Of course I wanted to fall in love in Italy. Preferably under the moonlight, over some pasta, give me all the cliches, I welcome them. Have I found romance? There have been a few serious incidents of eye contact, so if love at first sight is real, I better not tell you about my past. Truly though, I could be optimistic and say there’s still time, but I’m not sure I’m the one in control of that.
I came here with a tiny but powerful agenda: fall madly in love. It’s embarrassing to write down that this romantic stereotype put a spell on me, but I semi secretly hoped for a stallion, though I made no effort.
I came with a handful of other plans too: see the Vatican and Coliseum the same day (didn’t happen), spend a weekend at a beach in Sicily first so I could keep a tan (didn’t happen), and visiting Cinque Terre by train (success).
I spent a lot of time delicately planning out every moment, fearing that I wouldn’t get the most of my
time. And I did soothe my FOMO (fear of missing out) and see those places, just at a different pace. Cinque Terre, for example, ended in disaster- at least that’s how it seemed at the time. Who would have thought that when we missed the train back home at 3 p.m. there wouldn’t be any other trains for eleven more hours. No plan, no hotel, but with all of our bags and a little bit of optimism. We did get more time in the five cliff-side cities. We got a taste of overnight train life with strangers, and met three sweet girls studying abroad from Mexico. The five of us stayed together for hours since the station at midnight is no place to rest your head, and I got pooped on by a pigeon. I was only upset until I found out this is good luck in odd numbers.
When I went to visit Rome I wasn’t sure how to even go about it. I’m fairly certain I got ripped off by the man who sold me a “front of the line” ticket to the Vatican Museum. I knew nothing about where to start, or if I would reach the coliseum after, but not surprisingly someone was just as lacking in planning as I. On the overpriced tour I met Samir. I liked Samir, i spent the tour with Samir, had lunch with him and got in a cab with him. I spent the rest of my evening “Rome-ing” with a complete stranger, talking over drinks about how he started his career in Bollywood (yes, halfway through the tour a a family informed me he’s well known in India) and how not famous I am. It was very much like a movie, a spontaneous day in Rome spent with an actor during which I tried very hard to keep my cool. He’d be silly not to add me on whatsapp, so we keep in touch when I have time to reply. But in all seriousness, I needed to hear his success story, and I like to think he needed the relief of being with someone who knew him as just a guy on a tour, even if I was semi going fan girl inside. It was no Lizzie McGuire ending, I only saw him one day, so no, this was not my Italian romance happening. It was however, a day made good by the element of surprise.
I always kind of knew the moon had a lot to do with Italian romance, and living under it for months I caught glimpses of it. One particular night, on a trip through the countryside and along the coast, I saw la luna for all I think it should be. A group of us road tripped through Tuscany, and on the way back found a restaurant tucked in a hill just in front of the ocean. We saw the light on and stopped for dinner; I let the Mosquitos eat me alive, I wanted to sit outside. I had just asked my Italian friend, Martina, why the moon was such a big deal, in so many songs for years and years. She said because it’s romantic, because love. It truly shinned distinctly, brighter maybe. The light takes over the sky, reflects on the dark water but you feel warm air. I saw why I and so many others dream of finding someone here, I saw the cliche, but the timing was nothing short of surprise. I was stopped and let myself be amazed by the moon, la luna, not expecting it to take up all the space in my sight, and not thinking of it then as another time I didn’t plan anything. I’m familiar with the comfort of dictating what will happen next, or at least believing I do. But making strangers into friends and stumbling upon the best view of the moon in a tiny town comes with living a life less calculated. Enough times something completely unpredictable rears the biggest, shiniest, reward, and letting your plan be interrupted by the wildly beautiful puts into perspective that though you may not have thought of it, everything, including love, has its timing.
*Student USAC (University Studies Abroad Consortium)