Concise and Poignant Metaphors

“Il miglior souvenir di viaggio è un biglietto tranviario che una mattina, rivestendo un vecchio abito, troviamo in fondo al taschino del gilet, dove l’avevamo messo mesi prima, in una lontana città e poi avevamo dimenticato la sua esistenza. All’improvvisa scoperta, balza il cuore, quel pezzetto di carta è una metafora concisa e straziante.”

“The best souvenir of a trip is tram ticket that one morning, covering an old dress, we find at the bottom of the vest pocket, where we had put months earlier in a distant city, and then we had forgotten its existence. At the sudden discovery, the heart jumps, that little piece of paper is a concise and poignant metaphor.”

This passage is from Mario Soldati’s America primo amore, “America my first love.” Soldati was an Italian writer and film director who lived from 1906-1999. He rose to fame in 1929 with the publication of America primo amore, a diary transformed into a book that detailed his experiences living in America and teaching at Columbia University. Like myself, Soldati traveled across the globe to study in a foreign nation and immerse himself in a new culture.

Soldati moved to the United States in the 1920s following his graduation from the University of Turin. His immigration to America led him to New York where he landed a teaching position at the prestigious Columbia University. Unfortunately, however, Soldati was unable to obtain American citizenship and was forced to return to his home country in 1931. Though he left the United States, the memories of his time in the nation remained with Soldati forever. By penning America primo amore, the Italian author created a literary time capsule in which he could open and read to jumpstart all the memories of his days in America.

For me, this blog has been my attempt to do what Mario Soldati did with his famous diary. Through my writing, I hoped to document and share my experiences living the semester abroad in Italy and traveling throughout Europe. Over the past four months, I have visited so many incredible places: Athens, Barcelona, Bologna, Brussels, Chianti, Cinque Terre, Florence, Lucca, London, Paris, Rome, Santorini, Umbria. I have eaten more pasta than most people would probably prefer to consume in their lifetime, and I officially became an espresso convert with my daily cappuccino fixes. I also met so many great people and attempted to communicate in many languages that my tongue could not master.  With my posts, I have not only allowed others to live vicariously through my journeys, but I have also created a forum for me to continually return to so that I can relive all those moments abroad.

But as the quote at the beginning of this post indicates, Soldati recognized that the best memories come when least expected. They come when reaching into a coat pocket and pulling out an old bus ticket; or searching through a purse and discovering a business card from a favorite foreign restaurant; or looking at stain that never washed out and remembering the crazy night when laughing so hard and spilling wine on the shirt. These simple reminders, as Soldati described, are concise and poignant metaphors for the wonderful experiences of the past. Each invokes so many emotions and draws one’s mind back to the great times from weeks, months, or years before.

Having been home back in America for about four days, there are already parts of me yearning to go back to the land of pasta and vino. Yet, with my blog and my seemingly endless collection of bus tickets, brochures, business cards, and postcards, I can relive those experiences every day. And though I might be thousands of miles from my homestay in Florence, I will continue writing to share the concise and poignant metaphors of my attempts at adapting the Italian ways of life to my American lifestyle.


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