“This is the end of the innocence”–thank you, Don Henley

I am sitting in the airport in Vienna, Austria. The Italy leg of my trip is over already and it feels weird. Historically, I have always spent a larger proportion of my time in Italy than anywhere else. Not this time.

While in Italy, I made it a point to visit Alba Adriatica, my home of one year in 2014-15. I had romantic memories of the place stored on my mental iCloud. Even though there were times I suffered severe loneliness and raged over the inefficiency of the Italian system, the images of that year are fond ones.

I was unprepared, however, for what awaited me. Alba had sunk into a sort of funk. The apartment complex in which I lived had fallen into disrepair and wasn’t being maintained. Many more storefronts were empty. Indeed, the kebab shop I anticipated visiting, along with the chirpy young Turkish man attending to it, Osmond, was shuttered.

I spoke with Fausto, proprietor of the pizzeria across from the now-defunct kebab shop. He told me that the economy was even worse than it had been in ’15. He was struggling to hold on. I bought a bottle of Coke to help his sales, however minutely.

I was unable to connect with the little support support system I had created. The owner of the pasticceria was out. The spaghetti house where I went three to five times a week was closed for the afternoon. The Englishwoman who worked at my former gym was not in until that evening. I did not get a chance to speak with my former tutors, either.

Perhaps had I been able to connect a bit more, I would have left Alba with a different perspective.  But I doubt it. My tutor expressed her frustration in a Facebook message as she commented on the state of disrepair in Alba–something I had noticed but was unwilling to accept.

I had been excited of the prospect of visiting this little town if for no other reason than to savor the spectacular spaghetti dinners and wistfully re-live an important and unique period in my life. Perhaps it would have been best to allow it to rest in its sanguine mental state.

I don’t believe I have buried my desire to one day live again in Italy. If anything, I think I might have a more realistic view. My innocence has ended. Until the day for my return to Italy comes, if ever, I’m anxious to continue my current vacation by traveling to Lviv, Ukraine.

And I’m anxious to return home. I have a renewed vigor for life in my beloved Portland and my beloved Oregon. It’s true that vacations refresh one’s soul. This one is strengthening me and offering clearer insight. What more could I ask for?

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