September saw me back in Italy, one of my favorite places on earth. For two weeks I ate, slept, lived, and enjoyed all things Italian. Here’s a look at the journey.
A last minute window of opportunity presented itself for one last summer vacation. A few months ago, after carefully studying the calendar, I realized I would have a two week period of free time between my summer job and the start of school. I seized the chance, booked my ticket, made accommodations, and made my way to Rome.
I was fortunate to have a very good host. Upon arriving around midnight, I wasn’t terribly confident about how to use the train system to reach Travestere. On top of that, I had arrived too late to get a sim card at the airport, which would have enabled me to contact my host. Fortunately, a kind Italian let me borrow his phone and call my host, who also offered to pick me up at the train station. So far so good!
The next morning I woke up to the sound of a thousand birds chirping in the old neighborhood tree. The sound of the tram beckoned for me to get out and explore. Of course my mind is always rearing to go, but my body begged for rest. As usual, my mind won, and in no time I was hitting the pavement, exploring the city. It didn’t take long for jet lag to come full force, though. After a 20 minute walk, I grabbed a few things for breakfast and headed back to the flat.
It didn’t take long to discover the local market, either. A stone’s throw away from my rented flat, this lovely little place had all the fresh bread, fruit, cheese, and meat anyone could ask for. I vistited this great place each morning for oily olives, fresh parmasean cheese, ripe, juicy watermelon, and dark, leafy spinach.
In addition to the morning market, I visited the Porta Portese Market in Rome, as well as food and clothing markets in Florence. The open air markets are always a treat for me wherever I go.
Aside from flavorful food and memorable markets, another item on my list was visiting the Vatican. It had been 10 years since I had walked the lovely halls of the church/museum, and I wanted to return. Once again, while my mind was ready for the Wednesday morning tour, my body was not. And so, I would have to lay the Vatican aside for another trip. However, I was fortunate to receive help from a very kind Italian who helped me navigate the monuments at night. I was able to capture breathtaking photos of the monuments.
After a week in Rome I headed to Florence by train. I fell in love with Florence and Tuscany 10 years ago, and while I had stars in my eyes as a teenager, the cities still hold their history, pomp, and elegance. Another hilight of my trip was a tour of Tuscany. Being a country girl, no one on the tour appreciated the rolling Tuscan countryside more than I did. The farmlands, vineyards, and cobblestone houses were water for my quenched senses. My heart gushed to be back in this land full of such history and romantic mystery.
While much was the same as it had been on my last visit—fantastic monuments, mind-blowing food—a lot in Italy had changed. For one thing, there were many, many non-native Italians. Italy, like the US, has become a cultural melting pot of peoples from Africa, India, and the East. Many of these people were not tourists, but through the generations, had immigrated and become like locals themselves. And while this is the case for some, many are in the country illegaly. I’m sad to say I certainly had my encounters with some very rude locals. When I inquired about this behavior, a local Italian’s response was this. In a nutshell, he said Italy’s economy has been spiraling out of control for years: ack of jobs and income taxation up to 70% are just two examples. Adding ‘insult to injury’, to have foreigners coming in illegally and legally and taking, ‘Italian jobs’, it’s almost too much for many Italians. Well anyway, his explanation did put things into perspective, but does this mean it’s an excuse for poor treatment of foreigners? I did take comfort, however, in knowing that, as in many parts of the world, there are always kind people, and that people respond to tragedy and crisis in different ways. Hard circumstances always bring out the best or worst in people, and I was very thankful to have met some really fantastic locals during my trip. This made my adventure much more enriching.
So much more could be said about this fantastic experience! Now that summer has come to an end, it is time to begin work again. Next month, I’ll discuss the new school year and adventures in Chinese Autumn Festival. Stay tuned!