Jaycee Grider: Living in Viterbo has been the greatest experience of my entire life

di Jaycee Grider*

Living in Viterbo has been the greatest experience of my entire life. It has been a pleasure to live in a small city. I loved every bit of the community, and I enjoyed seeing the same faces everyday as I melted into the livelihood of Viterbo as I made friends and acquaintances. There is passion here. There is light. And the people who stay true to Viterbo know this. I am sad to leave but it’s not forever. I’ll be back as soon as possible. 

The end of a beginning.

Three days left.

I am scared that this will all feel like a distant dream. I struggle with reality enough as it is. I cannot shake the feeling that when I go home,  this will all fade into an unrealistic narrative that I made up in my head. Before moving to Viterbo, I felt as if I lived in deja vu. I was not certain of my being and my reality became too predictable. Italy pinched me awake. This is real. I am real. This happened. 

ays are numbered and I am searching for peace in my departure. Each time I spend time with my friends, I find myself disconnecting for a moment. My face takes on a soft smile as I observe these people I have spent the last four months of my life with. I love them. So much. I want to remember them clearly. While I am away I want to hear Lorenzo’s snort when I think about his goofy laugh. I’ll remember Leo’s not so great singing skills and out of beat clapping; Haley’s loud voice, which is always a joy to enter into any conversation; Adam’s crazy curly head and his crazy noises that annoy me but it’s apart of who he is. Alberto’s brown eyes twinkling as he jokes with you and how he and Lorenzo would always sing Identikit together (my favorite Italian song). Each of their dance moves, are especially unique to them. I am going to miss this. The last few nights, my mind has been muddled with worries. What if I don’t say my proper goodbyes to everyone? What if I leave here with the itch of knowing I didn’t speak my mind? I want to make peace with my time here. I want to leave with the feeling that this isn’t the end. The door needs to stay open just a bit because even the thought of being locked out has me ready to break down.

 I fell very much in love with Italy. She took me in her arms and swayed me to sleep. She fed me, bathed me, she made me laugh and cry with both carefreeness and sorrow. No, it wasn’t a blissfully perfect love. I took on a few new bruises and scars. My arm still hurts from when I fell in Napoli in October. My heart still hurts from time to time, naturally. But I felt weightless here. I felt at home. I love you Viterbo, and all of your mysteries, your people, your food, your light and laughter. I love your cobblestone roads, cafes and bars and I love all the sounds of vespas and cars. I. Love. VT.

It feels as though my life here is flashing before my eyes. My mind is reliving all the times we soaked in the hot springs of Piscine Carletti, or when we cooked dinner together at Adam’s apartment. Or how we always took too many shots at Due Righe and we all stumbled the streets together, leaving screams of songs and obnoxious laughter in our wake. We were the music lovers. The guitars and keyboards and voices became out past time. We sang as we walked, as we talked. I am certain that I have never created so many inside jokes with people in my entire life. I want this laughter to stay with me forever. 

Am I excited to return to Nevada? I’m not completely sure. I would say I am excited for specific things. When I see my mom, I can see myself running into her arms. I missed her embrace. When I walk into my house, my dogs will go crazy. I’m excited to give them all my loves. I’ll probably go back to my old job at the spa. Classes will start up again. I’ll see my friends from time to time. Slowly but surely, I will melt back into the very reality I ran away from.

Lorenzo and I sat on the steps of a church near my apartment for maybe 20 minutes. Everyone else had turned in for the night. We talked about his plans for the next day, how busy he would be with work and various errands. I listened to him talk about his job and such. I loved listening to his life. I loved collecting pieces of my friends existence in my memory. I romanticize all the things that make up a person. I will always apply too much meaning. He fiddles with his e-cigarette. He taps his toes and shakes his leg. Lorenzo lives in fast-paced rhythm. A smirk rests on his lips.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” 

I’m trying to remember everything. 

I’ve told Alby and Leo on multiple occasions about how I plan on returning to Viterbo. Almost every time they respond with “That’s what they all say.” Leo’s response changed the last time I said this to him though. He and I were walking towards my apartment from Due Righe. The sounds of our shoes echoed throughout the alleyway. “You know I don’t trust many people,” he said, “but you’re someone I can trust about that.” I gave him a pout, honored and flattered that he knew I wasn’t one of those people who disappears. I created lifelong friends here. There’s no doubt in my mind I’ll be back some day. 

I’m getting closer to understanding light. There’s something special about the way the light touches the buildings in Viterbo, and Italy in general. I have become particularly attached to a building near San Sisto. It’s a bright yellow, but not too bright, far from overbearing. I find myself avoiding the street it sits on just so I can savor the sight that much more when I do decide to walk that way. To think I ever told people I didn’t like yellow and orange just a few years prior. The ignorance I was capable of by rejecting any colors. Now that the cold has come, I savor the bits of sunlight that we do get. I’ll stand in the rays when they find their way through the gaps of the buildings or in the piazzas. I stay there for an odd number of minutes with my eyes closed. Breathing. Listening. I have to feel warm when I can. I have nothing against the cold but I miss the summer days regardless. I savor the day my friends and I lounged on the beach and how the sunlight covered our bodies. How the sunrays sneak through the windows in my living room. Italy gifted me the sun, and I am eager to beam wherever I go. 

I ran into Lorenzo the other day. We both had been out for a walk and had spontaneously walked into the same store; I before him. He tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around into his open arms. Since being here, anytime we say hello or have to say goodbye, we hug. But I hold on longer and he squeezes me tighter because we both know we need a great mighty hug from one another. I hope our last big hug fills us up enough. 

“I can tell you’re happy here.”

It’s true. Please don’t make me leave.

(Scritto il 20-12-2019- Il 23-12-2019 il ritorno nel Nevada)



*The author
My name is Jaycee Grider and I am from Reno, Nevada, USA. I study journalism back in the states at my local school: the University of Nevada, Reno. For the next three months, I will be living here in Viterbo as an exchange student and I’ll be traveling around Italy as well as surrounding countries. Thus far my travel abroad experience has been wonderful. Viterbo already has a very special place in my heart.
23 December departure from Viterbo and return home to Nevada

Mi chiamo Jaycee Grider e vengo da Reno, Nevada, USA. Studio giornalismo negli Stati Uniti presso l’Università del Nevada, Reno. Per i prossimi tre mesi, vivrò qui a Viterbo come studente di scambio e viaggerò in Italia e nei paesi circostanti. Finora la mia esperienza di viaggio all’estero è stata meravigliosa. Viterbo ha già un posto molto speciale nel mio cuore. Il 23 Dicembre partenza da Viterbo e ritorno a casa in Nevada.