Ciao di Nuovo (Hello Again)

In The Art of Travel, 1: Awakenings, Florence by Annie1 Comment

I write this as I sit in my living room after an excruciating headache has made me open up my computer to distract the many thoughts zooming through my brain. The packing list is long, and after sorting through my belongings, I’ve reached the conclusion that I cannot eliminate anything. All of my belongings seem important enough to accompany me to Florence for the next four months.

When I first came to Florence the summer before tenth grade, I did not know what to expect. Or whatever I had been told to expect of Italy was held truer in other cities like Rome or Pisa. Florence seemed to be the exception to the stereotypes I had heard. My favorite poem, The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock defined Florence to me, especially in T.S Eliot’s famous line “In the room the women come and go, / Talking of Michelangelo” (13-14). When I roamed around the streets and in and out of cafes, I had all of the art and literature I had read or seen that day in my head. Florentians are most proud of their art and Renaissance history, especially Michelangelo’s, David. Just as those in Alfred’s story seem to be enamored with the talents of the artist, so too did I find myself focusing most on the talent that came from this period.

So much has changed since I last explored the city, and while I still maintain my love for art and culture, I have a new interest in mind: film. I’ve discovered that I want to publicize independent films in the future, much different than my dreams of publishing books I once had as a tenth grader in high school. Unlike most of my friends at NYU, my major is not what led me to study in Florence. I simply fell in love with it the last time I visited. It had exceeded my expectations, and so I wanted to experience it all over again, four years later.

Similarly to Alaine de Botton, when reflecting on my visit years ago, I find myself viewing it as a set of images. Of course, pictures I have captured throughout my visit can be found on my computer and on Facebook, but the ones in my memory are different than those online. The images certainly bring memories surrounding the captured moment to the service, and some things become a bit clearer when I reflect on photographs. As de Botton said in On Anticipation, “The present might be compared to a long-winded film from which memory and anticipation select photographic highlights” (15). During the stage I am currently in (anticipating a four-month-long journey through a foreign country,) I can only imagine what it may be like, by either comparing images on the NYU abroad site and memories I have had of my visit to Italy years ago. I can imagine that this anticipation I am currently feeling will subside once I get on the plane to Frankfurt, and once I wait several hours before my connecting flight to Florence.

The aristocratic Duc des Esseintes whom De Botton mentions seems to suffer from travel anxiety as I do. I imagine how much easier it would be for me to click my heels three times and be magically transported to Florence. Doing so would prevent myself from rethinking my decision to leave family and friends for four months. How it would be so easy!

Iyer claimed in “Why We Travel” that “All of us feel from the cradle, and know, in some sense, that all the significant movement we ever take is internal.” I disagree, because I had one experience in which I spent a semester in high school studying in a program removed from my high school at home. During this time of physical movement was when I had the most profound change internally. I guess it depends on the person, but in my case, in order to be impacted most internally I needed to move physically during my junior year of high school. I am hoping that Florence will have a similar effect….

(Image: View of Ponte Vecchio; Source: Annie Barson)


  1. Annie, I totally agree with all of this! It’s so interesting how photographs can connect us to the past and the future both so easily. I was sure to bring lots of pictures with me to keep me sane in my room abroad! And I also wish I could click my heels to be transported. That would make life so much easier. I’m excited to here how this goes throughout the semester. Good luck!!

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