My first day somewhere other than Italy will be imprinted forever in my memory. While in October Italians were still sunbathing and sipping aperitivi, stepping off the plane at Heathrow Airport a cruel wind whipped at the freshly landed in London. It was the first in many episodes of culture shock, as living away from Florence has led to my feeling less Italian every time I come home.
My “Italian-ness” was glaringly obvious in my first few months studying in Oxford—language- and custom-wise it felt like landing on a different planet. Nobody kissed each other on the cheek, shops did not take afternoon breaks so that workers could digest their lunch, and people were far more reserved. It wasn’t just social differences that stood out. Studying Italian literature from an English perspective was not for me, so I thrust all of my energy into German studies instead.
ph. Marco Badiani
Coming back home used to be painful. Those around me didn’t understand: “You live in the birthplace of the Renaissance!” they’d cry, “You’re so ungrateful…” But they were unaware of one crucial thing: Florence hasn’t ever felt like home to me. Growing up in Puglia means my friends mostly hail from the south, the handful of Florentine pals having moved away or abroad. After a year working in Germany, which saw me take on a lot of solo travelling, it dawned on me how satisfying your own company can be—and instantly, I craved to relive that feeling in Florence. The city became my home at long last, even though it took a while—akin to reigniting a love affair after having only communicated with letters. Arriving at Santa Maria Novella station was filled with a bubble of anticipation, the excitement of the not-quite-unknown-yet-fully-undiscovered as my train pulled into the station and the familiar tannoy announcement echoed around the 1930s building.