I've been back from Italy for almost two weeks now. Bittersweet. Everytime I leave, I always know I'll be back, but always hope it's a bit sooner than later. And all my stories about this trip has made the urgency even greater...for both of us.
The experience overall was a much different one from my past times in Italy. Part of it was because of the reason I was there (to study yoga), part of it was my daily routine (mainly practicing at the studio and breaking to go out to eat), part was the unique group of people I met (mostly through the studio which is full of Italians, expats, and visitors), and part of it was the neighborhood in which I lived (the Oltrarno).
Piazza Signoria panoramic
I met more people, gained more new friends, felt more "at home" and part of a community in these short 5 weeks than I did the entire year we lived here before. Anytime we've talked about moving back to Italy, it hasn't really been with Florence in mind for the long-term...but this trip has made us reconsider. After having lived in the Oltrarno area, I know this is where we'd have to be in a return. So very close in proximity to the main tourist sites- just a few minutes walk over a bridge - but so far away in terms of the feeling of community that I felt.
It got to the point where almost every single outing I'd see someone I knew, or visit a restaurant or cafe where I could count on seeing a few familiar faces. Even bumping into people on the street became common...but only when I was on the Oltrarno side of the city. One morning I crossed over the bridge to the main section of town to meet someone for coffee. I was walking back and was excited to get back to the neighborhood...and just as (literally) my foot stepped onto the bridge I heard my name as someone I knew was walking towards me asking me why I was still in town (as originally I'd planned to leave the day before but stayed in Florence for a few more days until I had to fly back home).
One of the things I loved was the schedule shift...everything is a bit later there. Getting up. Going to bed. Meals. Most days I'd have dinner out after the final class at the studio and not even make it to the restaurant until about 10:30. There's just something about that pace that suits me so well.
I haven't even begun to talk about the yoga part of the experience - which was huge. So that will be coming. As will the recap of a couple trips to Rome!