Thursday, November 2, 2006

This is the home stretch, literally. I'm somewhere over Halifax, and in a few hours, I'll be back in America blogging about my usual inane crap. First let me say that I have mixed feelings about the whole trip, but I'll still miss Italy and I'm looking forward to coming back. I have to come back, because I still didn't see The Last Supper or an opera at La Scala, there's Carnevale in Venice sometime in the spring, and I don't really understand why but I sort of want to visit the town where my grandparents grew up. I genuinely like my relatives, even my uncle who regimented touring Milan so much and I'd like to know more about them and what their lives are like. (I know that's selfish and a little condescending, so you don't have to tell me that, but I'm curious nevertheless.)

It bears saying that my language worries prior to this trip were groundless, and I even think it would've been nice in a way if the people in Venice and Florence didn't make it quite so easy for me to communicate in English. It's the guidebook and illustrated map that gave me away as a tourist, and the fact that I'm in Florence in the first place that let people know I'm an American.... except for all the Italians who kept asking me for directions for some reason. But, and again, I know this is condescending, especially coming from a relatively well-off American who spent the trip meeting folks from Kansas City, Phoenix, Colorado, and California, but I sort of wanted to dump my Fanwood/New York daily life for a couple of weeks and live someone else's.

My worries about traveling by myself also didn't manifest too much, except there'd probably be a few more pictures of me if I had a friend to take them. (Also if my neck didn't magically disappear whenever I'm being photographed.) I had read on the web, which is notoriously accurate, that Florence is a great city for solo travelers, with its artwork, cafes, and shops around every corner, but I don't think I'd go back without a friend or five. Sure, it would've been tough dragging a buddy through the Boboli Gardens and Piazza Michelangelo in a two-day period, but there are just too many hours here in between when the seniors' tour groups go back to the hotel and when the city quiets down to do it alone. Venice, with lights-out at around ten, caters more to travellers going it alone in my opinion.

I'm going to miss being able to drink outside, which has a certain charm, at least when it's wine and you don't have to hide behind a paper bag. The thing is, you know if they got rid of the open bottle laws here in America, the streets would be littered with assholes walking in the middle of the street doing shots of J├Ągermeister because we're a nation of uncivilized boors. Maybe. But at least we're a nation of uncivilized boors where they give you water for free in the restaurants and a can of Coca-Cola costs less than five dollars. I've developed a tolerance for bitter, burny beverages over the past two weeks — wine and espresso — partly because of the whole "when in Rome" (or "when in Venice") thing and largely because they're cheaper in Italy than the, uh, tap water I usually drink.

I'll also be missing the SmartCar back in America. I don't know how whoever makes them isn't selling these things in America, because I'd be the first person in line to buy one. (Maybe the second, after Ed Begley, Jr.) I drive a Honda Civic and maybe refuel it once a month or so, but I'll never be able to look at it again without a little disdain: why can't you be three feet long and run on natural gas? I'm never parallel parking you again! Besides, the beauty of a SmartCar is — in Italy, anyway — you can just park the damn thing wherever the hell you feel like it. Turin was like some sort of creative-parking contest, where one guy would have his FIAT on the sidewalk and then someone else would one-up him by parking right in the middle lane of traffic. One of these days, someone's gonna be driving to the grocery store and wind up parking right inside the store, by the frozen foods or something.

Did the trip change me or anything? We'll see. Once I'm back in New York, I feel like I can drop this whole lackadaisical European attitude and push my way to the front of the plane rather than waiting for all these people to get their carry-on luggage down from the overhead bins. I'll do that passive-aggressive New York thing, where I politely excuse myself as I gently or not-so-gently nudge people out of my way. The trick, of course, is to be aggressive enough to get them to move, so... we'll see.

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