Just another one of those “Europe changed my life” stories

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.

Heavens know I did not dress for the occasion. Thanks Francesco for helping me scale this fence, and also for speaking Italian with the park guide who caught us after we made it inside 🙏

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.

Probably with another 1,000 steps left in my way down into Positano

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?

24 turning 25, at Mount Vesuvius

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.

Could’ve really used that scooter ride offer at this moment after walking for about 2 hours

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.”

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