Deep within us all, there is an urge to find new places and experience amazing things. We all want to travel, whether to travel the world or just into our unique neighborhoods. Many of us will take that trip, go see something unusual to us. We expand our horizons and find some tiny marvel.
This past summer, I took a trip to Italy with my school and explored Florence, Rome, Venice, Lucca and Cinque Terre (Firenze, Roma, Venezia, Lucca, e Cinque Terre).
In Florence I explored the Boboli Gardens at the Palazzo Vecchio, beautiful, expansive gardens that may take you more than a day to fully enjoy. They set the standard for all European gardens and made me feel like I had been thrust into a fairy tale. It was magical for me. I stayed in an apartment on the second floor, right above a shop that sold milk, pasta, and snack foods – sort of a like a gas station deal in America. I walked stone roads everyday past old cathedrals, including the largest cathedral in Europe – known unofficially as the Duomo. I don’t know the real title of the church. Everyone calls it il Duomo – the Dome. It’s an intricately carved and painted church with a large orange dome that can be found from anywhere in Florence. If you ever visit, find out how to get to your hotel from the Duomo and if you ever get lost, just ask ‘Dove il Duomo?’ Everyone from Florence knows how to get to the Duomo.
I had classes in two different sections of the city. I befriended cafe workers and got discounts on food for it. I practiced the beautiful language of Italy and loved the weather. I learned the joy and usefulness of an outdoor market, and walked up more hills than you can find in Florida. I found the best view of the city from Piazza Michelangelo, and I saw the Festival de San Giovani – where they released hundreds of paper lanterns after a fireworks show and reminded me of the new movie Tangled. It was beautiful.
I went to Venice and found locations used in a movie based on my favorite book, ‘The Thief Lord’ by Cornelia J. Funke. One was San Marco square, another a highly expensive mask shop. I found a woman just outside the piazza in her tiny shop where there were no walls, only masks. She had a few shelves of some relatively inexpensive but gorgeously crafted lace masks, and she clued us in the how you can tell a true Venetian mask from a mass-market fake. True Venetian style masks are made of paper mache, so feel the inside before you buy, and don’t buy anything sold along the Grand Canal. I rode in a gondola and ate delicious food all over the city. Outside of the city, a 10 min walk from my hotel, my sister and I found a small bakery open while every other restaurant was closed until dinner. The man inside sold us two sandwiches each which were the softest and most addictive little sandwiches I ate during my entire Italy trip. Then, while we ate, the man’s grandson brought us free samples of some rather tasty Italian sausage – although one of the two types we tried was a bit too spicy for us.
I went to Rome with my school on a god-forsaken early hour, but on the trip there we took a road with few pit stops and passed by little besides mountains. At around 8 in the morning, the fog of the morning was still kissing the mountain faces, holding on for just one more hour. The rising sun broke through the clouds, spotting the hills and mountain and casting a glow through the lowest, thinnest clouds. I was a little drowsy, but when I looked at that sun-kissed landscape, I thought ‘This must be what God looks like.’ It was by far the most beautiful thing I have ever seen, and I was able to see it in person, not just through a camera or a painting. It was real.
In Italy, I never worried about walking anywhere. I loved every moment of it. The weather was gorgeous and everything was so beautiful. Here in Florida, I hardly ever venture outside unless I need it. The weather is just too hot and humid. Walking through school, I find myself randomly longing for the cobblestone streets of Florence and the grassy hills of Boboli. When someone points out something and say it’s beautiful, I think of the sun making the mountains blush. And when I see a plane, I remember the longest flight of ever and think of how different France and England and Italy all look from the sky. Italy, covered in white spots of marble, France decorated like a multi-colored patchwork quilt, and England with its green pastures.
I miss it. I truly due. I love my home here – it’s familiarity and it’s ease, but I want to go back and watch the sun rise over the dome of Florence, buy a chocolate filled croissant from Astrid, and window shop with Olimpia. For now I’ll relearn myself in the language until I can speak it with little trouble and plan for the family trip in two years that my mother left me and my sister to plan.
I began this wanting to talk about the joys of travel and maybe end it with a note about appreciating where you live, but in the middle I was caught in the memories of my travels, and I’m in such a longing state right now that I can’t think of something to say to the contrary without feeling like I’m lying. Maybe next time. Until then…
Ciao tutti! (Bye all!)