I have finally returned, weary and jet lagged, after a fourteen hour flight from Italy to America completely exhausted from a 9-day-long trek across Paris, Rome, Florence, Tuscan countryside and foothills of the Alps; after which, I am proud to say, I write bearing extraordinary stories and perspective.
My experience with travel is almost philosophical; understanding that to travel is not to simply put yourself in different landscapes, but to open your eyes to those landscapes and become aware from them; allowing yourself to learn a newer and deeper outlook as you read more pages from the book the world has to offer to you.
The hard part is to have that perspective linger on after you return.
With that said, my heart and my love was completely stolen by Italy. Which, I admit, was opposite from what I expected.
I was pinching myself as I walked through Rome just to believe I was actually there, forcing myself to accept my own eyes as the Colosseum crept into sight and 2000 year old ruins stood at every corner.
Physically the ruins may crumble, but they came back to life as I pictured them in all their glory described in the history books I have endlessly studied; books that have become my friends suddenly materialized in front of me, cathedrals of imagination that I will never, ever forget.
The people and their culture, despite nearly getting me killed on several occasions by their horrible driving, were playful and charming- shouting “prego!“, or “thank you!” at everyone in sight at every opportunity even in the most inappropriate of moments.
Their religion was worn as a badge of honor, the population being 99% catholic, with portraits of the Virgin Mary at every intersection and church processions in the streets featuring marching bands shouting out hymns as the masses gathered around them.
Their food- oh my gosh their food– was food as you’ve never tasted before. The pasta was smothered in a heavenly perfection of tomatoes and olive oil, the pizza a flawless balance of herbs and cheese, the bread a symphony of Italian wheat and garlic.
I’ve grown from the trip and gained some more perspective, for traveling is a major aspect to my life that I’m grateful for. Experiencing cultures that shake the anchor of your own and appreciating the world is something I feel a lot of people my age lack. It’s one thing to read it in a book, but a complete other to experience it for yourself.
I didn’t want to leave, and it was melancholy as I watched the Alps disappear out of the airplane window on the flight home. But I’ll be back one day, because Italy has thoroughly and unconditionally won me over.