with a grain of rye
Upon starting my trip to Italy, I was apprehensive and nervous for the unknown experiences that were about to transpire before me. Although I was excited to experience a new culture, I really had no idea what to expect or what I should do while in the new country. Now, as I write from the beach in Sicily, I believe I have uncovered the answer to these questions. Through the revelations of my most memorable moments and memories from this trip, I hope you as a reader are able to immerse yourself in my personal adventure in hopes to uncover your own.
To begin the trip, Venice immediately stole my heart. One of my favorite moments in Italy was when we were in Venice and I discovered the Italian grocery store. This idea may sound peculiar, as of all the memories from Italy (Venice specifically) I remember a grocery store, but this memory gave me a glimpse into how local Venetians shop, live, and eat within their city, our city, Venice. Most of the memories shared within this post will be focused on the non-picturesque moments of Italy, as it is in the small and unnoticed moments that one notices something amazing. Therefore, some of the specific details that made this grocery shopping experience so profound for me involve seeing the Italian language on all the food products and packaged goods, along with an array of completely new store brands. Trying to find what food items I was looking for was a challenge at first; however, after much consideration, questions, and Google Translate, I felt confident to make a purchase. Still keeping my receipt from this first grocery store trip, I can easily recall some local favorite foods items featured in every city visited thus far: gorgonzola cheese, pesto, tiny tomatoes, peach tea (Thé pesca), avocados, olive-oiled crackers, and nectarines. These food staples have become the necessities to survive the pasta overload featured in every restaurant ever visited in Italy. Overall, I enjoyed bringing my own bag to buy groceries, and searching through Italian labels to find the food I wanted, as both of these things gave me a local’s perspective into daily life of a local Italian shopper. This experience has helped me identify the difference between being a traveler and a tourist. A traveler lives in the city they are in, while a tourist merely visits it, never embracing the city for the reality that it holds. Through the experience of emerging myself in the local conveniences, I was able to absorb the culture, furthering my time in Italy as a traveler.
Continuing with Venice, I also cherished the trip to the beach “Lido” because the town itself represented the similar coastal towns one would imagine when visiting a European coast. From seeing the black sand to seeing vending machines that sell cannabis, my mind was shocked facing so many new social construct changes all in a matter of 24 hours. Lido gave me the beach vacation vibes in a quick day’s trip that I had been longing for all summer long before embarking on my Italian journey. Watching the sunset from the beach and facing the Adriatic Sea all were once-in-a-lifetime feelings that I was able to capture from these specific moments in Lido. The images I was able to take highlight the sunset and other amenities offered on this island such as the public carnival, a discoteca on the beach, and a treacherous public transportation experience that caused hysteria among the masses (masses= four girls from Alabama on the trip). After the miniature tragedy (Shakespeare pun, in accordance with my study abroad class), I became a newfound professional at dictating which boat to get on to reach Zattare, S. Marco, and Rialto. I would overall conclude that the trip to Lido was a beautiful learning experience to not only expect the unexpected, but also to trust yourself before you trust your friends. Now I take blame for stepping on the boat they informed me would be a 15-minute ride to San Marco Square; however, the 15-minute boat ride to S. Marco turned into a 2-hour boat ride to the last and farthest most port before leaving the Italian sea zones to venture into unknown waters of a foreign country, not Italy. Overall, this experience was a moment to remember as it not only shaped my view point of European beaches, but also quickly taught me how to learn the public transportation system the long way (emphasis on long).
Leaving Venice and skipping to Rome, one of my most “self-discovery” moments involves my time exploring the Roman city itself, alone. After going for a jog around the local city area and exploring for myself the streets near the hostel, I stumbled upon a local river market festival (of which I convinced everyone on the trip to check out in their free time). At this river festival, I decided to try Tex-Mex once again to see if Italians could get it right a second time. Sadly, to no avail, it sucked once again. Despite my hopes of American-style Mexican queso running over a bed of rice, I was able to locate a cute side boutique selling jewelry. I purchased two silver bracelets with air planes on them, one for my best friend and I, as we are self-deemed travel buddies. While the air plane symbolizes a multitude of things for me such as freedom, adventure, travel, and the Air Force, I knew this bracelet would mean a lot to my best friend Claire. Claire collects bracelets in every country she visits, yet she has never been to Italy; therefore, I figured this bracelet would be the perfect trinket to bring back for her. While purchasing these bracelets at the river market festival, I came to the realization that many people dream of coming to Italy and experience this culture the way I have been for the past month, every day. It was in this moment that my gratitude for my parents and my life really began to beam into my overall ora, changing my mood to be full of gratitude and “less attitude.” I believe in this festival, which is almost identical to the Italian festival back in Memphis, TN, I was able to visualize the blessings I have been given that allow me to be here on this trip to Italy. Coming from a smaller town outside of Memphis, many friends and family members have never had the experience or the money to fly on a plane, nevertheless leave the United States and go to another country. This realization opened my eyes to the amazing experience I am getting to have here in Italy, especially as I embark on my own journey within the cities.
Through all the various cities, my final stop in Taormina, Sicily has by far made the largest impact on my time in Italy. The biggest highlight of my trip thus far is going to Isola Bella (a beach with a swimmable island). While many of the students studying abroad went together both days, my favorite day was the one in which I ventured alone to a private beach. It is amazing the things you wear, say, and do when no one you know is around you. For myself this idea was proven true as most of the locals were at this beach spot, representing the truest version of a string-bikini and men’s speedos. Influenced by my environment, and the fact I do not want ridiculous tan lines, I tanned in a said “sting-bikini” (more like a thong) and my swim top. I also ordered a beach chair and cabana, and surprisingly enough was given a Taiwan massage. In my massage, however, I was surprised to discover that a Taiwan massage in Italy involves baby oil lathered on your body, with emphasis on the butt cheeks (I really began to question whether or not the fashion trend was worth it). Despite the awkwardness of the situation, enjoying the beach to myself without having to hear anyone complain about being hot, tired, or hungry was a blessing. An added bonus was that I also did not have to hear the words “law school,” “rush,” “homework/readings,” or any other form of those subjects for a full 12 hours. For my mental sanity, I realized I need and thoroughly enjoy having alone time with myself. I was able to listen to the whole Scorpion album released by Drake, go cliff jumping with a group of kids on the beach in need of adult supervision, and begin writing this memorable moments journal. For this day, I turned off my phone and enjoyed the whole day without technology (until about 9 pm), which resulted in a more aware sense of my surroundings and feeling more productive.
Overall, these are the most memorable memories from Italy that I chose to highlight, each interlocked with the singled thread that I am most fond of learning to live like a local in whichever city/country I am in. I believe when I experience anything alone, it is more influential as the only judge of the experience is myself. I am naturally attracted to the water element of the beach, as seen in both of my highlighted memories; however, I believe it is near these water elements one has the freedom to be more adventurous and carefree than when in the close proximity of the city. Without having to worry about other people’s happiness or needs, I am able to focus on my own experience and bask in the freedom. It is in these memories that feelings and emotions were created that I will carry with me through a lifetime, as each one has taken me in the correct path to self-discovery. While the memories made during my month stay in Italy are endless, each impacted with significant meaning, these special ones talked about will be the ones closest to my heart. I am most thankful I chose to live in Italy for a month as a traveler instead of visiting Italy as a tourist. Ciao Italia!
I am Gabe Rye, from Memphis, TN. I started writing journal entries because I was inspired at a young age to pursue writing to share my thoughts and feelings on the changing world around us. Attitude is everything, and changing your attitude and mentality is a journey I have been taking since the start of my writing. I desire to become a better contributing member of society, as to also better my faith journey through this social platform.