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I’ve been in America for a little over a week now, even though it feels like I’ve been back for about two months already, and I’ve noticed some things I never have before and am learning to appreciate things I took for granted without even realizing it. I am missing Italy so much it hurts and laying around my house all day catching up on movies and TV shows can only satisfy me for so long until it gets old. I’m at that point now and am more than ready to go back to Italy.
Leaving the place you’ve lived your whole life opens your eyes and teaches you things, not only about the new place but also about the place you left. You learn to appreciate the people around you, the ease with which you can get anything in America (I quickly realized we are a bit spoiled in America) and the luxuries we have that not many other places have- just to name a few.
Things I’m glad I have back:
1. Garbage disposal
2. Clothes dryer
5. Not getting whistled at, cat called or having creepy Italians say creepy things to me in Italian
6. The availability of so many different types of food
Things I miss about Italy:
1. Basically everything else
2. The mindset and attitude of “Il dolce far niente” (The sweetness of doing nothing)
3. The Italian food
5. Not having to pay for public transportation
6. Speaking Italian
I most definitely had some culture shock upon returning to the homeland. I was surprised by quite a few things that were very different from Europe-
1. How huge the portions of food are
2. How quickly they rush you out of restaurants
3. I constantly convert everything to Euros
4. I forget that I have to tip here
5. How unhealthy America and its people are
6. How sloppy we all look compared to the always-fashionable Europeans.
Getting a taste for foreign places has definitely left me wanting more. The travel bug took a big bite and has left me with a desire to travel the world. With so many exotic places and far away lands we forget that America has so many gorgeous places of its own. Because I’m (extremely) short on money and obviously in debt to my parents (thank you!) some friends and I have decided to save up and travel more domestically this summer. The want to travel doesn’t go away just because I’m not in Rome anymore. I have to feed my need for travel and I am excited to discover what hidden treasures lay around the corner right in my own backyard.
“Why do you go away? So that you can come back. So that you can see the place you came from with new eyes and extra colors. And the people there see you differently, too. Coming back to where you started is not the same as never leaving.”- Terry Pratchett
“Italy isn’t a country, it’s an emotion.” Only those who have been to Italy can truly understand and relate to these words. There are many people who have been here longer than my four-month semester, however, it doesn’t take long to realize that that statement holds very true.
To pinpoint exactly what emotion Italy is would be impossible; it isn’t just one, it’s thousands of years of work that have lead up to this point right now, of me sitting on my bed in my Rome apartment procrastinating studying for the two finals I have left. The emotions that Italy is giving me right now are fatigue from studying all night, nostalgia for those first few weeks in Rome when we were clueless and would get lost walking to the Trevi Fountain and contentment, such contentment, in the rare moments of silence, in this exact moment. But Italy has so many more emotions. Last night, at one of the last dinners my friends and I will have in Italy, my emotions were happy, giggly, sad that we had to leave and very very full.
Not every moment spent here is full of such emotions though. If you had asked me my emotions a few days ago I would have said frustration that the public transportation isn’t reliable, annoyance from being cat called and having creepy Italian men say things in Italian that unfortunately I can understand and an aching for America. Italy is so full of so many different emotions and it brings out a wide array in a person. If I had to describe the over all feel that I have gotten from Italy over the past four months I would explain it in a way that I have come to find is truly Italian- if the laid back mammoni (Italian for mama’s boy) married the sassy Italian women who drives too fast on her vespa and then cheated on her with a younger fun-loving 20-something who drinks too much wine during the day but still makes it home for Sunday dinner- I told you it was hard to explain. I have just skimmed the surface of Italy, so of course many more people have a greater perspective on Italy and its emotions, but from a 21-year-old living and studying in Rome, I think I hit the nail on the head.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved (almost) every moment here, but of course there are those moments when one misses her home country. I am excited to be going home, to see my family, my friends, my dog and my kitty, but I am sad to leave. I am sad to leave the place where 10 minutes late is on time, the place where the people actually stop and take the time to sit and drink wine and eat gelato and celebrate, even if it is only celebrating the four-hour lunch break that every one takes. Italians, and many Europeans, have mastered the art of “dolce far niente,” which translated means the sweetness of doing nothing. In America we work and we work and if we are lucky we have family dinners once a week or take a few days off for vacation. We have it all wrong. Having these four months go by in the blink of an eye has made me realize that Italians do life right. They enjoy the moment and drink too much wine during lunch because every moment is magical, but every moment is fleeting, and if you don’t take the time to cherish these moments, they will be gone all too quickly.
To say goodbye to the place I have called home for the past four months will not be easy. Rachel and I have already decided that we will cry on the plane home and probably in the van on the way to the airport. But I know that Tuesday night, when Rachel, Kate, Jasmine and I drink our last bottles of wine in Italy, it will not be a goodbye, rather, it will be a see you later to Italy, a place that seems like an old friend. You can never say goodbye to something that has left such an impact on your life and that has planted a seed in your soul to explore, meet new people and enjoy the dolce far niente in life. So until next time Italy. Ciao.
“Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after a moment or a lifetime, is certain for those who are friends.
After our long day in Florence, the family and I grabbed a very late dinner where we ordered far too much food and stuffed ourselves- I had my new favorite dish that I recently discovered- cacio e pepe, which is pecorino cheese and pepper, it sounds simple but it is fabulous. We finally called it a night and went back to the hotel to go to sleep.
The next day was the last day my family was in Rome so we took full advantage of the beautiful weather and took a nice long stroll down Via del Corso- a main street starting in Piazza Venezia and running all the way to Piazza del Popolo with great stores for shopping and eating. Once again, Nicky and dad were awesome and put up with us girls stopping in literally (yes dad, literally) every store. Renee was awesome enough to treat me to a few things and I think my arm muscles grew just from carrying all of my bags around. We did make a few stops for my dad and Nicky though; dad got an awesome new pair of shoes from Timberland and Nicky stopped in a Footlocker.
Along our travels we ran into some talented street performers dancing and even a perverted clown who made balloons and hugged Renee and me just a little too tight. One store in particular caught all of our eyes- the Perugia chocolate store. Perugia is known for their chocolate and it is where Bacio chocolate has its factory- you can even tour the factory like a real-life Italian Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. We were drawn in by the seven-tiered chocolate fountain in the window and we all stocked up to get our chocolate fix- I indulged in my new chocolate obsession- white chocolate.
After satisfying our sweet tooth we continued on our walk, stopped in a few more stores and finally made it to Piazza del Popolo. I had never been to this Piazza but I discovered that it is definitely the prettiest I have been to in Rome. There were the usual crowds and we somehow ran into two tourists from London and got into a 20 minute conversation with them about New York, New Jersey and England. They asked us what we call sandwiches around where we live (heroes never hoagies and sometimes subs) and ranted about how expensive everything is in England- they were definitely an interesting couple.
We sat on the steps of the fountain in the Piazza in the sun while Nicky and Maddie stared at the street performers who seem to float in mid-air. As their vacation was coming to a close we all just took a moment to take in our surroundings and appreciate how lucky we are and I thought how lucky I am to have such great parents and a great family. Then, of course, it was off to lunch. I feel like most of the time here is spent just killing time between meals; our schedules definitely revolve around eating. The tiny restaurant we decided to eat at was delicious; the pizza I had, the gnocchi Nicky had and the veal my dad had were all so full of flavor and it definitely proved that the little hole-in-the-wall restaurants often have some of the best food.
Following our lunch we absolutely needed Gelato. So I took the fam to Giolitti, a very well-known gelateria. The gelato there is unbelievable and I always get white chocolate and Oreo or white chocolate and milk chocolate. Everyone got their favorite flavors and it got my dad’s seal of approval when he said it was “stupid” -which is dad talk for something is so good that there are no words to describe it. We waddled our stuffed selves to the hotel to take a breather before we went to my apartment so they could see where I live and then go to dinner.
When we got to my apartment my dad joked that he wanted to go back to the hotel where they have bell boys. My apartment is one of the nicer ones students live in here so I consider myself lucky, but after coming from the hotels we had been staying in, I agree with him. I gave them the tour, which takes all of two minutes, and we hung out for a while to pass the time until we were hungry enough again for dinner. Like clockwork, we were ready pretty soon. I took them to Trastevere, a very cute area in Rome with winding streets that are very easy to get lost on, restaurants, shops and cobblestone streets with wine corks in the cracks, my personal favorite characteristic of the area. For dinner we had a little bit of everything- suppli (rice balls), artichokes, bruschetta and prosciutto. My dad once again had ox tail and I once again had cacio e pepe. For dessert I took them to an unbelievable crepe place where we enjoyed a crepe with Nutella, white chocolate, caramel and bananas- and yes it is as good as it sounds and yes my mouth is currently watering.
Feeling stuffed yet again, it was time for goodbyes as my family went back to the hotel to pack for their flight the next day and I went back to apartment to reenter the real world. It was sad to see them go but it was comforting to know that at that time I would see them in just two and a half weeks and as I am writing this now (very delayed) I only have eight more days in paradise. Time flies.
“Time is free, but it is priceless. You can’t own it, but you can use it. You can’t keep it, but you can spend it. Once you’ve lost it you can never get it back.”- Harvey MacKay