So I didn’t lose my bags. I didn’t get lost (okay, so I guess you can qualify wandering through the streets of Venice not knowing how to get back to your hotel lost, but I got there eventually). My four bottles of wine, balsamic vinegar and olive oil made it back to the States intact. I climbed Mount Vesuvius. I walked the halls of the Vatican, gazing at frescoes by Raphael and the Michelangelo’s gargantuan figures on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. I tried wild boar, hare and chicken liver as part of a “Renaissance feast” (I’m an adventurous eater, and I still get nauseous thinking about that dinner). I ate 10 servings of gelato, all delicious. I wore fleece-lined leggings under my jeans, two heavy coats and three pairs of socks in Venice during some of the coldest days I have ever experienced. I visited five different sites of ruins, marveling at the leftover mosaic floors and elaborate painted walls of the Greeks and Romans. I threw a coin into the Trevi fountain, hoping against all odds that I would return someday and bring family and friends with me. I spent hours in a little Florentine bookstore because I’m the type of person who needs the printed word nearby, even on another continent. I climbed St. Peter’s and the Duomo and looked out over the two most beautiful cities I have ever seen. I took showers in bathrooms where there were simply hot and cold knobs on the wall next to the toilet (needless to say, the floor was soaked). I bought scarves in an outdoor market. I bought cheese and wine for a third of the cost that it would be at home. I ate the best pizza in possibly the entire world, or at least in Naples (mushrooms, basil, oregano, garlic and the most delicious tomato sauce). I gazed at the tombs of saints and popes and the holy door and the original doors of the Roman Forum and the only statue Michelangelo ever signed and an alleged piece of Noah’s ark. I walked through palatial gardens and admired 18th-century dresses and watched three men mold a scorpion out of glass at the famous Murano glass factory. I took pictures. Too many pictures. I ate loaves of bread for lunch and five-course meals in the late hours of the night. I grew skinnier and more muscular. I grew accustomed to a watch instead of a cell phone. I grew more cultured and worldly along the way. It was wonderful, and I miss it more than I thought I would. Four days after coming home, I’m still waking up hours before I normally would. I can’t seem to get my mind to accept that I’m back here with my best friends instead of the 19 other students who became my European family. I can’t seem to go back to a schedule where gelato isn’t a daily break and laptops are the norm. I still feel like an alien in my dorm room, in my boyfriend’s apartment, in the places I always thought I would recognize as home. There’s something missing here. Maybe it’s the nutella-filled croissants. More likely, it’s the mountains that draped themselves against the sky or the marble remains that were haphazardly scattered all over Rome. Whatever it is, I hope I forget about it. That’s the only way to re-enter this American world, where productivity reigns king and concrete serves as the backdrop instead of mountains. Sigh. Even though Italy is in even more of a precarious situation financially than we are, I think we could learn something from it. As to what that is exactly, I don’t quite know. Maybe a lifestyle. Maybe a state of mind. Maybe just an essence that is indescribable. Whatever it is, I hope I forget about it.


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