I am writing this blog in partial fulfillment of Masters of Science in Journalism at Ohio University and to document my new life in Florence, Italy. On June 14, 2008 I packed my belongings into three suitcases and left on a one-way ticket for Florence. I have been here three times before this adventure. Each trip to the medieval city – never in my initial plans – was taken with reluctance. Yet, for some reason, fate has placed me here over the years. This past year I felt the city tugging at my heart, calling me to return. So I jumped.
My parents, both born in Sicily, moved to the United States for a better life. My father, moved with his family after World War II. In 1971, during a visit to the Island he met and married my mother.
He promised her parents that they would know their grandchildren. He kept his word. My brother Michael, sister, Lorie and I visited the small town where my mother grew up. That stay strengthened the bond between us and our grandparents, and connected us to our heritage.
In 2002, I had my first introduction to Florence. My roommates and I decided it was time to see Italy as tourists. We left our apartment in Hoboken, N.J. and headed East with a planned itinerary of Torino, Rome and Milan. When we arrived at Milan Malpensa airport, my cousin had forgotten to pick us up. That left room for a quick stop to Florence.
After returning, I began to contemplate a life change. In the days following September 11th, televised footage showed the remnants of what resided inside the towers. Among the ash, dust, and dead bodies, all I could see was whole sheets of paper blowing around the Financial District. In my mind this symbolized “work” out living the ones who were assigned it. It put things into perspective.
Eventually, I left my corporate job in NYC and moved home to Cleveland. In spring and summer of 2007, before starting graduate school, I lived in Florence. My desire was to study in Rome; however I only found one school, which was located in Florence that offered an internship with a magazine
The living abroad experience changed me. I dated an Albanian student and the relationship awoke in me an emotion I never knew – Love. The summer months were a whirlwind; I was in love, felt happy and free, and it was during that time that Firenze revealed to me its piccoli piaceri (little pleasures).
Distance and time reveal truth. When I moved back to the U.S. it became apparent that my summer romance was just a fling. During the summer I had questioned whether his dreams were cast in the same direction as mine; blinded by love, I ignored my own doubts. After I refused to sign documents of support, to grant him a visa to the U.S., his lies and excuses became more and the phone calls less. Then there was silence.
In the autumn months that followed I cried a million tears, and felt a pain so excruciating that I cannot remember its feeling today, even when I try. I only know that I never want to feel that way again. Without closure, I was nervous and distraught, crying in my sleep – if I managed to sleep – and at times planted in my bed.
With distance, a sea in between and no confirmation from him that the relationship had ended, I felt stranded in a black hole. I thought I had lost my only true love. Looking back now, I know I did not lose anything. In fact I gained myself.
Everyone has an opinion on how to deal with love, loss and life. In the end I could only follow my heart. Fortunately, before the break-up I purchased a ticket to Sicily for winter break. A mixture of rude insistence, a snow storm and the grace of God allowed me to convince the U.S. Airways employee to fly me directly to Florence.
The third trip to Florence was to reclaim my heart. On a cold December night, in the middle of the historic center, I faced my past and the ghost that prevented me from moving forward. From those days that followed, I began to rebuild myself.
Before graduate school ended, I thought “I can never go back to Fi, everything is tainted now.” Friends encouraged me not to give up on my dream. “Se la vita ti porta a Firenze, devi andare! (If life brings you to Florence you must go)," said my cousin.
So now, I move forward as a new person with the past anchored behind me, in the spirit of the city that gave birth to the rebirth. In Italy, where the joys and pains in life are celebrated in a modern world thriving in an ancient backdrop, I hope to experience all life has to offer: love and hate, envy and passion, jealousy and lust, happiness and sadness, beauty and drama. Here are my moments along with a visual and descriptive summary of the food, life and feeling of Florence and Tuscany.