Coming or Going?
“Are you going home, or leaving home?” she asked, as she sat down in the seat next to me.
My mind was miles away, (about 11,000 to be exact) studying the outline of the Wasatch Mountains from the view of the airplane window. Spanning almost 160 miles, they are the western most tip of the greater Rocky Mountains, and have served as the background scenery to most of the events in my life.
Even when I had moved away from Salt Lake City at times, I had always known when I would return. I could count on the airplane dropping down about 10 minutes prior to landing, to give me a bird’s eye view of the jagged granite walls that made up my beloved mountains. And I would know I was home. I could feel it, deep in my bones.
This time there was no return trip planned.
“Hmmm,” I said, meeting her gaze.
I’m pretty sure she didn’t think she’d asked a trick question, and yet there I was, struggling for the answer. Was I going home, or leaving my home?
My mind shifted from granite walls to terracotta roofs. Florence, Italy had been my home for six months in the past year and I had come to feel a connection with my new surroundings. I ached now to see a sunset over the Arno, and the sound of opera blasting from an apartment window. I had found a new rhythm with the Campanile bells as my alarm clock, and dodging tourists in a busy piazza had come to feel familiar.
My three months in Utah had been predominately filled with Visa application, and reapplication, and visiting friends and family. Only when my Visa arrived in August, did it feel like the hard work was worth it. It’s no small feat to get a Schengen Visa! (Those of you that are interested, feel free to email your questions to me: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will spare the rest of you the gory details!)
But, to be honest, I had not felt like I was home in those months. As much as I enjoyed seeing old friends and catching up on the local news, my heart seemed to be far away, in a very old country that continued to call to me.
Now that I had legal entry into Italy for a year, I could make the ultimate step I had been working towards. Living in a Florentine neighborhood, and totally immersing myself in the Italian experience.
“I’m going home,” I said, with as much conviction as I could muster. And with that, the long trip across the ocean began.
I decided to wait until I arrived in Italy to buy a cell phone. That meant upon arrival, I had no way to contact my apartment owner or agent. Despite already asking my taxi driver to heft three very large and heavy suitcases, I needed to convince him to allow me to use his phone! Whether it was my rusty Italian, or just his natural kindness, he agreed to place the call and I was assured Adriana would be there to let me in.
Now, and you can verify this with my children, on my best days I can’t work a TV remote, figure out a fuse box or understand the directions on a washing machine. Somehow all appliances know this, and refuse to function properly for me in any country.
So there was simply no way that anything Adriana walked me through that afternoon was going to sink in. Not only was I now two days without sleep, I had just hauled each one of the aforementioned suitcases up 56 steps to my apartment.
However, I followed behind her like a dutiful puppy, and nodded.
Once the door closed, I collapsed in a chair. The suitcases would remain unpacked tonight, and if I was going to stay awake past 7:00 p.m., I needed to go for a walk. Not having the energy to go grocery shopping, I figured I would head down the street where I knew there were a couple of restaurants.
The first restaurant I passed was bustling and overwhelming, and I wasn’t up to dealing with a crowd. As I rounded the corner on San Niccolo the smell of pizza drew me in. Before I knew I’d made the choice, I was seated on a bar stool nodding that, yes, I would like a cold glass of prosecco. I explained I was vegetarian and would like two pieces of pizza to go.
As I visited with the bartender, it became clear to me that something had been lost in translation. I could see him talking to a woman in the kitchen who appeared to be making two whole pizzas for me. It may have been the prosecco, or perhaps eating pizza for the next few days sounded fine to me, but I just sat on the bar stool and smiled.
Once again in my apartment, and a couple of pieces of pizza later, I was ready for bed. I opened my shutters to the courtyard, looked at the greenery overflowing from the back of the Bardini Gardens. I could hear the sound of neighbors having dinner, listening to music and, from a distance, someone singing opera.
They could all continue…I was going to sleep.
At 2:37 a.m., I woke up. Such is the joy of traveling half way across the world.
Walking to my bedroom window, I peered out at the outline of the palm trees and the moon shimmering behind the dense clouds. Silence.
I breathed in the stillness. I was home.
I was home…and there was cold pizza waiting for me in the fridge!
If life hands you pizzas, take them!
If Italy is calling to your soul, think about joining Sarah & Lisa on one of their tours through Tuscany. Check out A Better Way to Italy for tour dates and details.