gooollysandra

Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: Italy

A Scandinavian Christmas

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These are some of our Scandinavian Christmas decorations, many of them bought when we lived in Rome at a beautiful Scandinavian store on Via della Scrofa called Bottega Danese. On our most recent trip to Rome this past April, we were sad to find out that it is no longer there and is being replaced by a Chinese tourist shop. In light of this, we remember our trips there with even more fondness.

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The two figurines with the tall hats are my favorite Swedish ornaments, purchased at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, Illinois.

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Pictures from the Eternal City

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I thought I’d share some more pictures from my recent trip to Rome!

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La Dolce Vita

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Chronicles of our trip to Rome, which was really special because it was the first time that we went as a family in 13 years. Considering I was born there and grew up there for the first eight years of my life, it was a momentous trip for us.

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Driving into the city from the airport, you slowly get farther away from the countryside – little pastures with sheep along the highway (not very romantic or charming as I imagine Ireland to be, but still cute!) – and slowly get closer to the center of Rome. Of course, it depends where into the city you’re going, but we were going to our hotel, Santa Chiara, which is very close to the Pantheon. As we drove to the hotel, we went by important monuments, like the Palatine Hill (the ancient palace of Domitian), Circus Maximus (the stadium for chariot races that held about 150,000 people), and the Vittorio Emanuele monument in Piazza Venezia. Upon our arrival to the hotel, we were greeted by the sweetest doorman who embodied Italian hospitality and kindness (my mom actually cried saying goodbye to him when we left). He proceeded to tell us the story behind the statue in the lobby, full of pride for his beautiful, ancient city.

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We spent a lot of our time in Rome simply walking around from place to place, which is really the best way to experience the city because it’s how you encounter Roman life. Rome is…pockets of life everywhere you look – a different perspective from every angle and Italians talking, laughing, bickering everywhere. Italians really know how to enjoy life in a way that Americans simply don’t. The importance that is placed on taking time out of your day to get a coffee (usually with a friend or colleague and rarely by yourself), working at a more leisurely pace, taking a siesta in the afternoon, stopping in the middle of the street to have a conversation, etc. It’s things like this that remind me how communal and laid back Italians are. Rome is not without its hectic moments with the traffic and the chaos, I’ll admit that, but Italians have a relaxed, take in the moment, take in life attitude that I love so much.

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 It’s been surreal for me, walking around Rome, knowing that this used to be my life. Just the usual, everyday routine – going to school, going to ballet lessons, going to a friend’s house, enjoying a delicious meal in a beautiful piazza, and simply living in the center of Rome. It’s hard to believe that I had such a glorious childhood, and I only wish that it was still my life.

Italians appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake. This is something that not every culture in the world does, especially not the U.S. The buildings, the monuments, the streets…everything screams beauty (to me anyway) and there is no escaping it. It begs you to appreciate it, if not for any purpose, simply for its aesthetic quality. I think this, in itself, is a beautiful thing and I think everyone would be much happier if they sought to see the beauty in things.

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Italians have an elegance about them, that again, Americans simply don’t. From their clothing, to their shoes (perhaps the best indicator of elegance), to the presentation in restaurants (waiters meticulously preparing fish in front of you at the table), to the apartments, the storefronts, the cafes, etc. Elegance and beauty are intertwined and inherently part of every Italian (I think). Italians are also very cultured, which comes naturally when you live in a place like Rome. You are so inspired by your surroundings that you can’t help but be interested in great literature, music, and art. Not only are you surrounded by it physically in Rome, but you also encounter it personally in those around you.

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For us, the trip was like returning home. Although it’s been such a long time since we had been back together, going to our favorite restaurant for lunch as soon as we got there felt as natural as it did when we lived there. The waiters remembered us and made our favorite dish, even though it’s no longer on the menu. Walking to my old school on the same route that I did when I was little felt just like I was actually going to school. Walking past our old apartment, however, felt a bit far removed because the street has changed so much since we lived there. Meeting old friends also felt a bit strange because it’s hard to know what to talk about when it’s been 13 years since you have seen someone – not to mention the language barrier, which as much as I wish that it wasn’t present, it was for me. But overall, being back in Rome, back home, felt very comfortable and natural, just like home ought to feel.

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Home sweet Rome 

Place

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It’s interesting how your familial connections can take you to different physical places. For me, par example, I was born in Rome, Italy and lived there for the first eight years of my life because my dad worked there, then we moved to South Bend, Indiana, again because of my dad’s job, and now I’m living in a small town in Massachusetts because my grandparents lived here. It’s just interesting that the place where you are born is certainly out of your control, as is the place where you grow up while you are under your family’s care, and then even when you go out on your own you sometimes end up somewhere because of your family’s influence, as I did. Of course, some people choose to go somewhere completely unrelated to where they have familial connection, but not all. Those that are very close to their families tend to stay close to home or move someplace else where they have family (like myself). But I suppose that those who are not so close to their families, or those who place their career above all else, may move far away from family. These observations may seem rather obvious, but I have recently been struck by the influence that one’s family can have on where one lives throughout one’s lifetime.

Identity

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Establishing a place and identity has been difficult for me since I was born in Italy, lived there for 8 years, and then moved to the United States where I have spent last 14 years of my life. Wow, that’s a long time. I don’t like counting how long it’s been since we left Italy, so I often lose track of how long it’s actually been. But I’ve always had this conflict within me of not really knowing where I belonged. It hash’t been overwhelming to the point where I feel completely lost, but rather just indifferent to both Italy and the U.S. Despite being an American citizen and living in the U.S. for most of my life, I do not feel very American and certainly don’t feel patriotic in the least. At the same time, I can’t say that I feel very Italian either. I was born there and spent those early formative years of my life there, but I am not ethnically Italian, and therefore, was more like an outsider living in Italy. Of course, the Italian people are very warm and embracing, so we didn’t feel like intruders or out of place. I am extremely grateful for my childhood in Italy, as I realize this is an opportunity that not many American children have. I have the fondest of memories of my birthplace and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

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That being said, my love for Europe and desire to go back exceeds my interest, or lack thereof, to remain in the U.S. and build a life here. But then again, my family is here in the U.S. and going to Europe on business seems challenging for non-EU citizens. So I suppose it will continue to be a conflict, but will hopefully be resolved at some point in my life, if I’m lucky.