After waking up Thursday morning at 4:30 to the sound of my alarm, I climbed out of bed for the final time in Italy. Outside my window everything was dark and eerily silent; only the occasional sound of car zooming by disturbed the silence of the morning. As I slowly lifted myself out of bed, the reality of what was to come began to sink in: in less than 24 hours I would be back in America.
With a reserved taxi soon to arrive that would whisk me to the airport, it became time to do my last-minute packing and leave the place I had called home for the past four months. Because of my early morning departure, my goodbyes had already been said, but nevertheless, it was still very difficult to leave behind the house keys I had held on to throughout the semester.
At around quarter past five, I heard a fainted honk outside the window; accompanied by the brilliance of the headlights, I knew it was time to say arrivederci. With two overly stuffed suitcases attempting not to bust from four months worth of memories, I left Flavia’s for the last time and headed for the airport.
Riding to the airport was one of those too short to remember moments in time. Sitting in the taxi, I silently wished the driver would get lost, miss a turn, be stuck in traffic-anything to prolong my stay in Italy and keep me from unbuckling my seatbelt. But of course, there were no problems; the ride was fleeting, and it was time to say farewell to Florence and to wish for my return.
Check-in, security, and gate waiting abruptly followed. Then, my 7:15 a.m. flight to Rome began boarding. The plane ride to Italy’s capital was another short journey, only an hour-long, and when the captain announced out arrival, it seemed like time had escaped me.
Arriving in Rome signaled the last leg of my four-month journey. I felt like a competitor on the Amazing Race fighting for the $1 million price; I was so close to the end, but yet a three-hour layover and a nine-hour flight stood between the finish line and me. In those twelve hours there was nothing to do but recount all the great memories of the past semester, or attempt to sleep to make time pass quicker.
Unfortunately for me, my body would not allow me to sleep. As I took my seat on my flight from Rome to Boston, I began to feel those emotions that Orson Welles attributed to plane rides: boredom and terror. Nine hours loomed ahead of me, and yet I did not know how I could keep myself occupied for such an extended period. Making matters worse, the tight space of the airplane and the less than pleasant aromas coming from the plane’s kitchen made sleeping nearly impossible. I felt trapped, overwhelmed, and anxious; there were equal parts of me begging to stay in Europe and continue my whirlwind adventures, and there was also another part of me eager to go home and wrap myself in the warm embrace of family. I was between a rock and a hard place.
And then with less than an hour left in one of the most uncomfortable and stressful flights of my life I watched as a young Italian girl passed me by. She stopped in the aisle and stood frozen while she stared out the window into a sea of blue and clouds. Because we had already begun our descent, the sight of some buildings could be seen amidst the puffy clouds of white. Upon seeing the scene, her face lit up with the most eager smile. As she grinned as wide as possible, her dad came to her side and pointed out the window with the same enthusiasm as his daughter. America, I heard him whisper, and then they stood together for a moment to take it all in.
Though they took their seats shortly afterwards, this image stayed with me throughout the rest of my journey. By watching the Italians, I remembered my arriving flights to Italy and the feeling of similar emotions as I looked out the window to see the Roman cityscape and the Tuscan countryside. The Italians enthusiasm for America was unabashedly just like mine when I arrived in January. I wanted to tell them to savor this moment because it in a blink of an eye, it would be just another memory in the past.
Living in Italy was an amazing experience. The culture, the food, the people, the language-I will miss it all. It was as if nothing had changed, as if life in the States had frozen while I was off exploring Florence, Rome, Paris, Athens, Barcelona, and Belgium. But then in had all really happened. All the postcards and souvenirs in my suitcase were physical proof of my travels, but while the postcards will fade and the souvenirs will be eaten or lost, my memories will always be with me.
When the seatbelt sign lighted in anticipation of our arrival, I glanced out the window to city the roofs of houses, the passing of cars on the highway, and the sloshing of waves in the sea. Finally, I was home.