The past few weeks in Florence have been abnormally cold for this region. High winds have made temperatures feel even colder than they are and flurries have caused an uproar throughout the streets. We feel this cold weather at all times, due to heating restrictions. However, leaving my apartment for class one day last week, I noticed something was different. I could feel the warmth of the sun on my face as soon as I stepped outside. I was overheating in my scarf and gloves, which once provided me comfort as I walked through the city. I noticed others leaving their apartments for work, school, or just a day out, and noticed their happy facial expressions when they realized the cold was finally gone.
I had no intention of going on my walk that day, but with no afternoon classes and beautiful weather I couldn’t resist. With the cold out and the warm in, the streets of Florence transformed. Usually, when I walked through the Piazza’s on my way to class not many people were out. Now, the streets are packed. Couples stroll along the Arno River hand in hand, and friends sit in outside cafes catching up with one another. Throughout my walk, I saw a women singing or men playing the violin in almost every square. Families are out enjoying the day, and kids are playing games. It felt like I was in an entirely new city. Although I am still walking through the same history filled streets, the atmosphere completely changed.
According to Slimbach, “walking is a great teacher”and I could not agree more. As I walk around more and more each day, I have gradually become more comfortable living here. I am getting lost less, I notice familiar faces when I walk, and have begun to actually run into people that I know. The city used to feel enormous, now it feels like a little home. Moments such as finding a little, hidden cafe or having a conversation with a local as we wait for our drinks have helped me see Florence as MY city, not a tourist destination. I have become accustomed to the different way of life here. I now know many places are closed in the afternoon between 1 and 3, I know I should always be aware of pickpockets, and that you don’t have to tips, just to name a few.
The travelogue I decided to read was Under the Tuscan Sun, by Frances Mayes. In this travel log, Mayes talks about her husband’s infidelity and their divorce, which ultimately ends in her taking a trip to Italy and never returning home. During her trip the tour group she is traveling with stops in a quaint, little town. Here, Mayes notices an ad for a old villa that is for sale. Coincidentally, the next day the tour bus she is on stops right in front of this villa. It is then when she decides to get off the bus and ends up purchasing the old, run down place which changes her life forever. This travel log does not only talk about the beauty of Italy, but it covers some key factors about moving abroad. Mayes has to persevere through language barriers, kindle friendships, and find her own kind of family in Italy.
I am happy I chose this travel log because I felt as though I could relate to her journey on a personal level. Although we did not take the same paths to Italy, we both ended up calling this beautiful country our home. As I read, I felt I could identify where she was in her Rites of Passage process. However, what I liked the most about this travel log is how she made her own family in her new home. I related to this because family is a big part of my life, and it feels weird not having them here with me. It is difficult moving to a new country without any family to surround yourself with. However, I feel myself becoming closer with the group of friends I have and I think that is most important when trying to adapt to any new culture, just as Mayes did.
I chose to share a picture of my little Italian family because I think it best describes my emotions throughout my walk. It reminds me that the majority of us started as strangers, but now I couldn’t imagine life without them and reminds me just how lucky I am to experience this journey with them.
Mayes, Frances. Under the Tuscan Sun: At Home in Italy. New York: Broadway, 1997. Print.
Slimbach, Richard. Becoming World Wise: A Guide to Global Learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus Pub., LLC, 2010. Print.