I have always tended to travel abroad without a lot of advance preparation. Sure, I have purchased a small language dictionary, or a guide book and have even contributed to Lonely Planet over the years.
But, the notion of just showing up is more important than all the advance research, particularly when all the odds are against you, like arriving on a popular Mediterannean island during the month of August.
Everyone said, “Are you mad?” Okay, so my British friends said, “are you mad?” and my American pals said, “are you nuts?”
Finding Rina involved a spontaneous decision to leave a crowded but pleasant Santa Teresa in Italy’s Sardinia, and head further up the coast to an area we had hoped would be less slammed with summer traffic.
What’s interesting about both Sardinia and Corsica in the summer is that in over a two week period, I had not once heard an American accent. Largely visited by Italian and French mainlanders, the dynamics are incredibly different than they would be during the same month in the Caribbean or the Virgin Islands.
I went on a journey seeking the ‘authentic’ as we all do, if not on a holiday, then in our daily lives. For me, it’s always about the journey and the Rina’s of this world.
Ah yes, Rina, a close to 70 year old Sardinian-born woman who lives a mere hundred yards or so from Stintino’s waters edge, a port filled with sailing ships and small cruisers. It could quite easily be a smaller, old world version of Nice or while it tries to capture some continental tourists two to three months out of the year, it lacks the wealth and trappings of a more established tourist destination.
There are few hotels, one overpriced one along the main drag and a handful of smaller inns (often in homes) on side streets. All of these were booked of course since no one waits until 4 pm on the day of, in peak season to find a room.
Then there are gites, which are people’s homes for rent, or in this case, a room in someone’s home – Rina’s home. It was really more like a B&B, but it, like a couple others in the town, were listed as gites. Here, a spare room or two may be offered to the weary traveler on their journey.
Often owned by people who lived in the same house their entire lives, gites are more common in mountainous areas and villages in France. But in Stintino, under the guise of gite, B&B, inn, whatever, I met Rina. Lovely, playful, loaded with a sense of humor and business acumen, I wanted to adopt her and her me within minutes of walking into her house. Meet Rina.