Last summer I was thrilled to be able to help my Grandpa and the Fish’n Canada crew as they presented the inaugural Fish’n Canada Carp Cup—a qualifier for the massive World Carp Classic tournament that’s held annually in Europe.
Shortly after our event, my Grandpa met up with his old friend Ross Honey. Ross is the manager for the World Carp Classic. He asked my Grandpa if he knew of any kids who could take part in the World Carp Classic Junior Event which was being hosted in Italy. Instantly, my Grandpa thought of at least one person who could do that. And—in case I am being too vague—it was me! He called my Mom and me and told us the good news, then asked if I wanted to go. Naturally, I said yes.
So in October, a few months later, I packed my bags and got them into the truck, and left for the airport. We got to Pearson International, checked our bags, and headed to a lounge for some food before the nine-hour flight. We had some time to kill, so Grandpa and I just hung out at the lounge. After a couple of hours, it was finally time to leave. We boarded and got to our seats.
FIRST STOP: ROME
Finally, we took off. It was a late flight, which meant we would get to Rome (our destination) while it was still light out. I did the homework that I got from school and then proceeded to watch movies on the airplane TV.
Once we arrived in Rome, it was amazing. The smells, the temperature, the everything! After we checked in to our hotel, we headed out into the city. First, we grabbed a bite to eat. I tried my first real Italian espresso, too. After a few hours, we went out into the city and saw the Colosseum! It is absolutely massive. Right from this point on, I knew that this trip would be special.
Fun fact: Did you know that the Romans built the Colosseum in only ten years?
So with that done, we walked around Rome some more and headed back to the hotel room. Super fun day, but it was only the first of many.
The next day was even cooler. We went to see the Vatican. We got up, headed to this little cafe-type restaurant for breakfast, then caught a cab to the other side of the city. We’d reserved a spot in a tour to see the Vatican, and it was even cooler that way, too. We got to go through the lines quicker, see more things, and our guide knew a bunch of facts about the different paintings and statues. Personally, my favourite piece of art was the massive hallway with painted maps across the walls and the beautiful art of the ceiling. It was so cool! And this hallway seemed to stretch down forever. This was definitely the coolest piece that we saw. Among the paintings, there were a bunch of statues and religious items as well.
After a few hours at the Vatican, we returned to the hotel, packed our bags for the day to come, and went to bed shortly after.
THE WORLD CARP CLASSIC JUNIOR EVENT BEGINS
Finally, on day three, we headed to the town of Rieti. One of the event managers, Riccardo, had recommended meeting in Rieti, as it’s located halfway between Rome and Lago Di Scandarello, the lake we would be fishing for the tournament.
We met up with Riccardo during lunch, and he gave us the plan and provided us with directions for the next day. After puttering around for a little bit, we headed over to the lake, and went to sleep—we’d need some good rest for the beginning of the tournament the next day.
The next morning every team gathered at the lake, and the event founder Ross Honey gave an inspiring speech. It was cool to witness. But what was cooler was every team—which, by the way, represented a ton of European countries like Ukraine, Poland, Italy, and a bunch others—got into a bus and headed to the centre of Italy.
ONE OF MY PROUDEST MOMENTS
To officially start this mega tournament off, we paraded around this city with the flags of our nations. I felt so honoured to be able to wave the Canadian flag among all the European countries. And as the only Canadian—the only North American, in fact (aside from Grandpa)—it was insane! This was definitely one of my proudest moments.
After the parade, we got back onto the bus and headed back into the mountains. Here, we got blessed by a monk and got to see three monasteries. The coolest one was on the side of a mountain—we had to climb like a thousand stairs! And the view was spectacular. Of the three monasteries, this one topped the list by a longshot. (Another fact: The very first Nativity Scene depiction was in this monastery!)
And from there, it only got better. We went into a really old auditorium to pick our “pegs” (the designated place we have our rods and tents set up for the four tournament days). We drew Peg Three. But before we went to our camp, the entire group went back to the main base for a meal and espresso. We socialized and made some friends from across the world!
CARP FISHING AND CRAZY EIGHTS
Our camp wasn’t much to look at, but it was home for the week. And many memories would soon be made there. We got set up in the tents and got our rods into the water. Being a total newb to Carp fishing, I was ready just to keep casting into the lake. My grandfather corrected me, telling me just to put it down and take a seat. I was bamboozled—everything he had ever taught me about fishing (keep the lines tight, stay close to your rod, etc.) was being thrown out the window!
And so it began. For real this time—and I kid you not—all we did was relax. Just me and Grandpa. Four days of no wi-fi (we had cell service, but since we were in Italy, we couldn’t really use it), no stress, and no responsibilities. It was a utopia. Well, it was a utopia until Grandpa started cheating at cards. At that point, the fight wasn’t with the fish. No, it was with a grandfather who couldn’t beat me at Crazy Eights for the life of him. And so with this new fishing and, apparently, a new way to play cards, we had the time of our lives. Laughing, talking, just enjoying the vacation we both needed.
ENOUGH FOR ME
And day in/day out, there were no fish. But by the end catching a fish wasn’t even a priority. Just getting to be there on a little lake in Italy thousands of kilometres from home was enough for me. And when it was all said and done, I guess some of the other teams had the same idea, because we scored fourth place! As it turned out, only five fish were caught in total! The Italian team caught three Carp (beating everyone else by far), Wales caught one (but it was basically a whale), and the Czech Republic got a little guy! It was like the fishing gods had said, “They can end on a good note; everyone gets fourth!”
Once we heard the news, we were super excited. But before any awards or prizes could be given out, we did another parade through the town of Amatrice. This is the town that was hit by a deadly earthquake back in 2016. A lot of the city is still broken apart, but the people were ecstatic to host us! We did a parade throughout their entire home, saw many broken homes, but also many still intact and many rebuilt.
Some of the people of Amatrice dressed up in Renaissance clothes and paraded around with us. It was one of my highlights of the trip as a whole. Seeing these people in such good spirits, despite everything they’d been through, brought a smile to my face. It was nice to see them happy.
THE CLOSING CEREMONY
After the parade, we finally met up with the Prime Minister of the EU, who gave a speech before the awards were handed out. The Italians, the Welsh, and the Czechs got up onto a massive pedestal and got the first, second and third plaques, respectively.
And then, after the top three got their glory, it was my turn! I got in front of the stage and got my “Section Winner” award. It was the coolest award that I have ever gotten. Not much to look at, but it’s definitely an award with many memories attached to it.
And with the closing ceremonies concluded, all the contestants got some food, and then we all went our separate ways.
OUR LAST NIGHT IN ITALY
So with the event now finished, Grandpa and I still had one night left in Italy. And oh boy, we made the most out of it. If you didn’t know, driving in the big Italian cities is extremely stressful, to say the least, and tends to keep everyone on their toes. As we headed back into Rome, it started to pour rain harder and faster than any rain I had ever seen before! It was a torrential downpour, and Grandpa and I missed our exit to the hotel. This stressed my grandfather out immensely. And as the person giving the directions, it was “my fault,” of course.
We made it to the hotel after an added twenty minutes of navigating the streets, and found ourselves bored and with nothing to do. So we went to the front desk, and they said that there is a mall just around the corner with tons of food. The rain was stopping, so we walked over.
This is where the fun began. We tried desperately to find this place, only to realize it was enormous! Three times the size of any mall I’d ever seen. The two of us got to the food court, and only one restaurant was still open. (Now, yes, it was ten o’clock at night, but it was also Italy on a Friday night. Like, come on!) They seated and served us and, I kid you not, I had the greatest pasta of my life in that little place. Better than the big restaurants in Rome. Better than anything you could get here in Canada. It was incredible. Amazing, even.
THE GREAT ESCAPE
The thing is, the mall ended up closing on us while we ate. So all of the exits were locked! Grandpa and I had to make it through a sketchy parking garage and climb over some stuff to get out. We ended up underground and then, after like fifteen minutes of walking, found a ramp up topside. After our adventure we were beaten up and bruised, so we went back to the hotel with a little help from Google Maps and crashed.
Eight o’clock came too soon the next morning. When grandpa’s alarm went off, I wanted just to pass peacefully back to sleep. But it was time to go home. We grabbed our luggage, got to the airport, got some coffee, and headed home.
THE GREATEST TRIP
So there I was, looking back on the past week, hoping I could just turn back the clock and redo it all over again. I was already missing the smells and food and people there. And missing the adventure that I got to have with my Gramps. Even though we technically lost the tournament, it didn’t matter because the fun and the great time we had on this trip made up for the little loss. And like I said before, it doesn’t matter who you fish with, there are memories to be made. This trip was the greatest trip I have ever been on, and the stories that were made are some that I’ll be telling my kids when I’m old and… well, old. Telling them the story about their Great Grandpa—a great fisherman but an even better grandpa.
Thanks for reading. Make sure if you ever have the chance to get to Italy, just go for it. You never know the cool things you might do!