Today marks 2 years to the day that Stefan and I landed in Italy (June 26, 2013) eager to explore a new language, culture and country. We had taken off from the U.S. vowing that if it didn’t suck, we would stay a year. After 2 weeks of non-stop unpacking and organizing back in 2013, we prepared to greet our kids, Zoel and Leeloo (10 and 6 years old at the time), who were transported across the ocean to their new home by dear friends. One of the main reasons we had made the transatlantic move was to give these buggers a “foreign-soiled experience” before they got too old, and possibly too opinionated, to follow our lead to a new country. Their adjustment in the next few months would weight heavily upon the decision to stay or return.
Despite having been very happy and comfortable in our home back in New York’s beautiful Hudson Valley, the two of them not only embraced their new farmhouse, but everything about this adventure, learning Italian quickly, making good friends, and seamlessly adapting to a new school and new activities that happened in a completely different cultural context. It took no time at all to realize that, for all four of us, one year in Italy would be too short, and that another year would definitely be required to fully get to know our adopted town – historic, food-crazed, arch-filled, mind-numbingly inefficient, beautifully-centric, graffiti-ladened, not-too-big-not-too-small, culture-rich, mild-weathered Bologna.
June is a particularly bewitching month in which to find yourself living in this city located in central northern Italy. The sun warms up quickly after March, and the sky goes a vivid blue, so that by now, it truly feels like summer. The warm breezes that constantly flow through the archways of the historical center fool your senses into thinking that a glistening sea must lie right around the next corner. The hills surrounding the city and the cleverly landscaped center are spilling over with green and multi-colored blossoms whose sweet scent is present no matter where you’re walking. Smiles are wide and welcoming on the streets and in the markets. Bongiorno! and Salve! slide a little easier off the tongue as the Bolognese slip into a friendlier, lazier summer mode. In a month, half the city’s shops and cafes will have closed, and the citizens will have abandoned the town for the nearby Adriatic coast. But right now, the piazzas are buzzing and the sidewalk cafes are packed for aperitivo by 5pm, and as I run around doing my errands, enjoying the Italian pop tunes that flow into the strada, I can’t help but wonder who imposed a 2-year time period on this Italian life anyway?! Why the hell would anyone leave? (Sorry mom!)
Another delightfully unexpected benefit of being here, has been getting to know a life-loving group of international families that have made our French-Tunisian-Cuban-American foursome feel right at home, from the very start. We’ve had the privilege of getting to know them, hearing their stories, and learning about the diverse parts of the world from whence they have come. The fact that we all ended up here, in tiny Bologna, from so many far-flung places, at this very moment in time, and knowing, that for many of us, the time here is temporary, makes our impermanent union that much more special. I know that meeting them all is part of the reason the answer to “What do we do next?” became a little more complicated.
We’ve been asking ourselves… Are we finished with Italy? Do we go back to the States? Do we go to Spain or France, where we have roots? Or… do we re-visit a question that popped up back in New York years ago… Are we the kind of people who could pack a few suitcases and head out into the world, to explore, to learn, to discover, to taste and feel, yet more, for an entire year? After all, we now have friends in China, Australia and New Zealand to add to the list of friends and family in South America and Asia that we never get to see! Well, if you’ve arrived on this blog post, you already know how this family chat worked out. Once we let the idea really develop and started trying to come up with a list of places we’d each want to see, the cultures we wanted to explore and the history we wanted to understand better, the world started looking so full of opportunity, and just like the decision to move here, we crossed a point after which the momentum carried us swiftly to a point of departure. A new beginning.
So… we’re off to see the world!
Luckily for us, this means it’s not time to say a real goodbye to Bologna just yet. We can stick with the “until we see each other again” the Italians regularly employ. We’ll aim to see you back here, same farmhouse, same school, same wonderful group of friends in about 12 months, hopefully a bit wiser, and not too worn out or weary.