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.


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.

In the City


Because I’ve been to Italy before, I thought that I was prepped for the everyday differences between here and home. There are different electrical outlets; the showers are smaller and you flush the toilet with a button on the wall; you’ll always feel frumpy in comparison to the chic everyday style here; the works. But the immersion of actually living here for more than a few days has made me find a lot more that isn’t exactly what I’m used to at home in the United States. Some of the biggest adjustments I’ve had to make, new customs I’ve tried to adopt, and miscellaneous oddities I’ve found in Florence and Italy over the last two weeks:

1. Pinocchio is HUGE in Florence. Every libreria has a table full of the illustrated tales near its entrance; every toy shop has an assortment of the puppet dolls propped up in its window. I think Pinocchio is the patron saint of this city.

2. You push doors when entering (spingere) and pull them when exiting (tirare). I had no idea how disorienting this would be until I was living here. Two weeks into being in this city, I’m still yanking on glass doors in confusion while the people inside stare at me.

3. For the most part, it’s rude to eat or drink in the street. Italians go to coffee bars to have a quick, strong shot of caffè and sometimes a small pastry while standing at the counter. There’s no carrying around your token Starbucks cup here (or any token Starbucks cup at all…Starbucks hasn’t made its way to Italy, probably because it’s coffee-flavored water compared to what Italians drink).

4. And following that, it’s really impolite to carry around a bottle of wine (/other alcohol, though more rare) in the street. If you really need to have a drink outside, you should only be carrying a glass for yourself. The implication, I’m told, is that you’re having “just this one” versus planning to drink a whole bottle yourself. Overindulgence with alcohol is pretty frowned upon in Italy.

5. Ground floor and first floor? Two different things. La terra is the ground floor; the first floor is upstairs.

6. You eat dinner here hours later than in the U.S. — eight or nine o’clock is standard. It’s also typical to have two courses of entrees (primi e secondi piatti).

7. People are much kinder in Florence than in a city like New York, but they’re definitely more rude by my standards in the streets. It’s not natural to say “Scusa” when passing someone, even if you nearly bump into them. Personal space is much less personal and way more tight. And when crossing an avenue, you walk in front of speeding cars and expect them to stop for you. Yikes.

8. It took me a week to track down all the toiletries I had decided to buy in Italy. I think most people would hope for the conditioner to be next to the shampoo in a pharmacy. And for one of the three or four languages on the bottles to be in English. And to not stop reading the bottles after “fortifica i capelli” / thence buy shampoo that is specially formulated to counteract female hair loss. And not to spend 25 euro on shampoo + the conditioner you track down days later, then find bottles for 2.90 at the mercato. We’ve had a few jams down the road, but I’m getting through so far…without losing any hair over it. *drops the mic*