Looking out the window over the green countryside, I actually have to remind myself that I’m flying over Italy and not northwest New Jersey. The little houses are becoming bigger and bigger dots from underneath us, and it’s becoming more obvious as the seconds pass that we are not in the States anymore, not even close. Seeing Italy is a lot like seeing a movie star in person– they look different when they’re not on a screen, and it’s hard to imagine that any of it is even real.
Being here in itself doesn’t even feel real. Out of all of my trips, I have never been anywhere for three and a half months, making it longer than a vacation, less than living quarters. It’s hard to imagine being anywhere for such a long time; having to buy groceries, go to the gym, watch television. Along with this, I don’t feel like a vacationer. I feel like I am a part of a whole nother animal, a pack of students that seem to mob this city, a city that has more tourists annually than it has citizens.
When we arrive at our apartment, close enough to the Duomo I could spit on it, I see many families toting their one suitcase a person as I try to lug my two giant ones and a black backpack up the two flights of stairs as our cab driver speeds away. There is no elevator, but even though I have been traveling for about 13 hours, I am full of energy and speed.
Thankfully, our landlord, Francesco, opens the door just in the knick of time and and finagles the door with the gold skeleton-looking key he totes. He opens the double doors and my roommate and I see the looming hallway, and then we open our room to see two twin beds with headboards, two giant closets, our own private bathroom, and a great garden window that overlooks the Duomo. I thought that was basically all of the apartment, but when we walk around, we see the place is huge- huge even for five girls. By no means is the place catagorized as nice by American standards, but for once, the cracks in the walls and the lopsided chandeliers and old curtains seem romantic, not dingy. When we see many of the other apartments, though, we see that we really lucked out.
This city feels impossible to navigate, making something overwhelming feel that much more. Unlike many other big cities, nothing is organized into neat little squares, and to an ignorant American, all of these buildings look the same to me. I constantly have a map under my nose yet it seems to take me nowhere.
Since we haven’t made it to the market yet, it’s for the best that our school has paid for a dinner at Acqua al 2, where our group of about 20 is served five different kinds of pasta, a chicken salad, and four desserts each. By 9, the place is packed and people are laughing and swigging glasses everywhere, although most people in our group can barely hold their heads up over their wine glasses. I fall asleep that night to the light of the Duomo of the chatter of tourists roaming the streets in a matter of seconds.