My feet are firmly planted on the ground here in Europe, and here they will stay for the next two years. I had no idea human beings were capable of so many conflicting emotions at once until they all came crashing down on me in the security line at the Atlanta airport. I hope it goes without saying that the vast majority of those emotions are positive ones, namely excitement and gratefulness. That being said, there were a few not-so-happy feelings thrown in the mix for good measure, namely sadness over saying goodbye to the people in my life that are closest to me.
Thankfully the sadness went away after the first of my two flights. Now it’s nearly 11 Italian time, I haven’t actually slept in over 24 hours, and I am still absolutely wired with excitement (jet lag is a scary thing). I remember staring at the Duomo as my plane touched down and repeatedly reminding myself that I’m not on vacation- this is home now. As soon as I was in Florence, I felt completely in my element. There’s something empowering about navigating a city alone, especially in a foreign country, and knowing you are perfectly able to fend for yourself. Plus, Florence doesn’t feel so foreign on my third visit. I can get around the city center somewhat reasonably without a map, and I have full confidence in my ability to decipher the Italian train system.
Grad school begins in about two weeks, but until then, I’m on a little vacation. Croatia and Greece are the focal points of the agenda, but since I had to fly into Florence first, it felt fitting that I start off my Europe adventure with the town that made me fall in love with Italy in the first place. Yes, the Cinque Terre can be touristy (especially in the summertime), but Vernazza is still something special despite the ever-increasing crowds.
For all its quirky charm, Vernazza obviously isn’t as grand and awe-inducing as Rome or Florence. Here it’s the quieter moments that make the visit worthwhile, and this evening was full of them. It’s listening to Italian kids clamber over rocks in the harbor and watching teenage boys dive from nerve-wracking heights just to show off. It’s trying (and failing) to toss a clothespin into the window after a little old woman dropped it while hanging laundry. It’s sitting on a rock with a good book, a cup of gelato, or a glass of prosecco (preferably all three). It’s collecting sea glass on the beach and then spending your dinner people watching on the village’s main (and only) street. It’s watching the town’s residents come out for their passegiatta and getting a hug from your favorite local.
Tomorrow morning I’m hiking to Riomaggiore, and then it’s off to Rome for a bright and early flight to Dubrovnik the day after. Shockingly I’m still not tired, but sleep is probably a necessity right about now. There are lots more updates to come.