I have been part of my fair share of love stories.
That’s because I love deeply. From boyfriends, to falling in love with buildings and words. But although I love deeply, I don’t love quickly. I am a Pandora's box of discernment and intrigue. All of my love stories begin with hurdles as their pre-requisites Just ask my best friends how we became best friends…. (I didn’t profess my love to Chloe till 5 years after knowing her. I literally slept on a 3 hour car ride with Hayley because I didn't want to sing along to her music when we were 15, and Bradley and I became best friends after sitting in a Panera bread with our moms and not saying one word to each other).
My love story with Florence (Firenze) is no different. It’s supposed to be perfect all the time, right?
Living in the place where culture seeps from the brick and mortar, where food is fresh and delicious, where you have to climb up eight flights of stairs to your class. You’re supposed to fall in love the moment your feet land on the cobblestone. I was supposed to fall in love.
But like every great love story … I didn’t fall in love right away. I was annoyed.
The “fresh food” was pasta and bread…. All. The. Time. …Everywhere. I hate pasta and bread.
Coconut oil? Almond butter? Soy milk? Green vegetable powder? Gluten free bread? SIKE! I had to go on excursions to find these staples in my life…. to then have to pay an arm and a leg for them.
The streets were cold and rainy always. Alleys are dark, and I wasn’t sure if I could trust Firenze.
I would set out on morning adventures to find gorgeous hills and architecture, to taste fresh baked Cornettos from the Mom and Pop Bakery. Instead, I would find old pastries and another statue of the David to add to the collection. I was disillusioned by Firenze.
I was panicking because our relationship seemed to be struggling, and perfect matches don’t struggle right?! So I would make rash and quick choices, peer pressured by everyone else’s relationships with Firenze. Choices like getting a sandwich (ok like 5) that I absolutely hated, or doing things everyone else seemed to truly enjoy.
But just like in any great love story, this one is personal, unique, and most importantly, you give. I had to give.
I was expecting Firenze to shower me with all it had, while forgetting I had a lot inside me too.
I had to choose who I was going to be in our relationship. I had to choose Valentina for this relationship to work. That meant eating what I wanted from the store I wanted, not conforming to what I “should” do because I’m abroad. That meant sitting, waiting, wishing in the middle of the streets without the apprehension and fear that I would miss out, comparing myself to others love stories.
And then one day…I chose to take another route to class. Because I knew that route would get me there. Because I knew the streets. Because I figured out my favorite coffee bar was not the most popular one, but the shack next to class that also doubles as a tabachi. Because the first month of a relationship you fight, and figure out who you both are and who you both need to be for all of it to work.
Some days I wake up early and make myself a Moka, and go to the Mercato Centrale and buy fresh veggies, and come back home to make a goat cheese omelet and just open the windows and spend the day at home.
Other days, I take a walk to Piazza Michelangelo and walk through the gardens, and listen to Dear Prudence by The Beatles, pretending it is Firenze’s love song to me.
Slowly, I’m choosing me; and Firenze is showing me the best parts of her.
I think I’m falling in love.