It was September 1994 and I had just arrived in Rome on an overnight flight. I made my way into the city by way of train and taxi. Bleary-eyed, I checked into my hotel and flopped on my bed planning on a couple of hours of shut-eye before I made the preparations for my Elderhostel group that was due to arrive the following day.
I had barely closed my eyes when the phone rang and an unmistakable, distinguished voice was on the other end. Professor Michael Campo welcomed me to Rome and informed me that we were meeting in the lobby in 15 minutes for a walk. If it is possible to cover a semester’s worth of Roman History in an afternoon, we did it. We passed by Baroque Churches, Fascist Era office buildings, Roman theaters and the whole time Dr. Campo alternated between teaching me and quizzing me on my knowledge of the city. I learned words such as palimpsest (look it up) and explored corners of the Eternal City that we completely new to me. He taught me about the ghetto of Rome and told me that the city has the oldest continues Jewish community in the world, dating back to the 2nd century B.C.E. My legs tired long before his which were 48 years older than mine. He had boundless energy. He introduced me to Punto e Mes, a delicious vermouth from the region of Piedmont. We would sip it at the end of the day before venturing out to dinner with his beautiful wife Inez. They took good care of me whenever we were together in Italy. I was 22, young and in a foreign country, and the Campos had years of experience in Italy. They would tell me where to get the best shoes, inform me of new exhibits in the museums of Rome or Florence or Verona, treat me to dinner, introducing me to dishes I had never tasted. I owe them a debt of gratitude.
Michael Campo had a lot of gifts. But I think his greatest one was his ability to share his love of Italy with others, especially young people. He would impart such knowledge about history, art, culture, music, and politics. He was constantly learning more about the country and his desire to know everything there was to know about Italy was infectious. My journey in Italy would have been quite different without Michael Campo as a leader, mentor, and friend. My love for the Eternal City was in large part thanks to him and I think of him every time I am there. Addio Professore.