Growing up, one of my favorite songs was an old Polish track from the 60’s about a town on the coast of Italy, Portofino. When I realized it was only an hour away from where I was staying in Cinque Terre, I knew I had to go see it.
I dropped my backpack off at my apartment, hopped on a train and figured I could catch sunset and grab dinner in Portofino. I had been told that the town was about a mile away from the train station, and figured I could just walk there.
So, off I went on the scenic walk along the coast in the direction of Portofino. And then I kept walking. And walking. And walking. After about an hour, I looked at the little blue dot on my Google maps and realized I was only about halfway to the town.
Turns out, that when the Italians tell you that something is about a mile away, they really mean more like five miles and that you really shouldn’t try and walk there.
It was rapidly getting dark, and the coastal road which wrapped around cliffs and lacked proper sidewalks, was not the safest place to be at night. There was no way I was going to make it to Portofino walking, and there was no taxi in sight.
I decided it was time for drastic measures, so I stuck out my thumb and tried my luck at hitchhiking. If it makes you feel any better, I only did it when a Mercedes or Porsche passed me by. So, of course, it was totally safe.
To my surprise, no one wanted to pick up a small blonde girl standing alone on the side of the road. Defeated, I kept walking.
Suddenly, a small neon green car stopped right in front of me, and a young woman hopped out to take a picture of the view, while a man waited in the driver’s seat. I glanced at their license plate: PL. They were Polish. I laughed at my luck and hollered over to her in Polish, asking if they were by chance heading towards Portofino. She smiled, happy to hear her own language, and said yes. I asked if they had room for one more and they certainly did.
Their names were Ola and Kamil. They were returning from a ski trip in the north of Italy, and had decided to take the scenic route home. The three of us chatted the entire ride to Portofino, and explored the town together. Afterwards, they even drove me back to the train station, for which I was very grateful.
I strongly believe that God has a funny sense of humor, and is always looking out for me when I travel. What are the chances that right when I needed it most, a car happened to stop in front of me, with a couple who happened to speak my language, and who just happened to be going to the same town I was headed to?
Portofino in itself was disappointing, but I suppose that’s what happens when you build something up in your head from a song. Nevertheless, it’s comforting to know that some higher power is looking out for me during my travels, always getting me safely to my destination.