When I think about Italy, I think about the number of people who've told me their most favorite European destination is Italy. Friends have raved about the Tuscan vineyards, my male friend promises to bring his future wife to Italy. Liz Gilbert's first stop in Eat, Pray, Love was Italy. My mom, for the first time, expressed her desire to go where I've been, posting photos of my Roman visits. I haven't encountered a country so much desired as Italy.
If Italy is a person, it would certainly be both man and woman. As a man, he plays really awesome, crush-inducing football, and would be the type to make you a Napoli pizza after. He'd be the type to kiss you as soon as he meets you because, "Ciao, bella."
As a woman, she's the type to make real good canolis, a plateful of pizza and to speak and express so loudly, you'd know what she's talking about even if your Italian was limited to Scusi and Grazie. No age is too old for cleavage in Italy, this much I know, too. Not even the Vatican was spared.
I find Italy the most, how do I say this, passionate country I've been to. I keep thinking of the phrase carpe diem when I think of Italy and now I understand why they have such mantra. In this country, I've witnessed buses and smart cars bully each other on a one lane road. I've seen people and myself walk one foot sidewalks, with a hairline distance from a passing car. In Italy, you never know when the trains are coming (late, early or never at all), or how the hell you will fit in into a sardine can of a train. The only way to get in is to push oneself.
I had a bout of YOLO - the millennial version of carpe diem in Florence, as I partied with kids in their early 20s, feeling like Florence was the perfect city to let myself go and be irresponsible for one night. YOLO could also mean walking into people doing what Italy is most famous for: sex. I don't think anyone has truly been in Italy if you haven't seen anything remotely related. Even the old city of Pompeii had its ancient brothels and male genitalia littered floors.
Ironically, in Italy, you will also find the smallest country and most holy place in the world: the Vatican City. Inside the Sistine Chapel, I was brought to tears by the intricate work of Michelangelo, work he wasn't even good at, and rebelled against. I was thrilled to be breathing the same air as Pope Francis and reveled at the possibility I was going to bump into him. I didn't.
Thanks to Italy, I now have trouble fitting into the only pair of jeans I brought along this trip. Thanks to the carbs and all the gelato I've eaten, I am now putting myself into a salad diet here in Greece. Maybe. Hopefully.
Amsterdam, Berlin and Paris remains to be my favorite cities in Europe but I think I'll always have a soft spot for the craziness of Italy.