I’m in Italy! It’s happened! The transformation into Liz Gilbert is almost complete! Mwahahaha
Okay, so it’s not my intention to actually take over Liz Gilbert’s life. In fact, when I started my blog and created my title to mimic Eat, Pray, Love, I never imagined I’d follow Liz Gilbert’s literal footsteps around the world. But it occurred to me on the flight from Germany to Italy that this is the second country I’ve visited that’s been inspired by her book (first Indonesia, to Bali, where I met Ketut, and now Italy, to attend a wedding, and to eat), and it wouldn’t surprise me if in two years from now, I’m writing a blog from India.
UNLIKE Liz, however, I came to Italy with no knowledge of the Italian language. The day before I left for Europe, Nikitas, my multi-lingual friend, gave me some Italian words and phrases that might be useful:
“Dove il bagno?”
“Mi chiamo Jenny.”
“Mi piace il cibo.”
“Where’s the bathroom?”
“My name is Jenny.”
“I like food.”
“I am crazy.”
But as is common in any foreign country, the minute someone says something to me that merits a response, my brain goes into panic mode and defaults to Spanish (which is odd because I don’t know Spanish). My first time in Germany, when someone asked me what was so funny, I said “Nada.” In France, when someone asked if I wanted my food to-go, I said “Si.” But here in Italy, where the Spanish and Italian are at least somewhat similar, I’ve been speaking in German.*
*Last night during dinner, when they brought out the main course, I said, “Wünderbar.”
Clearly, foreign language is not my gift.
However, I’m proud of myself for making it here alone. When I found out I’d be traveling to Italy solo, I nearly stepped into traffic. I was both terrified and sad. I had been looking forward to visiting with my friend Lauren, especially because we are kindred food spirits. I imagined eating by myself in a small Italian restaurant, with no one to toast magnificent wine with or share multiple-course meals with or to take pictures of food with or squeal over dessert with, and it depressed me as much as Dumbledore’s death.**
**on a scale of one to depressed, it’s a 9.5.
In addition, I have an unjustified, intense fear of public transportation in foreign cities, particularly if I don’t speak the language. I need someone to pick me up from the airport or train station or bus stop lest I start hyperventilating and have a breakdown. (This is true even for, say, New York City.) The person who picks me up could be a stranger (one that my mom would fear is an undercover serial killer)–I don’t mind that–but I need the assurance that I won’t be left stranded and scared.
In this case, I had the B&B owner pick me up from the airport, a cute Filipino guy holding a sign with my name on it. I’ve had couch surfer hosts pick me up and escort me around, I learned the train system by traveling to Venice with my New Zealand friend who’s back in Munich, and now that I’ve gotten the hang of it, I can venture out semi-alone.
So far it’s been wonderful—so many kind people in this world! And Italy is amazing. The people are friendly, the cities are beautiful: I fell in love with Italy on my first day. [They had me at Bon jour.***] Every four steps in the city center of Treviso I stopped to take pictures. My new couch-surfing friend must have thought I was insane. (You know that’s just a windowsill, right?) The frescos and the flowers hanging on every balcony and the white walls and narrow alleyways make me feel like I’m walking through a painting.
***I’m kidding. I know it’s Buenos dias.(Fine. Buon giorno! said with hand motions)
My next blog will have a lot more photos, fear not!
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this anecdote.
I mentioned in my Scotland blog that on my quest to find a Scottish husband, I was attacked in the face (and ankles and right hand) by midgies, which are mosquito-like insects on steroids. They bite for no other reason than pure evil, and their marks are huge and take weeks to disappear. It’s hard to find a husband when you look like the elephant woman.
So, my back-up plan was Italy. The home of Casanova. Sure, the guys might be overly flirtatious, but they’re dark and handsome and hey, my friend is marrying an Italian and he’s wonderful.
Well, the universe thwarted my plan yet again. The night I arrived in Italy, I contracted an eye infection and I woke up looking like I’d been hotboxing for hours. I’m forced to wear glasses for the next few days.
Behold the dorkiness: