Tag Archives: italy

So, Take Me Back To The Start

It’s been a year since I started this thing and to say, “a lot has happened” would be a grand injustice to the adventures I’ve had, the pain I’ve endured, the friends I’ve made, and the overall life I’ve lived these past twelve months. Even thinking back to last year and where I was emotionally/physically is so different than where I’m at now.

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Dream a Little Dream

I wrote this/got home a week ago but things have been absolutely crazy so I haven’t had a chance to post… mi dispiace.

Sitting in the Florence airport awaiting my flight to go back home to New York, I can honestly say I thought this day would never come. I don’t have the tears streaming down my face as I thought I would. My stomach is churning in a weird sort of excitement and longing. I’m thrilled to see my parents today but that pull in my gut, which is clearly homesickness, is not for New York. On the way here, the bus carrying me and my near one hundred and fifty pounds of luggage drove down winding roads sprinkled with vespas, newspaper stands beckoning “La Nazione,” and road signs indicating which Italian city was where. I couldn’t help but think of how I’ll miss the rows and rows of motorbikes parked neatly on the cobblestones or the foreign signage that, at first, seemed alien but now is a more comforting familiarity than the McDonald’s golden arches.

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The Florentine Dream

I’m absolutely horrible at maintaining this blog. Anyway, that aside, now that I’ve surpassed the “one-month left” mark, I’m dwelling heavily on all the amazing things here I’m going to miss when I leave. Here’s a taste:
  1. Trips to Mercato Central: For several weeks after my initial arrival, that massive green roofed warehouse around the corner from my apartment was unchartered territory. There are three sets of red gated doors on each side of the building, ushering in the passersby with smells of fresh fish yet it took me quite a bit of time to finally make the move and walk through one of them. There’s nothing at home that’s remotely similar to Mercato Centrale except that the warehouse-feel is slightly reminiscent to that of Costco but even so, the relationship stops there. There are vendors every few feet and each varies vastly from the one next to it, across from it, and behind it. Some are free-form and comprised of simple yet colorful crates overflowing with pungent fruits and vegetables; others are more concrete and emulate deli counters with blocks of cheese behind domed glass, to keep the salivating tongues at bay, and slabs of meat hanging above. Mercato Centrale is such a routine stop for most of the people walking around but I can’t help but relish every trip I make there as anything but routine. Sometimes I just walk through it with no purpose or agenda to buy anything. It’s just to be there.  I love it because there’s always so much happening – it’s hard not to be in a good mood when you’re there. I love it because of the chipper young girl with tired eyes who sells me the creamy rounds of Morbidoso cheese. I love it because of the butcher, who’s my father’s age, who speaks to me only in Italian. I love it because the women at the bread booth in the far left corner make the best muffins I’ve ever eaten. I love it because you don’t go to the market for food – you go for life. Continue reading

Comforts of Home

When you leave home for any extended period of time, it’s known from the start that you’ll miss it. Maybe you won’t miss all of it but you will miss pieces of it, fragments here and there. These morsels of comfort don’t appear as you expect either. They crystallize in the puddles on foreign grounds, manifest on the faces of strangers, and ruminate in the smells of unfamiliar foods.

Perhaps food is the biggest trigger for desiring home; that hankering feeling stems from the stomach first. It stabs suddenly and is almost painful but it isn’t. It complicates all senses and immediate activity, making you question what it was that you were doing and why you were doing it. It’s that ineffable emotion that leaves us wondering, when we are home, bored, and safe in our beds, why the feeling even comes at all.

As much as I want to deny it, I do miss home but it’s not that I want to go back right now. It’s more that I miss the goings-on at home. I have a major inability to overcome the fact that other people’s lives still go on even when I’m not with them. I just wish I could have pressed “pause” on all aspects of my life at home – people, especially – and hit the “play” button as soon as I returned but life doesn’t always appease wishes now, does it? I just find it extraordinarily baffling how I can be having such an incredible experience here and yet still feel as though I’m missing out on things. And I know it’s because I am missing out but they’re always such silly, trivial things – birthdays, parties, school functions, movie openings, etc.; things that don’t mean much when you’re in attendance but feel crushing when you’re on the outside looking in. Granted, those moments are usually fleeting because by the time I’m ready to break out the ice cream and the Adele playlist, I’ve usually mentally slapped myself and said: “You’re in Europe, stop being a martyr and go enjoy this amazing experience. You’re an ingrate.” My conscience can be quite the snarky bitch sometimes.

All in all, I’ve come to learn it’s part of the trade – one life for another. You can’t try something new without leaving behind something; be it a person, a place, a feeling.  And yes, sometimes it’s not always the greatest decision to leave what you know but sometimes, it’s the best one you’ll ever make.  So, while I miss dinner at my grandparents, the fluffy face of my dog, my ridiculously comfortable bed, Chipotle, crazy nights with my friends, and most of all, my parents, I know they’ll be right there waiting for me when I get back. No more rushing my time and no more wishing I was elsewhere for everything we know, my friends, is temporary.

Chiacchierare

Being in Florence has given me a new perspective on what it means to be Italian and how American Italian is so vastly different than authentic Italian; yet despite all of these differences, there are still some similarities in both the native people and the removed people that remain consistent and prove that culture is incredibly far-reaching. 

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The door handle beckoned “Tirare,” but I knew it wasn’t just telling me to pull. It was telling me to come inside to get cradled by the warmth, get lost inside the plethora of colors, to take in the amazingly sweet smells, and most importantly – let my tongue relish in the multitude of tastes.

Soft, thick folds of creamy white, silky brown, and buttery caramel were sprinkled with light brown morsels of cookies, chocolate drizzles, and cocoa powder. They sat patiently in large shiny metal tins – whispering at me through the thick glass dome protecting them, telling me to take them home. A gray-haired man wearing a chunky knit sweater and a baseball cap appeared behind the counter to distract me from this daydream come true. Silently, I deemed him the sultan of the gorgeous layers of milky confections before me that I couldn’t wait to devour.

His wrinkles insinuated that he was probably around the same age as my grandfather and his smile confirmed it – a comforting smile, a knowing one that comes with time, patience, and a lifetime of experiences.  He stood with his hands behind his back as he watched me painstakingly decide which flavor to try, as if my life depended on such a momentous decision.

I managed to find the words in Italian to ask him if I could try a flavor; the phrase didn’t glide as smoothly as it would a native speaker’s. It falls off my tongue haltingly, incredibly hesitant and awkward. Virtually screaming out that I’m a foreigner.

“Posso avere….. assaggiate…… ‘Biscottino?’”

He smiled and murmured something in response but I was too preoccupied by the miniscule plastic spoon he was dipping into the vat of fluffy goodness to stop and process what he said. After the ‘Biscottino’ had melted in my mouth and had me watering more than one of Pavlov’s dogs, I immediately tried two more flavors. One was called ‘Bacio’ and the other, ‘Arachidi.’ ‘Bacio’ harnessed the uncanny ability to taste exactly like chilled Nutella – with that same familiar bite of hazelnuts wrapped in delectable malleable chocolate. ‘Arachidi’ tasted extraordinarily like I had a spoonful of freshly opened Jiff in my mouth. With my taste buds dancing the Danube Waltz, I realized there was only one thing left to do.

“Tutti,” I said and this time, the old man smiled big and said, “Prego” – a word I had no problem understanding, as he bent down to scoop all three flavors into a cup. Realizing I may spoil my dinner, I asked the man if I could take the cup to go. “Per andare?” I said, feeling a bit more confident with the language barrier – I got the point across before, I could probably do it again… Immediately, the man’s face changed. He mumbled something unintelligible and my confused face in response made him simplify his words – “PORTARE. VUOI GELATO PORTARE.” It took a few seconds to process but I realized that this man simply just wanted me to say the right word – portare, to take, instead of andare, to go. I blushed and apologized, in both English and Italian, but when he didn’t charge me full price, I realized what had just happened. It wasn’t that the old man was angry or annoyed at my mistake – he, like my grandfather, just wanted me to learn a lesson so as to do the one thing that men his age are the best at doing – teach.