The Country That Got Away

“A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority.” –Samuel Johnson

When I was fifteen I went on a People to People trip that took me to Malta, Italy, Monaco, and France. Now, fifteen-year-old me was enamored with the idea of France. The fashion. The romance. The food. It all just sounded perfect; that I was destined to love it. And I did enjoy France, my main complaint was that the trip didn’t allot us enough time to truly explore such bounteous beauty. [People to People is a highly regimented tourist program for teens. Great way to see different countries when you’re young, but it doesn’t leave a ton of time for lingering.] Instead, I fell madly in love with Italy.

I’m not sure exactly what charmed me most about Italy. There is really no better way to explain it except as a first love experience. The shy exploration and growing wonder with each new day in that country parallels the emotions of a first crush. I climbed a volcano. I visited Caesar’s tomb. I baked my own brick oven pizza. Every day was something new and beautiful. There was no resisting its lure. And I’ve always longed to return.

Tomorrow, I get on a plane that will touch down in Bologna, Italy. It will be a ten day excursion centered around Il Cinema Ritrovatro, a film restoration festival. The best part is that I’ll be getting credit towards my film studies masters because the course is through Chapman University. I’m thrilled to be taking the travel course in general. I get to watch some restored classics as they were meant to be seen–on the big screen. There will be early Hitchcock films, a smattering of Charlie Chaplin, and miscellaneous restorations from the golden era of cinema. I’m excited for the festival, but somehow nervous about the traveling itself.

I’m worried that twenty-three year old me won’t be enchanted with Italy the same way fifteen-year-old me was. I’ve certainly changed and grown since my teens. It’s almost like seeing the one that got away again after a long separation. You hope that they’re still the same person you fell in love with, but are equally afraid that they will have changed.

In short, I’m a nervous ball of energy. It should still be an amazing experience, but that doesn’t make me less jittery. I won’t know how I feel about the trip until after it’s over. Bologna will also be new territory for me, a part of Italy not yet traversed. But I’ll be keeping a journal and taking my camera to capture the experience.

When I return, I’ll have to let you know if I’ve been romanced all over again or had my heart broken.

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