SUN. JUNE 28: Day 20
I paid for a day trip to Cinque Terre today, but I woke up feeling like completely and total crap. I decided to take a chill day and went back to sleep. I woke up around 1:30 pm.
I walked passed Gimi (remember him?) on my way to la farmacia (the pharmacy) so I stopped to say hello and tell him about my trip to Lucca. We talked over coffee and tiramisu at a nearby caffé which he kindly paid for.
He could tell I was sick immediately from my voice, and walked me to the pharmacy. I picked up medicine, which Gimi insisted on paying for. I was shocked.
“Gimi! It’s my medicine. Please let me pay for it.”
He handed the pharmacist a bill. “Laurie, I’m the guy. You’re sick. Let me pay.” There was no amount of arguing that would change his mind.
Fast forward the entire day of being sick and doing nothing exciting…..
I met with Gimi and we went for dinner at Trattoria Antellesi. This is when I met my first Italian man named Antonio, who goes by Tony. His personality is larger than life and his food is eccellente!
We started with red wine and water. For our first course, I ordered a vegetarian pasta and for Gimi, pici (a thick, hand-rolled pasta, like a fat spaghetti) with a Chianti wine sauce.
For our second course, we shared tagliata di manzo con rucola e parmigiano (sliced beef with arugula and parmesan).
Yet again, Gimi insisted on paying. I do not know what I did to deserve such kindness from someone I have only know for two days. I am completely baffled. I’ve noticed the people here do not think of money as a necessity. In America, money controls many lives. In Italy, it seems to me that money is seen as just a physical object needed to live, but not obsessed about.
I’ll never forget how delizioso the food was or how unnecessarily kind Gimi is, but what really will stick with me forever are his words to me:
In regards to his art: “In life, you have to make rules for yourself. One of my rules is that I make art to sell and I make art for myself. I make my small watercolors to pay the bills, but my big art pieces I make for myself. The watercolors are easy.
One time I got desperate for money and tried to sell one of my personal pieces. Someone was interested in buying one and asked me how much I wanted for it. I did not know what to say. How can you sell a feeling? How can you put a price on passion? That is when I knew that I could not sell my personal work.”
In regards to me: “As a street painter, I meet a lot of people every day, so my gut feeling is strong. When I meet someone, I have a good gut feeling or a bad gut feeling. When I look into your eyes, I feel like I have known you forever. You have a way of making people feel so comfortable around you.
I’m not good with words. I talk with my paintings. One day, I’ll make a painting about you. You are an open book, and you make people feel good just by meeting you.
You speak great Italian because you are una regazza curiosa. You are a curious girl and that is why I am sitting here eating dinner with you. I’ve met some people who have been here for 6 or 7 or 8 months and they don’t speak like you do, and you have only been here a few weeks. You are curious and you actually care about Italy and that is what makes you so amazing.”
Wow. Tutto quello che posso dire è WOW. All I can say is WOW.
To me, a writer, words are often more powerful than actions. There are words that have been spoken to me here that will stay with me permanently.
From Gimi, an Italian painter, who said,
“When I look into your eyes, I feel like I have known you forever.”
Or the bartender in Lucca who told me,
“You brought me sunshine today.”
Or my friend Giuseppe when he noted,
“You have the confidence of an Italian woman.”
Or Marco from Caffè Paszkowski who looked at me and shared,
“You are so beautiful. Not just on the outside. Your inside is so beautiful. I can’t stop saying it. You are so beautiful. You are so beautiful. Wow. You are so beautiful.”
Or the owner of the gelato shop near the Duomo who commented,
“You say you will miss Florence, but I think it is Florence that will miss you.”
Or my roommate Sarah who looked at me by the fountain in Santo Spirito and spilled,
“How are you so confident? I hope I can be as confident as you one day. You constantly amaze me.”
Or when she smiled at me over dinner and told me,
“I think you were born to be here. You were born for Italy.”
This is what happens when you open up to people. This is what happens when you show people your world and you let them show you theirs. This is what happens when you be yourself.
I am happy here. And not just some ephemeral, fleeting kind of happiness. I am so soul-shakingly, spine-tinglingly happy. From my head to my toes to my tummy. Definitely my tummy.
I’m even too happy to think about being sick!