Before I left for Italy, my parents said they wanted me to show them all around my favorite places. They bought tickets for after spring break so that I’d know the city well enough to feel like it was my own. After two months in the city, however, I’m guessing they would change their minds. I’ve started a new type of walk. Instead of walking to Piazza Michelangelo or the Duomo or any of the other, obviously beautiful, places, I’ve been walking toward the train station. The further you go in that direction, the worse the city gets, and I love it. The streets aren’t trying to be anything, they’re not forcing you to acknowledge their cultural significance or their beauty, they’re just there. I don’t feel bad just listening to music when I walk there and if I find something that I think is beautiful it feels more my own because it’s not the sort of thing that people come halfway across the world to see.
One street in particular, reminds me of a street in New York City. It’s near the train station with the fastest moving cars and the most sound pollution and it’s my favorite. To get there I have to walk through a square of dead grass and around several construction sites and I love that too.
When I first got to Florence I mocked the Americans that searched for bits of the USA here. There is an American Diner that Owen and I pass sometimes and we used to laugh about how stupid it is for someone to come here and get American pancakes or American food. But now I get it. I’m not homesick, exactly. I’m still not entirely sure what the concept of home means to me. But I do miss things about the United States. I miss feeling aware of everything that’s going on around me. I miss being able to understand subtleties in conversation or behavior.
Not most of all, but at least equally, I miss being able to open doors. The “big dumb American stereotype” has to be at least partially based on observation because it seems like no Americans can figure out Italian doors. Maybe, I’m projecting. I’ll just say, I can’t figure out Italian doors. They never open the direction I expect them too. While out to dinner with a couple of friends, we started laughing about the fact that the door had “PUSH” on the door, written only in English, because only an American wouldn’t be able to figure out the door. Then, on the way out, we saw a woman who couldn’t get the door open and had to help her out. I think part of the problem is that there isn’t a lot of consistency in the way different cafes and restaurants operate. There is clearly the way that Italians have typically done things, but Florence is a touristic city and some of the places have switched to a more American way of doing things, and others are somewhere in between, so it’s difficult to know what you’re supposed to do in one place or another.