How Italy Has Changed My Life

Updated: Jun 5, 2019

Questo blog è scritto in Italiano e Inglese. Clicca qui per leggere in Italiano.

This blog is written in both Italian and English. Click above for the part in Italian. 

Italy: Rome, Venice, Milan, Florence, Naples, Positano, Amalfi, Bologna. The names of places we see on Discovery channel and only ever dream to immerse ourselves in its history and culture. Italy is a place where, from the moment I arrived, it felt like I was coming home for the first time. Italy is a place where everything seems a bit more magical than your ordinary day-to-day. Maybe that seems like a cliché, but there is something special about hearing the Italian language around you. It is almost like a song that comes out of each mouth. There is something special about how to feels when the warmth of good espresso touches your lips when you wake up in the morning. No matter where you are in Italy, there is something special about how it feels to take a look out your window, whether it is cobblestone streets, the Vespas zooming by, seeing the mountains from your bedroom, or any of the things that make Italy seem like out of a fairy-tale land, that brings on a magnificent feeling. I can honestly say that after living in this beautiful and crazy country for so much time, I feel like it has truly changed me. Perhaps that is why I keep coming back, because with each flight that lands in Rome or Milan, I find my life, my future, and feelings about who I am are becoming more clear.

The worst feeling is coming home. In addition, the feeling that comes a month prior to leaving and realizing there is not a lot of time left. Unless you’re like me and you realize this about 3-4 months before you leave and start to cry after too much vino because you’re not ready to go back home (true story). I would like to talk about this word for a moment – home. Many people might imagine home as a place where you have your family, or even where you have your friends. Over time I have come to realize that home is not a destination but more of a feeling. Home is the place where I have found comfort and people who care about me. Home is where I can feel safe. The more experiences I have abroad the more I realize that I feel a sense of home and belonging throughout all of Italy. It is in the smiles of the Italians who live here, and the “tranquillas,” “piano-pianos,” and the “ci stas.” Embedded in every house and condominium with their overflowing green gardens on their balconies, and in all of the small streets and lakes and seas and oh, it is in the mountains. It is definitely in the mountains.

As I said, the idea of leaving home is deeply saddening for me, although I miss my family in America dearly. When I think about my experiences abroad and how it feels when I am about to leave, or how I feel when I remember a memory from a time abroad, I think about this particular feeling that I think most people feel from time to time. I had this feeling on the bus ride home one day and it is the only way I can describe memories locked in time or the fleeting moments before leaving a place you love so dearly. It is a feeling I have often in new places and cities.

Peeking through the trees and the houses that whip by so fast there is something beautiful happening beyond your sight. Maybe it is the mountains, a sunset, or the Mediterranean Sea. You search quite rapidly for a break in the trees to see what lies beyond, while houses and trees pass by and obstruct your view. You try to paint a picture with your mind of the mountains, and the way that the sunlight reflects off their snowy tops, refracting through the fog during a sunset. When that moment like when fresh cold air enters your lungs in the winter, for a split second, you see the bright fiery orange that is illuminating the cold sky, adding warmth to the scenery, and caressing the tops of the frozen mountains. The trees and the houses start to obstruct your view again. That is how it feels to think about a part of your life abroad that seems unattainable. That is how it feels to think about what will happen when it is all over. A fleeting, perfect and beautiful moment.

This blog is supposed to be about how Italy has changed me, but it is honestly too difficult to put into words. With each passing day, I discover more about myself. I understand how to be a little bit more alone. I have started to discover my passions, where I see my future, and what I hope to be. Although, this piece of my Italian life puzzle is still a little unclear. I struggle, often. I ask myself; How did I spend this much money in one month? How could I have been so stupid to receive a fine for not paying the bus ticket? How can I organize my time well enough and get enough sleep to do all of the things I want to do? How am I going to remember Italian when I return home if I still struggle with grammar four months into my experience?

Through all of my struggles, I learn. Something I have said for most of my life. “The universe strikes you at your weakest points because that is what most needs strengthening.” That quote by Chris Prentiss has never been truer than when I am in Italy. Through language barriers, heartbreaks, anxiety attacks, crying, homesickness, teaching stress, and sleepless nights it is hard to see the accomplishments and small victories while living abroad. There has been, however, a shift. In my ability to communicate, my ability to learn Italian, to heal my broken heart, to settle my anxious mind, to smile (a lot!), to find a home in my new host family, to have teaching breakthroughs, to watch my students learn and grow, and days where I feel like I am relaxed and accomplished. A year ago I wrote, “In 20 years, I would like to look back on 2017 and remember it as a time of change, accomplishment, adventure, and fullness. My ultimate goal of 2017 is to be myself and learn to be alone.” I am happy to say that looking back on the year I can confirm this to all be true. Thanks Italy, you showed me my true self.

The Localist Abroad
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© Ashley Nicole Weimar.