A Lifetime Away: Seeing Italy as Home One Last Time

It’s official: I no longer have a home in Italy.

I mean, it will always be home in my heart, and Trieste will always be a city I can return to and find family and friends and homes to reside in, however briefly.

But my parents’ home, the home that saw me through all three awkward middle school years, through the ups and downs of high school and first recognizing my depression diagnosis, through college and the one year of grad school and those three months in 2017 when I was broke and homeless and my parents opened their doors to me. That home is gone.

I’ve already posted about what the apartment itself means to me (see post to the left, ha), but in essence, it was Home. There were times I hated it, times I loved it, and times it was a safe refuge from the hardships of the world.

And after 15 years, my parents have left that apartment, and none of us can go back to it.

But before they left, I went back to Italy for one final trip.

I spent two weeks in Trieste (and a few days here and there in Slovenia), trekking to all my favorite old haunts and exploring the places that made me who I was.

People have been asking me how the trip was ever since I got back, and the truth is: it was the best visit I’ve had to Trieste in years. Not that there was anything wrong with the others! But this one…this one was just extraordinary.

It was just under two weeks long, and I felt every second of those 13 days. In a good way! In an “I’m experiencing every second of my time here and gleaning as much enjoyment as I can from every said second and soaking it all in, from the busy days walking around and riding on boats and going to castles to the lazy afternoons drinking tea in the living room.”

Yes, that’s a run-on sentences. No, I don’t care. Moving on!

I spent a few afternoons at various beaches — and when I say beach, I mean Barcola and the beach in Piran, Slovenia, aka sidewalks where people lay out on their beach towels, with steps leading into the Adriatic Sea.

I grew up going to Barcola, but it had been…wow, something like 10 years (or more) since I’d taken myself to that beach. It was so pleasant to lie on a non-sandy ground, and the water…it was clear blue, refreshing, made me feel like I was on a cruise in the middle of summer, except I was actually 10 feet away from speeding traffic in the middle of September. Glorious.

I also got to do even more touristy things, like visit my castle (Miramare, the one tattooed on my arm); ride a boat through the harbor; eat gelato in the largest on-water piazza in Europe; go to Piran and wander around the rocky cobblestones in the city so tiny you can’t even drive into it; and eat at an Osmiza, which I can’t for the life of me figure out how to explain but click that link and you’ll find it’s worth it.

The second week I was there, I was joined by my roommate here in New York City; the first week, I spent many days reconnecting with my best friends from childhood, seeing church friends, and relaxing.

It was a glorious last visit to Italy as “home.” From now on, no matter how much I wish it were otherwise, I’ll always be a guest in the country when I return. I won’t have a base, and it feels like my options for ever moving back full-time are off the table now.

I don’t know if that’s true. Maybe I’m overreacting; that’s quite possible, knowing myself. But it’s how I feel regardless, and that’s powerful.

Viewing Trieste this one last time through the eyes of someone who might not get to go back: that was rough. I tried not to think about it, to just soak in everything I was experiencing: the joy of showing my friend around my home, the joy of visiting it myself, even the tiredness and pain that I felt from walking more than I’m used to. I tried to enjoy it even when I had to stand for 45 minutes in the tattoo parlor waiting for my new tattoo; even when I was jet-lagged and hungry and tired and cranky (which I was, because I’m human, and humans get cranky on vacation sometimes).

I wonder how much that refusal to think about saying good-bye is affecting me now, making it harder. Maybe I’ll refuse to think about that, as well. Maybe I’ll just think about nothing but the way the sun set over the water on my last night…the way Miramare looked framed by trees from a bench in the shade…the perfect magic of Piran under a beautiful blue sky…the fun of taking my roommate to all my favorite places.

Maybe I’ll just treasure the trip I had, and not think about all the trips I won’t have going forward. I’ll cherish these memories in the deepest part of my soul forever, and hope and hope to go back someday, tread the same solid ground, breathe in the salty air, and think: yes, this is still home, even after a lifetime away.

When You Love But Have to Leave

My immense and abiding love for Trieste should be no secret to anyone.

And if you didn't know before: I adore Trieste, Italy, with a fierce passion, almost tantamount to that I hold for New York City. Yeah. It's that real. 

I love her (because of course Trieste is a she) in all her forms, in every mood and shade, through sunset and sunrise and rain and sun. I love her yesterday, today and tomorrow. I love her with every fiber of my being.

It feels like I've always loved Trieste, but I know empirically that isn't so; we were supposed to move to a city called Ravenna, and I resented Trieste for replacing Ravenna. And yet. Almost from the second I stepped foot on th ground in this city, I fell for her. 

Trieste is the most beautiful city I know. She shines for me. She soothes me. When my mind is in turmoil and my heart won't stop pounding, I walk down to the Molo, stride to the edge of the pier, and breathe in. I look out across the water, then turn around and take in the sights of my city, and everything settles inside of me.

She's been through a lot. She was in constant battle with Venice, ruled by the Austro-Hungarian empire, taken over by Yugoslavia after World War II, then spent years under Allied occupation before Italy finally, finally, returned to her in 1954.

I was here in 2004, when the city gathered in the main plaza to celebrate the 50th anniversary of "Italy's return to Trieste." 

This city hums with life and humor. It's the architecture, the street design, the water, yes, but it's also the people who live here.

Triestini are vibrant, hilarious, spontaneous, adventurous. They love life, and I love them. 

I've spent three months here and yes, there have been rough patches, but man, oh, man, do I ever, ever, ever, adore this city! 

And I have to say goodbye to it.

I've been coming to terms with it slowly for the past month or sol.

It's good, I said, because I need to go back to having my own space; living under my parents' roof for such a long time, after at least six years of independence, has been difficult for all three of us. 

Or maybe, I thought, it's good because I need to see a doctor. I need a therapist. I need a routine, stability, a job.

I've made up reasons for why I'm happy to leave! Books! Getting a car! Seeing friends! Okay, these aren't all "made up," but they're not so much reasons why I'm happy to leave as reasons why it's okay that I have to leave.

Because if I weren't being upbeat and positive and thinking about all the reasons it's good, I'd be devastated. Unable to move or think or act or do because I only have four days left. Just four! That's so few.

I love this city with everything in me.

But I have to go. Right now, my future isn't here. Maybe someday it will be; maybe it'll always be a part of my future but not the whole; maybe in a year I'll be back permanently. I honestly don't know anything other than that for right now, I need to be in South Carolina. I feel called there, not just because there's a doctor but because I feel the need to be in my country while it's in such turmoil. 

This isn't a political post, though, so I won't get into that. I'll just say: there are reasons I have to leave. There are reasons I'm even, perhaps, excited to leave.

That doesn't make my love any less fierce, any less real.

I will miss walking into a bar (coffee shop), ordering a "Capo in B" and drinking my espresso macchiato out of a glass. I will miss pizza nights. I will miss inhaling the salty scent of the sea. I will miss the way the air feels different here, the way life runs just a little more leisurely, the way Italian rolls off my tongue. I will miss the high school and university kids from English Club; I'll miss the boys I babysit; I'll miss their parents and mine; I'll miss my middle school best friends. I will miss the sunset streaming through my windows and my spacious bedroom and the idiosyncrasies of life here, like how the heat can only be on for 14 hours a day and if you turn on the microwave while the dishwasher is running, the power goes out. 

I'm gonna miss it so, so much. My heart is breaking.

But I have to go. 

I'll love you forever, Trieste. Hold me in your heart while I'm gone.