It’s a strange thing to make a home for yourself in someone else’s space. My current apartment is actually owned by two Italian grandparents that spend their summers living in Florence, and due to their impending return, it’s time for me to find somewhere else to sleep. My new apartment is in a quieter, more residential neighborhood. It’s gorgeous and spacious and full of light, with a big kitchen and a terrace. Assuming everything goes as planned, I’ll stay there until my time in Florence comes to an end. That being said, I think I’m going to miss my current home.
Every apartment has a history, but the longer you live somewhere, the easier it is to forget that others have made a life for themselves in that space as well. However, seeing that my home is full of objects and mementos that belong to strangers, it’s impossible not to wonder about those that were here before me. We’ve never met and we probably never will, but we share a deep intimacy by virtue of our homes intermingling. Almost every worldly possession I care about is in this apartment, and yet I wake up every morning to a house filled with the personal effects of someone I do not know.I always feel their presence. I wonder if they will feel mine when I leave. During these three months, my life has blended with theirs, albeit not quite seamlessly.
I’m a homebody, and I need a space that feels like my own. Though I’ve only been in this apartment for a few months, it’s come to mean something to me, maybe because it’s the first place in Italy that I’ve been able to feel some degree ownership towards. When I think about it, the way I've become intertwined in the lives of these strangers is similar to the relationship I have with Italy. I’m a guest in a place that I can't claim as my own, but this place has begun to inform a significant part of who I am. There's plenty I still don't recognize about it, but at this moment in time, Italy is my home.
The longer I live in this apartment, the more influence I bleed into quasi-home of mine. At the same time, bits of this new culture seep into both the objects I own and the life I am building. Some of my notes from class are in Italian, and my apartment is practically papered in worksheets and grammar booklets. If you look in my pantry, you’ll find American staples that I couldn’t leave behind (such as my morning oatmeal that’s become more of a ritual than a meal) sitting next to food items like farro and polenta. I hang my laundry to dry in my bathroom and I leave sticky notes of Italian translations on all my furniture, but I still cook with a microwave and a crockpot.
I guess this significance is the reason why I'm going to miss the little apartment on Lungarno delle Grazie (even though I'm thrilled to have a proper oven and a sink that fits more than one dish at a time). It’s funny the way the threads of experiences cross, sometimes without us even realizing. Mine have become entangled with this strange family's and with Italy as a whole. I sleep in a stranger’s bed in a strange country, but with a little time, both of these places have become more familiar.