I hear the all too familiar sound of a cigarette being lit.
Before me sits two men, no older than 25, on an already littered lawn of cigarettes stubs and beer caps.
I have chosen for myself a huge tree to sit under, and this late afternoon is feeding my huger for all things green and is a much needed release from the grey of the city center.
Another friend walks over and joins the two men with tall, cold Nastro Azzuros in her hands, wearing a red linen skirt, loose top, a nose ring and bare feet. All together they cheers to the Monday afternoon light that has lit the park gold and green.
A couple near by sits crossed legged and silently read a book together, ahh romance in Italy. And just behind me sits a young woman twirling a finger through her dread locks and writing in a journal- a journal most likely filled up with thoughts in a language that is still so foreign to me. ogni giorni, piano piano.
I remember when I first came to Italy last January. I was not quiet sure what the “Italian youth” would be like… and I still do not think I could describe them in words per-say. But as I sit here in the Giardino della Fortezza, after a day I would not mark as a good one, and I am thankfully transported by the wind, trees, and these three friends conversing, into a place that is not my own. I am a foreigner here.
The man with the tattoo under his right ear expressively thrusts himself, his hands, and his intentions forward as he passionately describes something to his friends. Using his hands as an extension of his words, and waving his hand rolled cigarette about, he is everything I have come to see as the definition of Italian youth.
Maybe grundgy could describe Italian’s style… or maybe it is just an unspoken vibe, the effortlessly cool air of being European, of being Italian, which I can never truly possess.
Smoke rises off from the friends.
The sound of traffic and revving Vespas is muffled in the background- and if I stop, just for only a moment, close my eyes and think of nothing else except to listen, I hear the Italy I love.
I hear the wind through the leaves of the tall trees, I hear a child fussing with his mother, the old squeaking of a bicycle passing by, conversations in the language I love, the splashing and squawking of ducks on the pond, and the laughter and unanimous chiming of, Che cazzo fai!, as friends gossip and share ridiculous stories of their day.
Maybe the tell- tell stereotypes of who Italians are is no longer true. Maybe all this ‘authentic’ façade that restaurants and bakeries are giving off is just for the tourists. I think the real Italy is a lot different than the preconceived. It is something that takes time to grow on you.
“I wanna take the preconceived out from underneath your feet. We could shake it off and instead we’ll plant some seeds.” –Jack Johnson