Travel

flying out

I’m sitting in a gray Milano airport.

They’ve tucked this flight at the very end of the corridor, B41 of 44. I’ve halfheartedly followed hallway after hallway, conceding to the passages and the paths that force me farther, farther from Florence. The lines drag me forward; the signs push me onward; the conveyor belts lift my lingering feet ahead. I’ve been inspected and approved and stamped and signed off on. Now I’m wrapped up in my pilly Italian sweater, set for seat 30H to New York City.

I’m shipping out of this country.

I have one more hour with my feet on definitively Italian ground. But this airport isn’t Italy, or at least my Italy. People greet me with a polite Buongiornohello. Automated voices announce that “the door closes; the elevator goes up.” My beloved shots of caffé are listed on bar menus as espresso. At some point, I’ve left my adopted language behind to be replaced with something that isn’t quite English. Italian can only be found in the margins for me now, as I hover in the fringes of conversations between attendants and aides. When they turn to me, we’ve switched to a new dialect that doesn’t exist in Italy or at home: “Prego, buongiornohello.”

This little corner of the corridor is set in some space between here and there. It’s not Italy, and it’s not America; either way, it isn’t home. For now, I sit in this little corner in a hollow gray inbetween.

I’m watching out the window, staring at the snow-scribbled Alps. There’s an endless void between them and me, the interminable stretch of ashy concrete where my airplane waits. In one hour, it will lift these lingering feet off of not-quite Italian ground, carrying me for arrival elsewhere.

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ciao, ciao: one last letter to my host parents

Ale e Super Mitch,

Sono una scrittrice – ma questa volta non posso trovare le parole che descrivono i miei sentimenti di vivere con voi questa primavera.

Per tutta la mia vita sognavo d’Italia, romantica e misteriosa, il paese dei miei origini. Sognavo di camminare nelle strade, di apprendere la lingua, di conoscere la gente. Ma non ho capito che troverei qualcosa migliore dei miei sogni. Vi ho trovato.

Non posso dimenticare mai le nostre risate alla nostra cucina gialla durante la cena. Non posso dimenticare mai le nostre danze a Michael Jackson o Sister Sledge. Non posso dimenticare mai i nostri amici Mitch the Fish, Doctor Mitch (and Mr. Fuck), Mitch the Revenge, Mitch Bastianich, o Mitch DeNiro. Soprattutto non posso dimenticare mai i vostri sorrisi e la vostra generosità. Italia mi ha dato molto, ma voi mi avete dato il regalo più prezioso: il vostro amore.

Sarete una gran parte del mio cuore per sempre. Siete già una gran parte della mia vita. Questa è la cosa più bella di famiglia: possiamo essere separati, nonostante saremo vicini per sempre nei cuori.

Grazie per tutti, i miei genitori. Era un sogno.

Tanti baci, o “big kiss,”

Gabriela

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In the City

a presto

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whirlwinds and other clichés

My friend at home, before I left for Italy: “Enjoy every moment of this semester! It really goes so fast.”

My classmate in Florence, before I headed out for spring break: “It’ll be gone all too soon.”

My professor at SUF, before I handed in my completed final exam: “I can’t think of a semester that has passed by quite so quickly.”

And here we are, my final stretch of days living in Italy. When did the days leave me? Did they slip out my sliding door while I was asleep? Or was I looking the other way when they waved goodbye?

I’ll be retroactively adding and bits and pieces of things I’ve written and photographed in these last few weeks so I can complete this little scrapbook of my journey. It’s got a bittersweet ending.

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Time for my last Italian final.

School

il mio povero cuore, who thought i would be sad to take a final exam?

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Travel

oh, como

For weeks, I had been trying to plan my long Easter weekend as a last hurrah. After many frustrations trying to finagle a visit to the Amalfi Coast — senza car, senza bus schedules, senza any kind of online map showing the bus stops or ferry piers — I finally tucked that dream away for an undetermined future. At this point, I had feathered away time to the point that I had four days to the weekend. Life in Italy, the fantastical place where you can determine your European adventures just hours in advance.

The reports were undivided: rain, rain, rain. It looked like my long-hoped-for weekend by the water would not happen. So I set my sightline on Milano, where I had spent a day with my mother and been innamorata with the city. There are stories upon stories in itself of our rainy days in the city: burrowing up in our adorable apartment, a gem mined from AirB&B; shivering in the drizzle for a Klimt exhibition, then discovering how worth the wait was when I came face-to-face with his utterly flooring Beethoven frieze; strolling through endless aperitivi at the onset of evening, ordering cocktails served in pineapples.

I hadn’t even seen pictures of the lake before, but acted on a whim that had served me well before: blind recommendation. Just days before, I had called my mother in exasperated tears, convinced that I wouldn’t be seeing and experiencing anything new during my last potential weekend to travel Italy. Her answer was quick: go back to Milano, the city you love. Go to the Alps, the mountains of your family. Go to Como.

Through the first days, my friend Rebecca and I debated which day would be best for a quick side trip to Lake Como.  When we woke up on Easter to a shining sun, we knew we’d chosen well.

And here we are — Como is a dream.

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