I’ve just come back from a three day trip to Paris where I met up with some of my dearest friends from home on a leg of their vacation. The city is magnificent and striking in the most charming of ways, with the richest foods and sweetest treats on every corner. Although I’ve been to Paris before, my experience this time was different in many ways. Namely, to explore a beautiful and historic city with friends is an adventure in itself. Together we saw the sights, shared food and wine (and much of it), and recounted old memories while making new ones. Under any circumstance this is a gift to behold, made all the more special by the fact that this trip was a reunion of sorts for us. Words can’t amply express the sense of ease and happiness I felt in seeing such close friends – the kind of friends that can make you feel at home in even the most foreign of places just by being there – after having been away from all things familiar for some time now.
So with my friends at my side in this unfamiliar city, I felt at once completely comfortable and simultaneously utterly far from home. To feel so much like a foreigner in Paris made me feel all the more connected to Florence. Knowing only the most basic phrases of the language is a challenge that sets you in a peculiar frame of mind – one in which you feel less confident and self-assured in doing even the most menial of tasks. Not knowing the layout of the city and the ways to best get around is yet another hurdle – exciting in some ways as you don’t fully know what you might happen upon at any given moment, but frustrating and worrisome in others.
Experiencing Paris as a tourist made me think about how far I’ve come in my short time in Florence – how well I know the winding city streets, the groaning local buses that squeeze through the tiniest of passageways with grace, the best and most tourist-free shortcuts to take; where to eat, what to order, and how to order it. There are people here that know my name, fruttivendoli that smile when they see me approaching, offering up fresh cut slices of perfectly sweet blood oranges, salumieri handing me crudely torn pieces of schiacciata smeared with fresh cheese made just for me. These are the things that touch my heart and make me feel at home in Florence.
So as the plane was landing in Pisa, I was overcome with the immense feeling of being home. I constantly thank my lucky stars for the opportunity to be here in the first place, but upon my return to Florence I felt that gratitude ten-fold. I’m so glad that I left the city for this reason – not mention for the many other more obvious reasons (twice daily croissants, anyone?). As of late I’ve been feeling the pressure of the fast-approaching end of this trip, which I feel as if I’m barreling towards at lightning speed. I look at my “to-do” list each night – cities I’ve yet to visit, restaurants I’ve yet to try, sights I’ve yet to see – and feel the gut-wrenching sensation of panic and worry. I often struggle giving myself credit where credit is due – chalk it up to my Virgo tendencies, always striving for perfection and rejecting anything short of it. But to fret over what I haven’t yet done is silly and superfluous – I can instead celebrate the things I’ve accomplished and the way in which those things have affected me.
At this point the near future is still a bit of a question mark. But the worries I have regarding the future are for another day, or perhaps they needn’t be worries at all. I’m happy now to be back in my city, knowing that I will make the most of what I’ve already done, and will look forward to what I have yet to do. And know that I say “my” city not in the proprietary sense of the word, because it’s here for everyone and means something different to each person. Florence is my city in the sense that it lives in my heart, always. After this short excursion, and surely after longer and more enduring digressions in the future, I will always return to Florence with a strong sense of confidence and a bolstered feeling of home.