Italy Again

It’s been awhile since I’ve written. I went to Italy for two months on a “networking tour” to see how feasible it would be to move there. Thankfully, I was able to continue my virtual sessions with clients. There are a couple of different roads one can take to spend more time in Italy, a couple of different visas or permanent statuses. At this point, it is not clear which one would be best for me. One thing is clear, I need to know the Italian language better. While I figure out which road to take, I will keep visiting as often as I can and I will continue working on my Italian language skills.

This was my longest trip to Italy, and other than meeting up with Dan in Venice at the fabulous Palazzo Foscarini for my last week (which was wonderful and included going to the Venice Biennale twice -a topic for another post), I was on my own. A couple of friends in Seattle said that I had “big lady balls” which made me laugh! I spent my first 2+ weeks in Rome where I took a language class and got sick. I was able to make my first couple of classes and then was in bed for several days. So Rome is a bit of a blur. Then I went to Assisi for a week where the pace was slower and I rested and healed and ate the best pizza, truffles, olive oil, and ragu di cinghiale (boar’s ragu) ever!

The bulk of this trip to Italy was a month in Firenze (Florence.) As soon as I arrived there I felt like I was “home” and couldn’t imagine ever wanting to leave. I didn’t have a TV in Firenze and initially was disappointed and beat myself up for not checking out that detail before renting the apartment. However, it turned out to be a blessing. Instead of watching TV, I read voraciously. I read about the city and the region, and I read eight novels set in Florence or Tuscany. Most nights during dinner I watched Italian music videos on my laptop, mostly of Italy’s beloved musician Zucchero and his songs “Hey Man” one version with Eric Clapton and another with BB King and “Il Volo” filmed at Piazza San Marco in Venice.

There are many stories to share of my time in Firenze but today I will share this serendipitous one…

One morning on may way to find a basilica I had read about, I came upon an old building where a group of people were being shown around. I decided to step inside and see what was going on. It was a tour being led in Italian. Tiring of trying to understand the language, I decided to explore on my own. Turns out I had stumbled into an old hospital that was now a museum with beautiful artwork and an interesting history. I wasn’t there very long before I ran into Guido, a retired doctor who was a volunteer at this hospital museum. Guido was born and raised in Firenze and his English was pretty good. He had spent a year in Iowa as an exchange student in high school and then in his career as a researcher, he had to learn some English. Guido means “guide” in Italian and indeed he became my personal guide. He has a deep love and pride for his city and it was contagious. His wife is an artist and spends work days at her studio in an old former convent, Il Conventino. We visited her there a couple of times. Guido and I went on several walks around the city and I saw views I would’ve never found on my own, learned things Rick Steves doesn’t mention in his books like my new favorite salami, finocchiona, a Tuscan salami with fennel seeds which became my favorite panini. Guido told me of touristy places to avoid and authentic mom and pop shops to frequent. He sent me many emails about books to read, movies to watch, and places to see that would help me better understand Florentines…and he taught me about the Fiorentina soccer club! He became my social director…one day I was at my apartment reading and he sent me a message reminding me that it was the day that the Badia Fiorentina (an abbey museum) had free admission and so I put down my book and made my way there. On our walks we talked about literature, religion, food, politics, and philosophy. One day his friend Massimo, also a retired doctor, joined us and as we walked the hills of Firenze on a beautiful spring day, we passed Florence Nightingale’s home on our way to Bellosguardo. I remember saying that day that I felt like we were characters in a novel and that I couldn’t be happier!

It turns out that by the end of the month I was ready to come back to the US. It was so wonderful being there and at the same time it became exhausting. I think mainly because of the language barrier. Having said that, now being back almost 6 weeks, I find my wanderlust for Firenze creeping back… I expect I will be back and forth for awhile.

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