Over the course of the second week, my perception of Firenze has not changed much. Still, Italians appear to have mastered life. Their personal/professional exchange is so much more balanced than the American lifestyle I am used to.
I’ve learned to distinguish between the “true” Italians, who don’t occupy the Santa Croce clubs at night, and the others, who do. I’ve learned where I can get “real” Italian food, instead of falling into tempting tourist traps. I’ve visited Fiesole, the Firenze suburbs, and Piazza le Michelangelo, realizing that Firenze is much bigger than the town center. Most importantly, I’ve learned Italian. Well, some Italian.
Last night, seven of us Carolina girls hiked up to Piazza le Michelangelo to enjoy the view and vino. The other girls had gone up together once before, but it was my first time. I sat on the grass with wonderful, happy friends and strangers surrounding me. I couldn’t help but zone out into my own thoughts. There was a very particular feeling I was experiencing, and one I’ve only enjoyed a handful of times in my twenty years.
Five years ago, my best friend and I went on a three-week backpacking trip through the main island of Hawaii with a group of other teenagers and two guides. We happened to be there for the 4th of July so we celebrated Hawaiin style. We ate hot dogs and hamburgers, while anchored in the Pacific Ocean far away from the island, catching only glimpses of fireworks in the distance. I remember walking to the stern of the catamaran and sitting on the edge of the boat by myself. I listened to the water lap against the side of the boat and I told myself, “Don’t ever forget this.” That moment is my first memory of happiness sans other people. True organic happiness. Last night, sitting on top of Firenze, I felt it once again. I told myself not to forget, and promised myself not to let these next three and a half months fly by without experiencing this feeling again. A place like Florence deserves only happiness.