Even though I've been sucked into the vortex (more on that later) I still have little moments of Italy in my head, just like I have little moments of everywhere I know. Different places and periods of time wander in and out, brought up by things happening in the here and now, and since Italy was what most would consider my last great adventure*, little things keep reminding me of my brief time there. Sometimes these intrusions of memory are disorienting but also oddly comforting, because then I know that even when I am only one, small, same and insignificant person, awash in familiarity, I still have pieces of the world tucked into my head and my heart, and that makes me glad. I cannot tell you why I like to travel, because for all and intents and purposes I shouldn't. But I do. For some reason I find exacerbating my fear of all that is unknown somehow exhilarating, and I find myself wild and free and drunk on the anonymity that foreign places bring. Everything is sharper and clearer, I can see better and breathe better and know better, and the challenges of change force me to think and think and think, and that makes me happy. My internal narrative morphs to fit my setting, and the stories I tell myself are different and go in directions I didn't know existed before. My sense of wonder and that raging curiosity that plagues me grows ever larger and more voracious. I only want to go and go and go.

So I visit Erin who has been living in Italy, who I haven't seen in almost a year, and we slip back into our usual old friend skins with ease. It's the kind of ease that isn't necessarily developed over years but within seconds of knowing the other one, because you are somehow born with something similar, even if you are very different. That's what great friends, soul friends, are made of. And I have a theory about travel too that goes like this: I love the world, but I love my people more. And maybe that's why I love the places I do. Not because of the way they look or because of things they have, but because I am there with the people I love best. Maybe I don't love the statue David so much as I loved grabbing Er's arm and knowing she too was catching her breath and maybe having some tears sting the back of her eyes because you can't know how great he is in person until you see him in person. I'm pretty convinced about this theory.

Here's what we did on our trip: We got to the airport and my luck ran out--my bags were late. We got on a train first thing and took a train to Siena, and on the train every time I closed my eyes I fell asleep. We got on a bus and drove through Tuscany and then every time I opened my eyes I couldn't believe what I was seeing. We stayed at a converted convent, tucked into a dark green lush hill and I felt like if this is what all convents were like, then maybe I should consider being a nun. The next day we visited hill top Tuscan towns and I thought maybe I could have a mid life crisis and have a front door that opens onto the walls around Montalcino. Just a thought. We went to Bologna and Erin showed me all the secret places she had spent a year discovering, and I felt privileged and somehow humbled because I felt like I had maybe tricked Bologna  into sharing her hidden Cathedrals and her oldest porticoes and the little window that looks out over a canal, and her one, funny leaning tower and where to get the best tagliatelle, which really was the best. Then we went to Venice, which I didn't expect to like but I loved. It was dark and then it was light, it laughed and then it sighed, and water, water was everywhere. I scoured a cemetery and scared myself senseless looking for Ezra Pound's grave and then when I found it I didn't really know what to feel, because I guess I knew all about him but really I didn't know anything at all and that's a weird feeling. So I took a picture. Then we hiked along the windy blue Via del Amore on the Cinque Terre, but first we got lost and stopped in Genoa on accident and found a funny courtyard with black and white rocks and a lily pond that looked out over a high way. And on the Cinque Terre we walked through the tiny towns and couldn't stop looking at the water so far below us but still so close. We walked through one town where no one really lived because the cliffs that had always been home were coming down on them, and we were just looking for food but couldn't find anywhere to sell us some. Then we went to Florence and we met our friend David, and I didn't know stone had an expression or could be an emotion but it can. His hands were huge and his eyes had seen a lot. Well-played, Michelangelo. We sat on steps overlooking the city and we drank wine and had a photoshoot with a couple from LA, and then we ran through the dark streets and talked about history, and listened to a man playing the guitar, and in these moments I was both spellbound and hell-bound. Then we went to Perugia and took an elevator up to the city and napped on some sun-drenched steps, and walked and walked everywhere we could find and ate chocolate and drank coffee and laughed at each other all day. Then we sat on the balcony watching the dark crowd in around us like the buildings crowded the hilltop, and we sang along to Rocket Man and all the other songs we knew that the man two rooftops away was playing for a party. Then we went to Naples and ate pizza that was so good and warm and doughy and so good that we ate it at two different restaurants, just to be sure it was really that good. Squeezed in between the mafia and the loudness and rowdiness of the people and the city was the best pizza I'd ever had. Then we went to Sorrento and spent four days living and breathing lemons and sun and the ocean, and visiting islands that were surrounded by water the color of gemstones, and we made a promise to come back when we were wealthy enough to have jewels that match the ocean. Then we made it to Rome in a rainstorm, and we hid in a Cathedral and ate lunch at The Cricket and the Ant, and a funny Italian man asked us if we wanted to sit inside or outside. We wanted to sit inside. The Coliseum was rainy and cold and empty and sad, full of secrets and lost power. All I wanted to do was watch the movie Gladiator. We went and stared at Hades steal Persephone and Daphne run from Apollo for hours, and we saw frat boy Bacchus, and we walked through long gardens and short streets and saw all there was to see. We listened to the Trevi Fountain gush and gushed about everything because it was so great! so fun! so rome! so ruined!

And anyway, that's a little bit about what my trip to Italy was.

xoxo, Lauren

*Personally, I consider my last great adventure going to the grocery store, because when you are equipped with terrible motor skills, a complete lack of common sense and with division as your only way to do math, life is an adventure.