A long time ago someone told me (or maybe I told myself) that the best way to learn a place is to get lost in it. The lessons in such an education are stacking up.
After too many hours of no sleep and extreme congestion from the contained air of the plane, I found my exceptionally cute and tiny studio apartment in Santo Spirito, where my Italian AirBnB host enjoyed my gift of Woodford Reserve bourbon balls, gave me a quick tour of the apartment, a list of her recommendations for food, museums, and churches, and a skeleton key that she demonstrated quickly. My sleep deprived brain told me to nod and say yes, yes. Longing for a nap but resisting because of jet lag fears, once she left I instead unpacked and prepared to return to the main part of town. I spent at least ten minutes trying to lock the door to my apartment and to the building, and no attempts worked. I ended up leaving both unlocked, and that’s when the ugly-angry cry threatened to happen in full force. Lesson: Get a much better map.
With a goal to meet the group at the Piazza della Repubblica, I stared in awe at the Piazza Santo Spirito, which is just around the corner from my apartment. I followed my map as best I could but still kept taking wrong turns or leaping over entire blocks without realizing it. In my ill-fated traipsing, I ran into the enormous, actual versions of the pictures of Florence that have infatuated me. A turn toward a busy piazza: there’s David and Neptune! Another jaunt toward what I thought would be the Repubblica: the enormous Duomo. I’d wandered several minutes beyond my meeting time with the students. A blister formed on my right pinky toe. Lesson: band aids for dressier nights.
In exasperation of losing the Repubblica every time I tried to find it on my map, pinpointing it, then still losing what I thought was the actual route, I gave up on my independent nature and called Antonio, our very gracious and cheerful host from the AEF. As I stood in yet another beautiful piazza, I blurted out my dilemma to him on the phone, to which he said, “We’ll wait for you in front of the carousel.” Carousel? Did you say carousel? There was one across the piazza from where I was standing! And there was Lauren McCord’s platinum head! I scurried across the piazza, and along with Antonio’s welcoming hug, my relief combined with the frustration and sleep deprivation to create a perfect storm behind my eyelids. I had to hold off on greeting the beautiful faces of my students or else bawl all over them, but once we were settled into the café for our aperitivo, I made my way around and greeted them accordingly.Lesson: Let it go.
After our dinner, my independence kicked in again, and I turned on my cellular and opened the map on my phone for my trek back to Santo Spirito. What was supposed to be a 23-minute walk on my phone map turned into more like 40, as the app zigzagged me around, across, and through Firenze’s old, narrow streets. By the time I reached my street and struggled with my keys again, I climbed the dark stone stairs up to my studio, half-crawled up the ladder to my loft, and slept.Lesson (review): get a much better map.
This morning as the divine bells of Santo Spirito nudged my spirit from my dreams, I realized: I’m in Italy. I went back to sleep and arose later to be welcomed by a cat in the window of my balcony neighbor. I made divine brew in the authentic Italian espresso maker,and had toast, jam, and a peach from my table facing the open windows of my neighbors, who like me, welcomed the cooling rain. Lesson: Bliss can happen after frustration.
My introverted independence urges me to stay inside all day, but I am heading out again.
Ciao from Italy!