no really, it took 2 hours from stepping into the country to realise I’ve met the love of my life, Italy.
At some unearthly hour on Wednesday morning I took the long bus ride to Stansted Airport from Salisbury (unfortunately the 5am wake up wasn’t an april fools joke). But I wasn’t too worried because I was going to ITALY! I met some lovely and interesting travellers while waiting at the airport which reminded me of my mum saying and appreciating that ‘everyone has their own story’. I don’t think I ever really got what she meant growing up, but now especially travelling, this really renders with me. My favourite moments this year have not been seeing the sights and taking the touristy photos. It has been the people I’ve met – in cafes, in the street, in pubs and at shops. I may not have gotten their names, but I’ll never forget their stories.
I said at the beginning that it took me 2 hours in Italy to love it but the crush definitely started in the air as I met Italians on the plane and admired bae from thousands of feet above. The alps, coastline and vineyards look more than picturesque from a window seat so my pre-date nerves with Italy were settling in on descent.
As I landed in Pisa Airport it soon dawned on me that I really knew no Italian whatsoever. I wasn’t even sure if hello was ciao or salut. After some panic and quick wifi use, I found my bus which would (hopefully) take me to Lucca, the walled city that I would call home to for the next 10 days. This bus ride was where the romance began, only looking and no interaction, but the feelings were becoming very strong. I sat gawking out the window at the mountains and peculiar streets and houses, which to be honest, I’m still doing every day.
Entering the walls, I saw my auntie waiting at the bus stop. It was so exciting to finally see her again. Walking through the streets, we were pinching ourselves, not believing that we are both staying in Italy together, it felt surreal.
That night we just came back to have pasta and tim tams (she’d brought some for me from home yay!) and catch up on the last 3 months. I already felt quite at home and very, very content.
The next day was for exploring the city and wow did it put on a show for us. Without a cloud in the sky, we walked some of the wall and went into the little shops which adorn the city. Breakfast ritual is a bowl of cereal at home and then a cappuccino and pasta (choc croissant) at a cafe. I could get used to this. The hours flew past, I went for a run along the scenic walls, filled up water, bought a phone charger (who knew that italy plugs were different from englands? Haha), bought some groceries and had an apperitivo drink outside in the amphitheatre. It was more idyllic than the final scene of Notting Hill. I was lovestruck.
Yesterday we took advantage of the warm, clear weather and ventured into Florence – the famous city of history, beauty, art and selfie sticks?! Along every street was people trying to sell you selfie sticks. This was a tourist haven which in some ways turned me off a bit. The busyness of the streets, flashing cameras and use of english makes it feel like you could be anywhere. Whereas I like feeling Italian. Bit ironic and bit selfish, seeming I am a tourist taking photos and using another language but they can’t all be like me?! That’s not allowed!
But my initial indifference was completely turned around after a minute of seeing the grand churches, piazzas and cobbled streets. And guiltily, Anne bought a selfie stick for my cousin which we ended up using the whole day, we were ‘those people’. The markets were a fun time, I think by the end of the day I had been called Bella by at least 10 men and had 3 wedding proposals. These, mind you, were all from 30+ yr olds who were trying to sell me something from their store.
A funny moment along this was when Anne wanted to buy a particular bag and the store manager said he’d run back to his main store to get the bag in her preferred colour. No problem Mr Bag Stall man, we shall guard your shop while you’re away and sell your products to wanting customers. We definitely could have walked away with a cats lifetime supply of leather handbags. But he did eventually come back.
Lunch was magic. We bought ourselves some fresh bread, olives, cheese and sundried tomatoes from the food markets and then sat on the bridge overlooking Florence’s famous river and bridges in the bright sunshine. It was one of those ‘does it get any better than this?’ moments. I felt like I was in a dream. After photos and coconut gelatos (heavenly), Anne hopped on the bus to return but I felt like exploring a bit more (Anne had spent a week in Florence already).
I somehow found my way to the bus station without a map and by using Italian and encountered a very tired Anne back at Lucca. Most chronic fatigue patients don’t go travelling overseas and spend hours each day walking and exploring the streets while also challenging their brain to speak another language.
Today was a very chilled day. Breakfast tradition followed by a walk to the markets which turned into a rainy walk through the markets and an even rainier walk back to our apartment. But I have somehow taken up the day by going shopping, constantly getting lost (and enjoying it) and now sitting in a buzzing cafe, people watching and documenting. Even without understanding what they’re saying I just love being amidst these people. They have continually shown evidence of their kindness and generosity. Today, leaving the supermarket without an umbrella, a man offered to share his umbrella with me. Not in a creepy or questionable way, but just in a kind manner.
I love the freedom of having no agenda. Walking the streets, wondering and watching, with little time limit or duties. I am trying my best to appreciate it now because I know that moments like this are rare in our busy and organised lives. It may be because I’m on holidays but I just do feel like the Italians take on a more relaxed and easygoing way of life, always ready to have a chat, be generous and open to change. I am in love with the Italians, their lifestyle, food and country and can’t wait to spend more romantic days and nights together.