My last official day in Florence was wonderful. I went for a run to the piazzale Michelangelo just one last time, visited my host parents again, and grabbed some Vivoli gelato. When I saw my host parents again, I knew nothing would ever change between us. I took off my shoes and went to watch TV with Medy and her friend Tina. Mauro put out bred and cold cuts on the table and told me I must be hungry and that I should take some fruit with me too, since I’m not eating like I used to in their house. The truth is, I think I’ll always feel right at home with them. It was as if neither time nor distance could touch the bond they’d formed with me. They also informed me that my final night in Florence there happened to be a huge festival that went all night long. It’s called Notte Bianco, the night before May Day, where everyone is dressed in white and there are concerts and food/liquor stands all over the city. That night, my dad and I had dinner at Mostodolce, Ali’s and my favourite burger joint with the incredible Martilina beer, with Christina. Later, we wandered around from band to band listening to opera, good American oldies, heavy Italian metal, and italian indie bands. We stopped by the Santa Trinita gelateria to grab some real gelato before I left. When I woke up the next morning, I could not have felt more loved. I opened the window to the streets outside and found that it was raining, just like the day I’d arrived. I thought I would leave with a need to mourn over this part of my life that had just ended but came to find that this end signaled a thrilling new beginning. I’ll be applying to medical school and that is, I suppose, daunting in its finality…with graduation waiting patiently in the distance as she always has…far more visible now than she’s ever been. But everything has its time and I’ve come out of Italy with more love than I’ve ever had. I don’t think it’s just the new loves and friendships I’ve found, though they are strong, but also that I’ve recovered a sight for the love that was already waiting for me at home. So here we go…I’m diving back into life at home headfirst, laughing…and with all of my clothes on. Grazie, Firenze. It’s been more than real.
Admittedly, Venezia has it’s own charm…but it can be done in a day. The place was a bit overcrowded and too touristy for my taste. But then again, I am a tourist…so I’m just adding to what I dislike. whoops.
When I woke up, the sky was pale and clear in Florence. Empty suitcases and scattered pieces of my time here call out to me and remind me that soon this bed will no longer be mine. I heard my roommate Katie turn the stove on to make the coffee this morning and shuffled out in my slippers to meet her and the morning. She waved, her arm still heavy with sleep and eyes that told me they were not ready to see daylight just yet. Coffee comes first, then the brioche, and then a piece of fruit…force, maybe. I mull over my day’s labors in my head, still foggy with dreams and good-byes all said last night and over the last few days. Some by train, some by plane, some to stay behind in the Italy I’ve come to know.
I can say easily that I came with heartache and left in love…and with a cold too, apparently. Where did the time go? It must have passed me while I was climbing up to San Miniato or taking the train with Rosie, Ali, Haley, and Louisa to Viareggio. Maybe it passed me on my run to meet Mariel and Ali at the Duomo…when I was already twenty minutes late….or maybe time was an insane bicyclist that sped by Katie, Haley on their walk back home from Full Up. It was time well spent, sitting in a sunny park with Marcin or laughing about Leonardo with Marco and Micah. Time well noted as Katie and I hear “Bambine! Pronto!” at eight o’clock and know its time for another Italian meal with chef Mauro and the loving social commentator, Medy. Time forgotten when I arrived fifteen minutes late to Italian with Liz, Annie and Tiffany every single day I can remember.
The full weight of this program ending hit me hardest this morning. It’s in these peaceful hours that I can hear my host parents snoring in their bedroom and the click of stove-top coming to life. The hum of a light as Katie switches on the bathroom light. These sounds and their makers will be memories in just a few hours. It’s the way my days come to life in a certain place and with certain people, that is the heaviest and one of the most meaningful pieces of wherever I go.
I’ll be staying here for a few more days with my dad, but the people who’ve woven the tapestries of my time here are scattering all over the home country. I think of what waits for me at home and tasks yet to be done in my last year of a child’s education. Let’s be honest, college students are just big kids until they graduate. I don’t know where I’ll be in two years time or who I will be with, but I hope its where I want to be and with those who love me. Here, in Florence, I was where I wanted to be and with those who grew to love me and I them. Yes, we’ll be all over the US…but it’s a skype date, plane ride, phone call, long drive away from one another. Who knows? We may find ourselves all brought together again someday. I carry you all in my heart.
My time here has been a novel unto itself…and maybe that’s what it will become for me, a novel I write. For now, I’ll stick to the songs I write about loves made, people met, rules broken, and those I’ve lost and cannot forget. Cara Firenze, tu sei sempre in mio cuore e, spero, che io sono sempre parte di te. Arrivederci, Firenze…a dopo. Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Rock Salt, Butter and White Wine Baked Fish with Olive Oil and Herb Fried Potatoes
What you need (multiply and manipulate depending on how many are eating):
A whole fish (if it’s something like a red snapper then its good enough for two people)
A ½-1 lb bag of Kosher salt
1 cup of shredded fresh Sage
1 cup of softened butter
1 cup of a fruitier white wine
What you do:
Wash your fish completely (if the head freaks you out, lop it off…but it actually does add flavor. Google it.) and dry it in towels for about 2 minutes.
In a baking pan (or an oven-safe baking dish) Measure out enough tin foil to gratuitously coat the bottom, the sides and have enough to pick up the fish with later. On the bottom of the foil (that will be below the fish) lay out the layer of shredded sage and sprinkle some kosher salt.
Take your dried fish and place it on top of the sage and salt. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F
Around the fish (and on top…just surround it first), place slices of the softened butter. Coat the entire fish with the rest of your salt. Then pour your 1 cup of wine over the salt coat.
Bake for 15-20 mins. Check on the bake every once in a while, your salt should turn a golden brown when the fish is done.
When done, take off the salted coat and cut the fish lightly along the belly (if you kept the head, cut the skin lightly across the neck) and straight down before the tail so as to create a skin flap to pull aside. Take up the first layer of fish and then remove the bones. The second layer should come off easily from the bottom layer of skin.
What you need:
Boiled (just a bit for the skins), rectangular cut potatoes (think steak fries) (about 4-5 baking potatoes are enough for 2 people)
1 cup of finely chopped Sage, Italian parsley and Cilantro (variable, depending on your taste)
½ cup of Kosher salt
Enough olive oil to coat a large frying pan with ½-1 inch of extra virgin olive oil.
What you do:
Mix your salt and herbs together and set aside to pour on the potatoes frying in the pan.
Heat the olive oil, add only enough potatoes to coat the pan so you get them all nicely fried. BE CAREFUL, putting the potatoes in the hot oil causes hot oil to go places…don’t get burned. Add herbs and salt by hand, sprinkling a little at a time on top until the potatoes are a golden brown. Remove with a slotted spatula. Repeat with the rest of your potatoes. Don’t be afraid to get more gratuitous with your herbs and salt than you are used to…it adds good flavor.