As I sit here on my laptop I find it difficult to express all that I have seen into words. I feel that it is impossible to truly describe our experiences here in the beautiful boot shaped country of Italy. A country that is so proud, that even the city you were born in is a vital mark of your identity. We think that we Texans have pride, but as one local explained, even moving across the river made him feel like a fish out of water. The greatest thing about Italy, is that you could stay here a lifetime and never see it all. No two places are alike, even as you travel to the different provinces you can feel a dramatic difference in the atmosphere.
When we were in Rome, everything was very fast and rushed. We were constantly berated by salesmen on the streets trying to sell us sunglasses, scarves, bottles of water, selfie sticks, and everything else you can imagine. In Pisa, things were more relaxed. The scorching heat and the characteristics of town reminded me a lot of my hometown Tyler, except for than the giant tilted bell tower of course. And Florence—Florence has become a second home to me. One of my favorite experiences on this trip was when a woman heard my friend and I speaking English and asked us for directions. I felt like I was a local. We were able to tell her how to get to the nearest grocery store, and even the street name where it stood.
While I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to immerse myself in the Italian art, food, music, literature, and tourist sites, the greatest experience has been immersing ourselves in the city. I can’t imagine any other way to travel now. The greatest site for me is getting a cup of hot tea and watching the city wake up in the morning.
Alayna Sims, Penny Dutton, Diego Loya, Omar Rodriguez Montes, Alia Pappas, and I sit down to a Mexican-Italian dinner in our apartment.
I feel like I am a part of this city. If I were to return here in ten years, I feel like I would still belong here. I know these streets, these shops, these people, this city. I wonder sometimes how I will feel when I return to America. I enjoy walking to the market pick up fresh fruit. I enjoy walking by our friend, whom we call “Dudeman”, who is constantly trying to get us to eat at his restaurant. I enjoy walking by San Lorenzo every day on our way to school. And while annoying, I even enjoy the constant blaring of sirens, honking horns, and loud tourists that go by our apartment every day.
Alayna Sims (top left), Penny Dutton (bottom left), Alia Pappas (bottom right), and I (top right) take a picture with “Dudeman” after eating at his restaurant.
Even Coca Cola tastes better here. What is there not to love about Italy? Nothing, or at least that’s what I thought until we went to the home of the Italian artist Michelangelo.
While at the home of Michelangelo, I got to have a conversation with a college student who was working in the gift shop. We spoke in a mix of broken English and Italian, both trying to work with the language barrier. When I told her we were from Texas, her heart leaped. Her dream, she exclaimed, was to go to America. My friends and I have discussed that life in America cannot compare to life here in Italy, where the food is fresh and the men are as fine as the dining. When I told the woman I had always dreamed of coming to Italy she stared at me like I was crazy and told me, “Italy is great but…”
She sees America as a big, grand country, where the people have so many opportunities and so much freedom. She continued to compliment America, and told me that she planned on traveling there when she graduated college.
I was conflicted. My great-great grandfather Vincent Signore spent a lifetime trying to get from Italy to America, and had to wait nearly thirty years for his citizenship. However, I was also so used to hearing people bad mouth America that it was odd to hear someone complimenting it. It made me realize that while our country might not be perfect, we tend to focus on the bad rather than focus on the good.
Even as the cashier sat there praising America, she never had a bad thing to say about Italy. She thought America was bigger and had more opportunities. However, she still displayed a great love for her country. No matter who you talk to, you will find the same innate pride in the hearts of every Italian you meet. Even our tour guides proudly proclaimed their city was the best, whether it be Sienna, Rome, or Florence. To them, their hometown is “the best”, without question. Even the people who have ‘Merican pride tattooed over their hearts in red, white, and blue can’t compare to the pride instilled in the hearts of the Italian people.
Rebecca Provines, Penny Dutton, Alia Pappas, Maggie Mahfood, Summer Munoz, Ashlynn Bostick, Omar Rodriguez Montes, Erin Hicks, and I living like locals in Florence, Italy.
Everything about Italy is strange and different, its kind of like the thrill you get when you go on a roller coaster. You don’t really know what you’re getting yourself into until it’s too late. While terrifying at first, the lurch in your stomach quickly floods your body with adrenaline and makes you feel alive. In Italy, I feel that my pride has awakened. I love everything about Italy, and now after this short time I feel like I am a part of it. This has also awakened a pride in my own country, America. A country that is broken but still good. I realized that while I would love to adventure through more of the countries in Europe, Asia, and Africa, I also want to discover more about the country that I call home.