Italy tastes like strawberry jam and fior di latte gelato. It smells like the sea with a tinge of cow manure, and a strong, consistent draft of sweaty cigarettes. On one beautiful, too-hot day, I hiked for four hours along the sparkling Amalfi coast. On another beautiful, too-hot day, I trespassed into a city park in Naples via climbing a fence with two jobless strangers.
Dmitry, I still have your SpaceNotes app on my phone. Francesco, I’m reminded of you every time I see a scooter on the street.
I remember seeing a word used to describe that feeling of forgetting everything about a trip right after you come home (although I can’t find it). But with Italy, I have this weird lingering attachment and affection for the place. Naver Dictionary says 미련(mi-ryeon) is my word.
I didn’t have a strong preference for lemon, but now I look for lemon in everything I consume. When I eat toast, I now crave the strawberry jam that come in plastic packets like I had in Pompei. I’m now convinced there’s no better gelato flavour than fior di latte, which was a winning choice after a breathy hike up Mount Vesuvius with another stranger.
Gabby, have you lost more toenails to difficult mountains?
When I travel to new cities, my eyes look for traces of Naples with its chaotic narrow alleyways and a coastline studded with Swarovski crystals. My body remembers anxiety around pickpockets, and the pain that comes with a hike down 2,000 stairs. Every now and then, the nostalgia for Italy seeps into my skin, more potent than my Vitamin C serum. And it tingles like regret.
I could’ve eaten more gelato. I could’ve gone job searching with Francesco and Dmitry. I could’ve stayed in touch with Gabby. I could’ve downed more cheap wine.
I should’ve loved the place even harder. But I didn’t. So now all I can do is look at my old pictures, and start every story with a pretentious “when I was in Italy.”