About a week and a day ago, I arrived in the gorgeously quaint Italian city of Bologna.
It's bustling with student life everywhere you turn, old Italian men lounge outside of cafes in the middle of the afternoon, complete with their cigarettes and wine and tourists flog the streets with maps and gelato ( a must have).
On the first day, I was simply exhausted from a long day of traveling, with a 3 hour lay over in Rome, carting my huge heavy suitcases. I arrived near 7 pm in Bologna and then caught a bus with my roommate, back to Via Stalingrado, which will house me for the next year. Then, after a shower, they suggested "we go out". A few minutes past nine, we set out to explore the town. The busy night life is nothing compared to what I'm told will be when all the students arrive. Young people scantily clad pass us in packs, heading to bars or clubs for the monday evening. Others just sit around, enjoying a late dinner in the Greek restaurants or authentic Italian ones as well. We meet up with a group of people, walking around the city, exploring and walking for what seems like hours. We find the main Piazza and many attractions and I think to myself how I'll never be able to return since It's nearing eleven pm and I am simply too exhausted to follow the street names. At half past eleven,we all lament and complain that we are exhausted, our feet are killing us and we trek back a near half hour walk to reach home.
I've never slept so well as that night.
The second day, I accompanied my roommate to her mother's house for a home cooked lunch ( not Italian, I'll confess but more German and Persian, since that is her origin) and enjoyed the day with my roommate and her mother, not exploring the city.
That night we attended a function pertaining to our faith ( Baha'i) and I was able to revel at the sheer grandiosity of the fact that there really are Baha'is everywhere. Like minded people who share the same thoughts and values, even if not the same language. I practiced some italian, communicating with maybe 5 of the 20 people in the room and felt welcomed home, but still in too much disbelief.
Over the next few days, I explored near our house, buying the necessary things, pasta, cheese, an adaptor, a light bulb and other things. I cooked my own pasta, adorned with cheese and fresh vegetables and took a few days to relax.
Following that, I got lost in the city. In truth I was exploring and finding my way by myself. I took in the city, traveling through the packed market with 5E shoes and blankets, leather coats for 20 and assorted jewelry .past countless pizzerias, sandwiched by stores like Zara or HM which don't seem to fit the beautiful archaic buildings that house the commercial enterprises. On one of these such days, I finally adventured over to the University, snapping a thousand photos of the busts of Dante and Nicholas Copernicus near a class room. I met with my advisor for exchange and asked those burning questions, but one no one can answer, and it goes something like:
"What have I done to deserve such good fortune? How am I ALLOWED to be in Italy right now?"
Most days are spent exploring, getting lost in the city while consuming vast amounts of gelato and ignoring the comments of "CHE BELLA" that are yelled. The city was surrounded by a wall in ancient times. Now just the portals remain, used by locals for meeting places or in explanations of directions.
I explore the town myself, walking almost 3 hours a day and return in the evening to relax, enjoy a home made pasta meal and to regain my strength, for the next day of exploring, bartering in the markets, snapping embarrassing tourist photos of the grand building and their perfect balconies or simply of the things that I find so amusingly different from my usual realm of life.
I go to sleep with a smile ( an exhausted smile) on my face every night and wake up to the sound of cars and Italians yelling to each other over balconies while they go for their morning coffee and cigarette.
The little things don't bother me here. A loss of direction, a thunder storm or a late bus- things that would annoy me anywhere else are bypassed quickly with a smile and an exclamation, usually:
It's fine, I'M IN ITALY.