Since I finished studying in Italy nearly three years ago, I had longed to return. The landscape turned up in dreams, the food remained (sadly) unmatched, and the language lay in a forlorn, unused corner of my brain. So, when a good friend of mine moved to Rome for a year (fully-equipped with a free place to crash), I saved my money and jumped at the first opportunity for a two-week visit.
As my home base, I spent most of my time in Rome. It’s a city overflowing with history, architecture, and culture. Around seemingly every corner in the city center is a monument straight out of a textbook. Having a personal tour-guide with local connections, though, allowed me to see a side of the city outside of the tourist attractions: la Roma dei Romani (the Rome of the Romans, as one local described it). I visited centri sociali (social centers) with modern art and music, and unmarked restaurants free of the ever-present international tourist. I didn’t carry my camera with me nearly as much as I should have, but these are a few brief impressions from my time in Rome:
One of my biggest regrets from my first trip to Italy was that I never went to the south. Although plans to visit Sicily didn’t materialize, this time I did stay a few days in Naples. The typical line on the city is this: it’s dangerous, it’s dirty, and traffic is horrible. My experience: it’s no more dangerous than other cities, parts of the city could use a good cleaning, and traffic is horrible. That said, it’s still an incredibly interesting place, with the geography making for some stunning photos. The weather wasn’t quite right for a trip out to Ischia or Capri (islands off the the mainland), but it was perfect for a daytrip to the ruins of Pompeii.
And, finally, my last stop was Cortona. My first trip to Italy consisted of three very influential months in this place, and to say that the city “meant a lot” to me seems to be a bit of an understatement. I wasn’t quite sure how I would feel riding the bus up to the hilltop town. Would I be overwhelmed? Would I feel alienated after having been gone for so long?
As the bus pulled into Cortona’s Piazza Garibaldi, though, I felt serene. Calm. It was as if I had returned home after a long journey away. I spent my first evening walking the Tuscan streets, reacquainting myself with the sandy yellow houses and clay shingled roofs. A few days back in this city yielded some great photos, and put me in the perfect mindset to head back stateside.