Falling In Love With Florence

I’m so completely and utterly, irrevocably, crazily, heartwarmingly, head over heels in love.

I’m so in love that I’m in love with being in love, if that’s possible. I can’t stop gushing about how much I’m in love. I want to climb up to a mountain and shout it out to the world. I want to capture it in a bottle and hold onto it forever. I want to lie in bed with it and gaze at it. I want to laugh, and sing, and dance to the music of it.

The truth is, I’m in love with Italy. I’m so in love with Italy that my natural loyalty and faithfulness to it has turned me against my current home (London). I feel as if I’m cheating on Italy by being back in bed with London. I hate London. London is nasty and ugly; London is a liar and makes me cry and feel bad much too often.

But Italy…

Italy is sweet and gentle, caressing me with its every corner, each building sending messages of love, each tree pointing me in the right direction, the sun setting over the Arno warming my skin, bringing out my malnourished freckles again, making me feel alive once more. Its native tongue is intriguing and beautiful to the ears, spurring inside of me an immediate enthusiasm to learn a new language.

I was in Florence and Milan – Firenze and Milano – each for virtually one day. Somehow this three day trip feels like it has encompassed decades of my life. I feel innately attached to the time I spent falling for these cities, and since I can’t yet decide which one I prefer, I will refer to my love collectively: I love Italy.

Last night I ate two dinners. I ordered a half-liter of wine and a plate of pear and asparagus ravioli, which was the type of deliciousness that makes you want to cut precisely and chew very, very slowly to savor each molecule. When I finished my plate, nearly licking it clean, I realized I still had a ginormous amount of wine left. A second plate? a little voice whispered to me.

And so it was, a second plate of pasta, the rest of the wine, the most money I’ve ever paid for myself to eat, and a stumbling, bloated me on the Ponte Vecchio.  I sat for a moment there, trying to grasp this intense feeling of longing I had for the place. At some point, I ended up asleep in my hotel room, much too early to admit.

But it’s not just the landscape, or the beautiful buildings, or the delicious food, or the warm atmosphere. It’s not just the sound of the language, or the beauty of the fashion, the beauty of the people. The true reason why I love Italy, and why I so strongly believe it could be the perfect match for me is this: Italy is beautiful, both on the outside and on the inside.

The people…

Buongiorno. It’s just a little word, and yet it’s something that so brightened my world and warmed my heart. Being in Italy is like being friends with everyone. People say hello to each other on the streets. People make eye contact, and smile, and make you feel like you belong. And, perhaps it’s just me, but it seems as if my new love affair is with a very trusting soul. The type of soul that doesn’t worry that you might be stealing, or cheating, or lying. The type of soul that is happy to point you in the direction of the cash machine (out of sight) after you’ve failed to produce any cash but also after you’ve devoured its hearty meal. The truth is, people in Italy are just… happy.

And I, falling in love with Italy, was the happiest version of me I’ve ever known. The happiest, most gleeful, positively stuffed, glowing, wanting to buy everything, ride a bike for four hours, climb up a giant hill for a view, and walk until my feet are swollen kind of me.

They say that when you’re in love with a person, you’re the best version of you you’ll ever be. But I think I’ve found a better version, all from falling in love with a country in the least political way possible. I’ve fallen in love with a setting, really, a set of circumstances, a culture, and a way of life. I’ve fallen in love with the type of vibrancy and sophistication and warmth and beauty I’ve always dreamed of.

And amidst it all, the really funny thing is, I’ve fallen in love with me.

 

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