It’s been exactly 10 years since I was last in Italy. I was 22—naïve, fresh faced and brave enough to take off by myself to work in Italy for Legambiente which is the Italian equivalent to Green Peace. I was the only American working in the organization, with no Italian under my belt, and a knack for getting lost. I arrived in Rome, alone after a 22 hour travel stint and wandered my way around the city with a backpack and a travel guide. One of the best moments of my life was my first night in Rome. After a long and delirious nap and an ice cold coke, I took a cap to the Vatican City at sunset to catch the evening mass. I had never been out of the country before, mind you and I was completely overwhelmed with what I was experiencing. It was better than I could have ever imagined and I was immediately swept off my feet. Italy was my first love—my first experience with travel. I grabbed a hot dog and Heineken bomber and sat on a wall perched above St. Peters cathedral with a symphony playing in a park right behind me. An artisan fair lined the pedestrian streets surrounding the Vatican, adorned with antique books, charcoal drawings, handmade jewelry and leather…. Ahhh the smell of leather here is bar none.
So, here I am 10 years later searching for that romance I experienced 10 years ago. The travel bug is like an adrenaline junkie’s search for adventure… but for travelers, it’s a lust for that “feeling” of being alive in another country—seeing completely new architecture, different light, different people and cultures, new smells and trendy fashion, and being taken by it all. It’s incredible and only understood by those who have experienced it, and actually have the “lust”. It is an addition. Although I know I will never experience Italy again with virgin eyes as I did 10 years ago, today is my first day in Florence and I’m certainly taken. The smells that are getting me already–waffles and gelato, the smell of car exhaust that is somehow nostalgic, and fresh garlic. I can hear the church bells ring every hour from my hotel room just down the street from the Duomo and it’s cool enough in the evening for a sweater, but hot enough to really enjoy a cold Birre Rossa. I’m in heaven. And while I go to Paris every year to find my heart and “re-stock the pond”, this trip to Italy is feeling more about gratitude. I’m not yet exhausted from the busy summer season that I call my “harvest”, and I’m still feeling completely invigorated by every thing I see. I’m grateful and pinching myself… can this really be my life? How could I ever complain about anything when I seem to have it all… I’m blessed.
My trip 10 years ago was a life changing gift from God. I found my passion and independence and came home 2 months later believing in myself in a new way. I made all sorts of positive changes in my life and understood for the first time that one can’t wait for life to happen. One has to find it and live it fearlessly. I have a feeling that this trip is going to be just as monumental as my last visit…. It’s Italy, after all and there are all things romantic beckoning me to live these 9 days to my fullest and to bring home a brighter inner-light.