Leaving Italy in December, I knew that I was going to miss it. The way of life, the food, the people, the beauty…but little did I know the extent to how much I crave it. There are no words to describe it other than I fell in love with the country. I feel as though I have been picked up and placed in a land that is far away from home. I am sure I am not alone in this feeling but now I truly do understand how people can move to Italy after experiencing it.
The city of Florence, to me, is the most beautiful place on earth. The closest thing there is to heaven are the lands just outside the city, the panoramic views of rolling hills of rows and rows of vineyards and olive groves, winding dirt roads, rustic wood fences built to look perfectly imperfect. Until you actaully experience a sunset in this lovely place called Tuscany, you don’t know what love is.
I thought as I was leaving that I was sick of receiving comments on the streets by strangers every day; of eating only pasta, bread and cheese; of living in a fairy tale. Only now do I realize how good life actually is there. I was taught to take it slow, to look around and appreciate my surroundings and how they came about. I was thinking back and can almost perfectly remember the feeling of taking the taxi ride into the city of Florence my first day in Italy what seems like a short nine months ago. The rush of the narrow streets lined with buildings of such character I have never seen before; the way that I couldn’t believe how every person we passed was casually walking in the middle of the street getting passed by speeding vespas and honked at by small fiats. And the first time I looked down a streetway we passed and saw the enormous, stunning, detailed church of the Duomo that marks the center of Florence. I will never forget the peaceful serenity that lies just across the Arno, in the Boboli Gardens of Palazzo Pitti, an endless garden of true beauty built for the royals back in the Medici era.
I miss the integrity and the passion for local food. The way that when you go to the local mercato, you are greeted with the hustle of Italian bickering and bartering of prices over the fresh zucchini flowers. You have the privledge that is so often taken for granted, of buying that tomato, that lemon directly from the person who harvested it on their family farm in the countryside. I am so used to eating genetically mutated food in America that you don’t realize how the freshness actually does play into the fullness of flavor and vibrance of color. I was so in awe the first time I saw the cardboard boxes and crates filled with fresh produce and driven in every morning until 1:00 in the afternoon when they would return to their homes and villas.
The people in Florence alone are so willing to take you in and learn from you as you learn from them. I have never made so many friends so fast as I did when I was there. The way that the life of the night only begins at eleven in the evening; how the earliest you would eat dinner is ten o’clock. It extends the day and brings life to the lights that illuminate every via or strada that make up the city, bustling with locals strolling along with their loved ones and friends with open bottles of wines in hand. The way that the Arno is so lively, full of live musical instruments playing Italian ballads as a man sings along and it echos over the Ponte Vecchio. I will never forget my first time seeing the river in proportion to the cypress and mountains in the distance. No sight is more beautiful than the panoramic view over Florence during sunrise or sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo…other than of course the view from the other direction; Fiesole. The first time I was brought here by my new close friend, we rode his vespa up the winding hills as night began to fall and the sun was closing in on the cityline. We got to the top where he showed me the Etruscan walls and ampitheatres where the Romans had once fought. We then shared a bottle of wine on the edge of the mountainside of Fiesole as the sun set and the lights illuminated every ounce of the city of Florence just below.
Sound like a made up story, right? For me this barely just scrapes the surface of how I feel missing the way of life I learned to live. I feel I know am back to my old rushed ways, the American lifestyle. I crave Italy more and more every day and am counting down the days until I can go back. Until then, I will feel empty and live vicariously through watching reruns of Extra Virgin, admiring the love of Gabriele Corcos of Fiesole and Debi Mazar as they live in Italy.