Friday, September 23, 2011

I DID fall in love in Italy

Before I left for Italy, friends and family kept saying “what if you fall in love in Italy and never come back?!”  I always just kind of laughed and said that if it happened, I’d be really happy but I wasn’t going to hold my breathe.  I wanted to go to Italy without any expectations so I had no chance of being disappointed. And more importantly this was a trip for me and about finding something that I felt like I have been missing… a time to do a little soul searching and be able to be completely happy with myself and my life, just how I wanted it to be. I made my trip so unexpected that I didn’t even know what I wanted to see while I was there. My sister asked me “what are you most excited about and wanting to see?” At first this question made me nervous because to be honest, I didn’t really have an answer (and I’ll always look up to my sister and the thought of telling her “I don’t know” about anything kind of scares me).  I wanted to see anything and everything I could in the 9 short weeks I was going to be abroad. When I first got to Europe I thought I wanted to see as much as possible including France, Spain and any other great place.  What changed my mind?  Well the first week we were there my roommates Amy, Jennifer, Kim and I were all huddled in a restaurant escaping the rain trying to plan our travels for each of the free weekends we had.  Jennifer and I were talking about trying to go to Barcelona or Paris.  That’s when Kim chimed in and said “You know, I think its my goal to see as much of Italy as I can while we’re here.” My initial thought was “Pshh, how could you not want to see Barcelona or Paris?!” But the more I thought about it, the more I agreed.  Why wouldn’t I want to know Italy on a more intimate level? And since that moment, that became my traveling abroad goal. While I was in Italy, I traveled to Rome, Verona, Lake Garda, Venice including Murano and Burano (twice), cinque terre, Pompeii, Capri, Positano, Sorrento, Viareggio, Lucca, Vinci, Milan and Lake Como.  I can say that there was something special that I enjoyed about each of those places, all differing in so many ways while maintaining the same culture and general flavor of Italy. And then there was Florence…

One of my first days in Italy

Burano- My all time favorite gem of the country

Vernazza in Cinque Terre


Us girls in Pompeii

Me atop the Duomo in Milan

When I first arrived to Florence, I didn’t quite understand what all the buzz was about. It seemed great but exactly what made it so great wasn’t all that apparent to me. Starting with my travel photography class, I stated capturing Florence through my camera lens.  Slowly becoming more and more acquainted with the city from a perspective that was a lot more creative and intriguing than that of a tourist.  Moving to Florence was somewhat similar to dating a new boyfriend. I began to find all the small beautiful things about the city. Fun architectural details, cute little leather shops and beautiful people that were simply living their daily lives in their natural habitat. 

Most beautiful sunset I've ever seen.

My photography class

One of my photos for my final. Its a self portrait. Can you find me? :)

Then I took art history, which was one of the best decisions I could have ever made.  I learned all the little details about Florence and its history, knowing where it came from, what it was famous for and why.  Two and a half hours of art history lecturing can be so boring but I was like a sponge in that class. I just could not get enough.  Learning about the Renaissance period, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo and the Medici family was so fascinating and now I completely understand why Italians are so prideful- I even support it! I loved all the museums each holding something special to the city whether it was a painting, sculpture, political, scientific or a fashion related piece.  I would boast about all that ish too if I were Italian. 

Sneaky sneaky... captured the David!

Me at the Picasso, Miro and Dali exhibit

Moving into my last three weeks, I unexpectedly took a Mediterranean Diet cooking class.  I was trained under the strict instruction of a Florentine woman named Vittoria who believed that “we should always eat food that makes our body happy.” She taught us how to make pasta and pizza from scratch along with many other dishes from the Mediterranean area, like Greece. Before coming to Italy, I wasn’t particularly the biggest fan of pizza and pasta but I have to say that living here and eating the freshest pizza and pasta you can imagine would change anyone’s mind! 
My final test: Spaghetti all arrabiata made from scratch

My professor Vittoria and her granddaughter Irene :)

Where I did my grocery shopping

Outside of class I got to know the places and people around me. Of course already being a fan of gelato, I made it my mission to find the best gelato place in town (I had more than one favorite of course).  I made friends with the owner and frequented it maybe more than I should have.  I learned to open up again to people I don’t know and to trust people knowing they are worthy of being trusted. I made some of the best friends in Florence.  One of the most amazing things about the people I met is that we could have absolutely nothing in common and everything in common at the same time. So many of the people I met there have touched my life forever and I would thank them everyday if I could.

Last day in Florence outside one of my fave gelato shops... had to get my final fix! :)

the beautiful Baptistery and Duomo

BEST pizza everrrr at Gusta Pizza

Although the language was something I didn’t pick up as much as I hoped, I tried and I loved listening to Italians speak. I'll never forget laying on the beach and listening to the people around me talking and thinking that it sounded more like music than racket. Their language is so much prettier than ours.  Even my professors abroad tried to make English sound better… “After you cook-ed the vegetable-za…” I loved it!

I could go on forever about all the things that I loved about Florence and Italy but I won’t…

With all this being said, if your question is the same… “Did you fall in love in Italy?”  Then my answer is simple. YES. I may not have fallen in love with any one Italian but I fell in love with a culture so rich of life, love and beauty.  My roommate Jennifer and I always said, “My heart is happy” because of all the great things that Italy made us feel.  This past year was one of the hardest that I have experienced and I have to thank this experience for reawakening my soul to rediscover how much I loved life just as before.  I’d fallen in love with life again in Italy and leaving was one of the hardest things for me to do.  I promised I’d be back again someday. Hopefully sooner rather than later, and if not, than most definitely to marry the second love of my life, my future husband… whoever he may be (and he better love Italy too). ;)
Me outside the front door of my apartment. 44 Via San Gallo
I miss you everyday.

Florence, Italy
Photoshop my face to hers and a question mark to his :)

Ashiee B


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