It wasn’t easy carrying all this extra luggage.
Well, my business trip ultimately concluded and I did make it back to Florida.
Yes, traveling to Italy on business was a labor of love and another of many adjustments I’d made in my role as co-owner of our small, but emerging venture. Yet being the fully committed partner and dutiful wife that I am, I made yet another concession upon my return.
Sitting back at my computer the following day I told my husband, “I’ll put up with all that toil and labor again. I’m strong. I can do it. Slot me in for Working next year’s Children’s Book Festival in Italy.”