I had my last two exams yesterday. I start summer school in four days. Tomorrow I’ll spend 16 hours and 49 minutes travelling back to the real world.
Yesterday in Italian class we learned the word for “bittersweet,” dolceamaro. But I prefer to think of my current emotional state in terms of a concept we discussed in my comparative literature class last year. When discussing the Odyssey, my professor told us that the Greek word “nostalgia” translates to “the pain of homecoming.” I’m writing this on my last day in Florence on the couch from which I can see the Duomo, and that’s what I’m feeling right now. I’m starting to get choked up. I know I have to go home where I belong – I want to go home. But I know I have to sacrifice something to do so.
I originally intended for this post to be a countdown of the top ten or so things I’ll miss about living here, but I can’t do it. I can’t attempt to organize that. I can only try to describe some of them.
I’ll miss going to mass in a world-famous, completely overwhelmingly beautiful cathedral and feeling connected to my faith in a completely different way because I can fully appreciate the concept of “wonder and awe” as a gift of the Holy Spirit. I’m really, really going to miss waking up in the morning to the sound of its bells.
I’m going to miss my three-day school weeks and the extra time that gave me to actually read for fun.
I love how so many shops here are owned by families or individuals, not big companies, and how you can really get to know the people working there in a way I’ve somehow never done in the States.
I’m going to miss Giovanni. So much. (I’m also going to miss the availability of a shop filled with pastries right next to my apartment just in general, but it’s probably a good thing for my waistline that we’re separating.)
I’m going to miss my photography class, sort of. It was five and a half hours long and usually felt like torture, but I have some beautiful shots now and chances are slim that I’ll continue the art at home.
Then there’s the beauty of Italy in general. The architecture that makes you feel like you’re in a movie when you walk down the street. The landscapes when you take a bus or train anywhere else. Those are things I’ll miss.
And of course I’ll miss the language. That’s one of the reasons I studied here. I love speaking Italian. It’s beautiful. I’m nowhere close to fluent, but I’m conversational, which makes me feel so cool. I know I’ll probably lose it after a few months back home because I’ve decided to drop my Italian minor to make my senior year workload more bearable. This makes sense and it’s a pretty useless language anyway, but… man. I am really going to miss it.
Of course I’ll miss the food. It’s delicious. And it’s fresh. And it’s unique. In the U.S. I can get pizza and eggplant parmesan lots of places and some might even be good…but will I be able to find a place where I can get spinach and ricotti tortolloni in walnut sauce? Linguine in creamy truffle sauce? Italian cuisine is not all about cheese and tomatoes. It’s about simple ingredients combined in brilliant ways. I can cook some of it, sure, but I’ll miss its constant availability here.
Most of all I’ll miss my freedom. (Ugh….I’m SO sorry this is turning out so cheesy. Am I entitled to a sappy post on my final day?) We have an independence here that comes from the structure of the program itself – LdM doesn’t even schedule Friday classes because they expect students to travel so much – and from the size of the city, where everything is pretty much walkable and available to us. When going to a fancy restaurant or an authentic hole-in-the-wall or a karaoke bar or whatever just involves walking five or ten minutes, it’s so easy to just do whatever you want. And I’ve made so many friends here to do that kind of stuff with, which makes me so very happy.
I know I’ve been incredibly blessed by this opportunity. I can’t even believe that it’s been real. I lived in Florence. I traveled to France, Monaco, Switzerland, Scotland, Greece, the Czech Republic and all over Italy. I met Neil Patrick Harris.
I’ve tried, but I really can’t analyze what it’s all meant to me or how it’s changed me as a person. Maybe when I get back I’ll be able to sort that out. But right now, the only thing I can wrap my brain around is that this whole semester has been so incredible and I am so, so grateful that I was able to experience it.