by Taj Bates
Once, while traveling to Spain by Eurail, the train came to a standstill in the middle of nowhere and everyone on board was directed to disembark.
Not much in the way of official communication was given as to why, but soon I and a few other backpackers were able to piece together that the train had been going the wrong way—towards Italy!—and they would be sending another train to take us westward to the Spanish peninsula.
I ended up chatting with a pair of bubbly cousins from the state of Utah in the U.S., who were just as excited to be galavanting about Europe as I.
At some point, I noticed they were both wearing similar charm bracelets.
I commented on how cute the bracelets were and they proceeded to share an awesome tip that has shaped the way I shop for souvenirs ever since.
When the cousins first landed in Europe, their bracelets had been bereft of charms.
As they journeyed from one city to the next, they would seek out local jewelry stores, on the hunt for a charm that would remind them of that city.
By the time I met them, their bracelets were nearly full—of charms, memories and stories to tell.
A few weeks later, I disembarked from a different train, this time in Italy (going the right way!), with a simple golden necklace about my neck.
Instead of a charm bracelet, I wanted to create an Italian necklace, with gold pendants purchased in and representing Rome, Florence and Venice.
As I journeyed from city to city—eating handmade fettuccine alfredo at a trattoria near the Coliseum; falling in love with Botticelli at the Uffizi; watching a glassmaker at work on the island of Murano—I also popped into local jewelry shops, including ones on the infamous Ponte Vecchio, on the hunt for the just right pendant to commemmorate my time in each city.
By the time I left Italy, my simple gold necklace was embellished with three gold pendants purchased in and representing Roma, Firenze and Venezia.
To this day, my Italian pendant necklace is one of my most cherished souvenirs.
Whenever I wear it about town, I always think back to my time in Italia and can’t help but smile.
When shopping for charms and pendants during your travels, be sure to purchase ones that are plated with gold or silver, or embellished with precious stones, so they will hold their value and beauty as the years and decades pass.