I have been thinking alot lately about Italy. It doesn't seem possible but a year has gone by since we were there. How did time fly by so quickly? There are days when my day seems to last an eternity yet, somehow those incredibly marathon long days have multiplied into the equivalent of a year. As I was reminiscing, I came across the final paper I wrote for the conclusion of our journey. It is a short culmination of the lessons I learned while in Italy. Reading the paper a year later touched my heart in a different way than how it did when I wrote it. The words fished out feelings and thoughts that had taken a siesta in the dark and small pools of my mind. It seems as if they were drowning and demanding for recovery. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it.
My Italian Experience
Italy, oh Italy, how I love thee. I am twenty-two years of age and my life up to this point has been a series of spectacular events. Italy has been amazing in so many ways that there aren’t even words to try to describe my emotions connected with this experience. Because there is so much to talk about, it is difficult to narrow down the selection, but I will save you the torture of reading a book. The topics I am addressing are my renewed faith in the kindness of others, and the new eyes I have acquired because of Italy.
Italy puts your brain into overactive mode. There are so many things to look at and so many places to rest your eyes. Italy is full of new and exciting sounds and sights. When I first arrived here, I didn’t think I would ever stop looking at the mountains. I wrote a question in my journal, “Do Italians know how blessed they are? They are surrounded by this beauty on a day to day basis. Do they take it for granted or do they marvel at its majesty and greatness on a daily basis? Does it go unappreciated by its own people?” I am always surprised when everything new and novel turns to everyday and ordinary. There were days that I would pass the view of the valley and not even look out at the many shades of green on the fairy inhabited hills. When I do look at the landscape, I find myself holding my breath, waiting to see if it will disappear as a figment of my imagination. But my imagination is not as brilliant as this beauty so I know it is real. The weather might have had some hand in my negligence as well, but it is not an excuse. It is so easy to take beauty for granted when it is no longer new. Appreciating life takes energy and I don’t always remember to fork over that energy into that category of my life.
The churches and ruins were absolutely amazing as well. I nearly squealed with a child’s vibrancy and gaiety at the sight of the first Florence church we pranced into. How could it be that a building hundreds of years old could create such ardor? I had never before seen a building so beautiful and so carefully crafted and loved. The simple, quickly constructed, American buildings we create for ourselves in comparison to the incredibly ornate and brilliantly architected Italian buildings are like comparing a McDonald’s Tonka truck toy with a Mercedes Monster truck at a Monster Rally. I cannot get over how much time, patience and love have been put into many of these buildings. The art adorning the walls is often amazing in itself, but when combined with the grandeur of the architecture and the overall emotional response the space creates, it is enough to give one the chills.
One other thing that has surprised me has been the kindness of others. I am going to tell you the story of how we got to Italy to help give a better understanding of this kindness that I speak of. We arrived in Florence late on the night of the 27th of August. We didn’t know how to get to Castiglion Fiorentino; in fact we thought we would have to take a bus. We went to ask in the information area and this wonderful woman who spoke English extremely well offered to show us how to get there. When I say that she was going to show us, I mean she rode on the train, got off where we had a connection and then said goodbye to take the train back to Florence. There had been some mix up with the trains and there were about 8 Americans who were very confused as to what to do, so she went way out of her call of duty to help some silly Americans tourists. Would I be that generous with my time? How many people are there out in the world who are so willing to lend a kind hand? I was in shock and, I couldn’t express enough gratitude. After she left, the fear of getting lost crept back into my body. We jumped on the next train (it was less jumping and more dragging our exhausted bodies and heavy luggage onto the train). The light of joviality that the woman’s charity had lit started to fade as we quickly realized not only did we not know where to get off, but we couldn’t see out the window. My stomach started to nervously dance and gurgle out of fear and anxiety, my head started to scream “What are you doing in a country where you can not even communicate a simple question?!” I had been anxious all day about this issue, but the bubble had risen to the top and was ready to burst. The only other people on the train were this older Italian couple who spoke English as well as I speak Italian. It turned out, that even without the use of language, we were able to communicate effectively enough. Once again, someone was charitable and kind to us. Every stop that the train made, they would stare out the window with us to help decipher the foreign Italian city names in the dark. They would call out the name at every stop and speak encouraging Italian words which I didn’t understand, but made me fell better nevertheless. Once we found the correct stop we said our goodbyes and departed ways. The fear gurgled to life again as I realized that we didn’t know how to get to Santa Chiara. We made our way up to the bar closest to the train station. We had been traveling since 6:00 am that morning and it was now close midnight and we had only eaten one meal that day, breakfast. I am not actually what time it was, but I do know it was very late, I was tired of lugging luggage around, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I sat down on one of the chairs at the bar, while Kyle attempted his broken Italian with the bar tender. He came back and said, “I have good news and bad news. Santa Chiara is only about a kilometer away, the bad news is it up hill all the way.” I wanted to cry. The exhaustion and hunger had taken over and I didn’t think I could make it up the hill. I think the man saw my desperation, and offered to give us, perfect strangers, a ride.
How many times were we offered help by perfect strangers in this country? It was a miracle we arrived in one piece and if hadn’t been for the help of the Italians, I don’t know what would have happened to us that night. My point with this story is this; I have always had faith in the goodness of people, but I had started to question that faith. Our introduction to Italy blew that faith into full force and I will never question it again. Italy is a country with good reason to dislike America at this moment in time, yet perfect strangers were able to see past our American accents and treat us as human beings. If only we could all learn to treat each other like these Italians treated us, this world would be in much better shape.
I am thankful for what Italy has given to me. It has given me new eyes to look through. My adventure side hasn’t lessened, but increased. I know feel a desperation because of the limited time and money I have in this life and the desire to explore the world to its limits. Italy has only given me a taste of what the rest of the world has to offer, and it was mighty flavorful. But not only has my desire for travels increased but it has given me new friends. The Santa Chiara family will always be with me in my heart for as long as I live. I will remember Italy with overabounding love. Thank you for giving us this opportunity to experience the magic of the Italian experience.