An Unforgettable Farewell

5 Jul

My last night in Florence was more than anything I could have asked for. It started with my favorite pizza from a small  joint called Gustapizza. It is owned by a few Italians from southern Italy. Let me tell you, they know how to make pizza. With each bite, a new flavor is discovered by my palate.  The combination between cheese, tomato, and dough was majestic and impossible to replicate. After I inhaled my dinner, a small group went to the Arno River dam and watched the sun set. The hues of orange, pink, and blue were captivating. I have not seen a sunset that beautiful in a long time. It was almost as if Florence was trying to tell us arrivaderci and safe travels home. As the sun sank into the water beyond, a colorful firework display was put on for the festival of St. John (patron saint of Florence). I enjoyed the view as my Florentine family and I shared our future plans and other intimate discussions of that nature. When the fireworks ceased to illuminate the sky, our small group became large as the remaining members of the program joined us for one final farewell. It was extremely heartbreaking to see everyone’s somber faces at the thought of leaving. As the girls cried and hugged each other, the men, including myself, shook hands and tried to be manly about saying goodbye but we all knew that if capable we would be crying like the girls. Our group became intensely close over the past six weeks and it showed right before we said our goodbyes.

After many pictures, hugs, and tears the first small part of our family decided it was time to depart. As they walked away a small part of my heart left with them. I knew I would see them again but not under these circumstances and not in the same euphoria that Florence had created. Florence was a fantasy land for all of us and when we meet again we will be in the real world. Like rain running of a leaf, members of my family trickled slowly away.  I decided to depart when the group got about half of its original size. My roommate Joe and I decided to walk one last time through the streets of Florence. We walked and talked and enjoyed the emptiness. We gazed in awe at the Duomo, walked like an Italian (which means extremely slow) through the Piazza Repubblica, dropped our jaws in front of the Palazza Vecchio, and took in our last breaths of Florence on the Piazzale Michelangelo. We relived all of our memories and experiences as we walked.

Our journey ended on the Ponte Vecchio, where we sat and watched the river flow. We sat there for some time and I reflected on everything I learned in Florence. I learned that sometimes it is good to walk slow and take in your surroundings. As an American, I have been programmed to always be in a hurry. However, Florence has rewritten some of my code and I now move about to enjoy the scenery and not just to get to a destination. Another lesson learned is to appreciate the past. It was eye-opening, to say the least, to cross a bridge or visit a building that is 500 years old. Lastly and most importantly, I learned to talk much quieter. I have been a loud unobservant American my whole life and Florence has taught me that not everyone wants to hear what I have to say. So when you talk to someone make sure they are the only ones that can hear you.

I want to thank everyone who assisted me in Florence and Florence itself for such a wonderful farewell. To my Florentine family, I give you this “If you never stop when you wave goodbye, you just might find if you give it time, you will wave hello again.” -John Mayer


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