Five years ago…
I raised my hand to block the May sun’s glaring rays. Across the street from the train station, I saw a church, decorated in contrasting black stripes and rectangles, a remnant of the past that survived the Italian Renaissance.
Was I dreaming? Did I really make it?
There was a million mistakes I made on that trip that I swore not to repeat. This time, I would have lighter luggage. Working Internet. Close-toed shoes. Enough Italian words to get me by. Enough euros to get me by.
After I left Italy, despite how frustrating it had been at some times (or like, the entire time), I began to think about it daily. I was obsessed with the old country. I daydreamed about strolling down cobblestones through narrow alleyways. The church bell ringing at the strike of noon. The chocolate, metallic aroma of espresso, and the clink of a spoon as I stirred in my sugar. I missed it. I wanted it. And I promised myself I’d be back again.
Coming out of Switzerland, the snow began to dissipate as we entered northern Italy. Wintery Swiss wonderland transitioned into a fairytale mountain paradise. There were waterfalls, there were palm trees, there were mountains that reached high above the clouds. We switched trains in Milan, and then to Florence, my home away from home, we went.
Italy is a country that’s stuck in time.
The Roman Empire and its gods forever captured in stone.
Roman Catholic power still towering over everything and everyone.
Hundreds-of-years-old castles and estates in the Tuscan distance.
Farmers making the same movements (but with improvements) that their ancestors did, producing meat and cheese and wine from the land and undergoing whatever means necessary that ensure that it’s perfect every. single. time.
Who needs a time machine when you can have Italy?
There’s a million reasons why this country’s special to me, but I think the two main reasons are it’s 1. where I found my appetite and 2. realized there was power in my words. I used to think I wasn’t a good writer, even though I’ve been writing stories since I was seven years old. I remember the first time I read my words out loud to my teacher and my classmates, feeling the weight lift off my shoulders as I spoke my truth. I remember biting into a piece of prosciutto and melon, the sweet and saltiness mingling in my mouth, and thinking, “Damn. This is actually really good” and not feel the self-loathing as I ate another then another. I ate and drank and wrote freely during my time there despite my demons. It was only right to return to the place I found my yellow brick road. Italy was the first place that I finally felt like I was in control.
The Boboli Gardens
The Uffizi Gallery
And last, but not least: