LIVING LIKE A LOCAL ON VACATION?
Before we moved to Italy all I wanted to do when in Italy was nest. I wanted to rent an apartment where I could cook, shop at the local markets, hang out at the piazza, stop for gelato on the way home from a visit to the bakery, or post office, or whatever. Yes, I was playing house - something I rarely, if ever, did as a child!
Now, after having lived in Italy for nearly 7 years, and after being back in the United States for nearly 2 years, I'm planning our next trip to Italy and it's downright confusing. Italy still feels like home in so many ways. I can find my way around the grocery store, know where the best farmer's markets are and have learned the backroads - well, most of them, anyway. We have friends in Italy, people with whom we can have lunch, dinner, or spend the entire day with because no one has anywhere to be at any particular time. La dolce da fare niente. The sweetness of doing nothing.
When we visited Italy in September 2010 it was our 'grand' tour - our first chance to visit so many of the places we'd wanted to visit when we lived in Italy. When we sold our house we put aside a certain amount of the money just for this purpose, and we enjoyed every minute of our time in Liguria, Piemonte, Emiglia Romagna, Puglia, and of course, Umbria. For the most part we stayed in apartments for a week at a time, allowing us to once again settle in, but still, moving once a week is time-consuming, and there's always something you meant to see or do that never happened for one reason or another.
Now we're planning to visit Italy in September of this year, and once again I'm hearing the phrase 'you can never go home again' rattling around in my brain. With our time in Italy now limited to a few weeks it's such a struggle to decide if we'll travel around Italy, or if we'll nest.
Nesting is made more difficult if we stay with friends, simply because we can't cook and entertain as we would in our own home. Even renting an apartment for several weeks is challenging, given that most holiday accomodations are small, and the kitchens are neither equipped for serious cooking nor for large groups. And then there's the desire to see more, to do more - I didn't mind sitting at home when I lived in Umbria, but when I'm there on vacation I want to see and do as much as possible!
It's been a few years since we've spent time in Rome and Florence, so I think we'll take some time to enjoy each of these cities during our fall visit. Granted, I won't be able to cook, but at least I'll get to see familiar sites as an old friend. The Mercato Centrale in Florence will be particularly challenging since I won't be able to buy many fresh fruits and veggies, but I'm betting I'll find a way to enjoy some seasonal goodies. Hopefully during our time in Umbria we'll find a kitchen to use for a quick plate of pasta, and if not, finding a porchetta truck works just as well.
Going "home" as a tourist is strange - challenging and confusing, and at times even sad, but I'm determined to do my best to make the most of every moment.