The end of the year always makes me reflect on my past. 2017 was a wonderful year for me. I learned a lot about myself. I moved to a new city, started a new job, travelled a lot, and met a ton of incredible people. And I can’t help but think, “Holy shiza! That was just ONE year.” This draft I rediscovered is from 2014. Almost four years ago now. Insane. I was a bit naive at this time in my life. It was my first time in Europe, I barely knew anything about Italy, I had never been away from my family without wi-fi for such a long time, and, frankly, I was incredibly immature. I did learn really valuable lessons that I should have included, but the following lessons are what stood out at the time…
1) Wine is fine all the time!
Italy is known for drinking wine with almost every meal…even in the monasteries.* Our group was delightfully surprised when we were dining in a monastery and they brought out the wine glasses. It might have been the best wine we had on our trip. It was very smooth.* Having a glass of wine with your meal makes it taste a thousand times better. Just keep it classy. Don’t be the drunkie at dinner.
2) Beware the tourist traps.
Between pasta, cannolis, pizza, and gelato, where could any of this turn bad? It sounds amazing. It looks amazing. Don’t be fooled by the cute little red and white tablecloths with food decorations hanging in the doorway and free flipping wi-fi. IT’S A TOURIST TRAP. The food will taste like chef Boyardee but worse. I tried a gnocchi ragu at one of the shams. It tasted like beef ravioli. Then I almost died choking because the flour stuck to my throat. Take the time to find a good restaurant. Read reviews, blogs, and guidebooks.
3) Don’t be a weirdo.
Standing in line for St. Peter’s basilica was a man who would not stop cooing at the pigeons. Just because you can sound like a bird, doesn’t mean you should do it for an hour. Maybe try leanring some history…you’re in Vatican City. Plenty to learn. Plenty to see.*
4) Water isn’t free.
In the states, water in restaurants is ALWAYS free. We tend to take that for granted. After a long day of nonstop walking, all you really need is a cool glass of water, but when you’d rather save money for souvenirs and travelling, water tends to get the boot. You learn to ration out the 2, 50 liter of water at every restaurant. If you really wanna know what hatred feels like, take that last sip of water without asking if anyone else wants it. You won’t believe the stink eye you receive.
5) Everyone has a dog.*
In the lobby of the airport there were at least 5 dogs, which I thought was a little much when I landed. The more we walked around the more dogs we saw. Every Italian seemed to have a little pooch on his arm. It was like a piece of jewelry they threw on before leaving the house.
6) Be independent. Wander alone.
Being alone anywhere makes you more alert. Being on your own in a new country where you don’t know the language or have wi-fi is a whole new ball game of being alone. But, sometimes being with people allows us to stay in our comfort zone. One of my best days in Rome was when I walked around the entire city completely by myself. I only got lost once and a man who didn’t speak any English came up to me to try to help. We both struggled with hand motions and many uhs to try to make sense of each other and get me in the right direction. If I’d been with my friends, I never would’ve had such a fun, challenging experience. It’s a good thing I had a map though.
7) Enjoy the simple, laughable encounters.
One morning, my friend and I stopped at a small cafe near the Pantheon before class. The waiter was a nice Italian man. He was awfully smiley as he served our espresso but we didn’t think anything of it. At the end of the meal he brought over the bill and a plate of strawberries. “Free for you, Miss.” How nice! I reached for the plate but before I could grab a bite, he snatched the plate away, wagged his finger and shook his head no. He then proceeded to feed me!? I died. It was hilarious. My friend and I couldn’t help ourselves. We nearly rolled onto the floor laughing. His face turned bright pink, he was so embarrassed!* It was one of the most random funny moments on our trip.
- My class had the opportunity to stay in a monastery in Tuscany. Thought it was haunted…but great hospitality!
- I was only 21 and clearly had no idea how to describe wine.
- This clearly really bothered me at the time, but I don’t remember it at all now. Funny stuff.
- Hadn’t been to many big cities where small dogs in stores and restaurants were common. I was fascinated.
- This was probably the weirdest moment of the whole two months. Looking back now, I can’t believe I included that in my lessons. Not really on topic, but still a great memory… I wish we had a video!