I had been to Europe three times before, plus to Colombia and India, but this was the first time I traveled on my own, not part of a group or with a friend. It was daunting -- and expensive, leaving little left in my checking account to pay for my move to West Hollywood.
I wanted to practice my Italian, check out the gay scene, and visit important Renaissance sites, like Michelangelo's David in the Galleria dell'Accademia in Florence (which looks much different in real life.)
But mostly I wanted to look up Giovanni, a foreign exchange student from Bergamo whom I crushed on at Rocky High. We even kissed, sort of. He told me to call him when I got to Switzerland for the Nazarene Youth Conference in the summer of 1977, but the phone number didn't work.
Assuming it was my fault for writing it down wrong, I had been kicking myself for seven years, and imagining a tearful and sexy reunion. Maybe we would sit in a sidewalk cafe, and Giovanni would give me a rose and say "Those girls meant nothing to me! It was you, only you!"
May 18-20: Rome
May 21-22: Florence
May 23-25: Tearful and sexy reunion
May 26: San Marino
May 27: Back to Rome
My friend Craig didn't have a current address or phone number, but he thought that Giovanni was working at a bank in Bergamo, about 3 hours north of Florence.
Easy -- how many banks could there be in Bergamo?
I soon found out: 83.
I spent the afternoon and evening of May 23rd calling the Giovannis with his last name in the telephone directory. Luckily, #3 went to school with "my" Giovanni's brother. So I called him:
"No, no, the bank was long ago," he told me. "Giovanni quit there. Now he manages a hotel in Viarregio." Go back to Florence, and turn right!
I went down on May 24th. Giovanni lived and worked in a hotel that catered mostly to French tourists. Except he wasn't there!
I called, and got Luca's answering machine. I took a day trip over to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower, and returned to find a message -- Giovanni had called me back!
On May 25th, I caught the train to Livorno. Giovanni and Luca met me at the station. He was still cute, more muscular, and pale from his desk job. Luca was thin and tanned, with black curly hair and obvious beneath-the-belt gifts.
We went boating, had dinner at the Cafe del Borgo, and in the evening we danced together at a disco. On May 26th they dropped me off at the train station with full-body goodbye hugs.
After all that wild-goose chasing up and down Italy, Giovanni turned out to be straight! Luca, too. I guess sometimes high-school crushes are one-sided.
But there were other gay guys in Italy.