“Honey, That’s not an adventure, that’s an odyssey.” I remembered Ismael’s words as soon as I arrived in Bologna, Italia (right after spending the night at Madrid Barajas Airport). I had told him about that time I backpacked Ireland by myself without making hostel reservations because, “When I travel, who knows where I will want to go, and what I will end up doing! It is an adventure!” He insists I should always have a place where I can at least die at each night. 🙂
On this particular autumn night at Barajas Airport I was just one out of dozens of people lying on the floor (some of them tucked into their sleeping bags).
With a couple hours of actual sleep, I walked over to the information desk in Bologna. It dawned on me then that I had forgotten to review key Italian phrases in order to make it safely to my friend, Hannah, who was waiting for me in Parma. I managed to ask and understand which bus to take to Bologna Centrale, where I would take the train. I had no way of communicating with her…again…because “It’s an adventure…” -_- It was too late to make plans. I had to wing it, and pray. Hannah had given pretty detailed instructions of how to get to Parma…However, I quickly learned that instructions do not matter because there is hardly any concept of order or lines.
I safely hopped on the train to Parma for a one hour ride from Bologna Centrale. “Scusi, but dove the F* am I?” said the friendly voice in my head. “It’s an adventure…” replied an even friendlier voice.
I remembered my time in Ireland, when I was alone on a train going across the country. There is something about that specific moment that makes me realize I am in a land where no one that loves me knows exactly where I am, how to find me, how to contact me. A moment of feeling completely lost, unknown, undiscovered. It is rare to have moments like that in life. I was unreachable. This is the kind of alone that wraps you up in peace because you trust yourself…with yourself and your own life.
Reaching Parma was EPIC! I walked downstairs and immediately spotted Hannah’s Christina Aguilera circa 1999 blonde hair. Gorgeous as always. And perfectly dressed. We were theater majors in college, and bonded while rehearsing for the spring mainstage Dark of the Moon during my senior year. It was one of the best theater experiences I have ever had, and I made an everlasting friendship with her thanks to it. Since then, she has also lived in Greece and traveled around Europe. She has been living in Italy the past two years. It was moving to see each other there. I remember our conversations from years ago about traveling , and now we have achieved so much of what was once just a dream.
After our squealing and hugging reunion, we went for coffee…Though the adrenaline was keeping me quite alive. I was blown away by her beautiful Italian, despite her modesty. She sounds fabulous. We went to a delightful street market in the city center, and Hannah clearly went over the rules. “This is where parmesan comes from, so you will see that everywhere.” “If you go in and out of a store without a greeting they will hate you.” “Don’t stop for cars. You will really get run over. Just keep walking, always.” “They will judge you if you leave the store without buying something, but I don’t care. You have to look around. We gotta know our options.” The street market was so beautiful, and so authentic. That’s where I bought what is now my favorite sweater in the world!
I was in awe at all the beauty surrounding me. We had lunch at Le Malve Parma which was chic, and toasty (it was so cold outside!). I don’t remember the name of what I had…but with my lactose intolerance, I had to carefully choose each meal in this country. We sat down, and talked nonstop. One of the reasons I love Hannah is because she is a mixture of stereotypes. She has a Barbie doll voice, professional looking make up and blonde-BLONDE hair. She has black-suit-intelligence (I just made up that adjective) and a lawyer’s eloquence, PLUS she is incredibly talented (painting, sketching, writing/blogging, acting). All these qualities collide into something I like to call: MAGIC. She is one of a kind.
We had an important conversation regarding politics and terrorism, which was regularly paused by Hannah’s side comments of people walking outside: “I need that turtle neck in my life.” “Look at that man over there, Living The F*ing Life. Why aren’t you at work, sir?!” “Oh my God, look at this woman! She is so Italian…with the bangs and glasses. Did you see that?!”
After lunch she kept pushing me to get dessert, but I was so full already! “I don’t get it. I am not like that…” I said. “I didn’t come here for food,” I said. “I’m here to sight see…” I said…20 pounds of carbs later “I am eating way past the point of being full.”
“I am going to go all out with this menu.” “Screw it. I am here for four days only. Pasta please!” “People come here to eat. I get it.” “I will detox when I get home.” “I can’t leave without having tiramisu.” Oooh Italia. You make me go carpe diem.
Hannah and her boyfriend, Francesco live in a beautiful apartment with the Hannah touch everywhere. Her style is impeccable and unique to her eclectic personality. Catching up on 4 years without seeing each other, we talked and talked while eating candy…Actually, we only talked about boys ❤ because we’re in Europe…and because boys in Europe…
Then Francesco came home. Meeting him was like seeing a man walking out of a Vogue ad and entering the living room. I almost took a picture because he is clearly Italian, and so the house immediately felt like a tourist spot for me. But he was cooking dinner that night, so no time could be wasted! My wish for each and every one of you is that you will one day be invited into an Italian’s home, and that he/she cooks dinner, and that you eat more than you could ever imagine your stomach could handle. We had spaghetti alla carbonara and too much dessert.
I was in Italy. I was in Italy. I was in Italy. I wished it for so long. I studied Italian. I googled pictures. I watched movies. I stalked Hannah on Facebook. I went to bed thinking, “Woah. This is happening.”