THE TOWN HUNG ABOVE US LIKE A MIRAGE conjured from the mist, ancient white buildings glittering in the sun. From our car it looked like a giant wedding cake. “Can we go up there?” my son, Nick, asked. “Please?”
The sea had just come into view, a great sweep of blue running beside the coastal road that twists from Rome to Naples. We were on our way to lunch at one of Italy's greatest restaurants, but I figured a little detour wouldn't hurt. I had no idea when I parked the car that this stop would change my life.
We began climbing the stairs leading up to the ancient town of Sperlonga, which has been attracting Italian travelers since the time of Tiberius (who built his summer villa here on the Tyrrhenian Sea). It was incredibly serene— not yet tourist season—and snatches of lilting Italian floated out of open doorways. We turned a corner and almost ran into a man carrying a wicker basket. Nick was 10, and curious. “It's filled with fish,” he reported, edging in to take a closer look. “Let's see where he's taking them.”
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