Last summer I said goodbye to almost my entire circle of friends. Because after years in Rome, everyone had realized that there is no future here for them. Except me.
A new beginning in Amsterdam, a master's degree in Sweden, a consulting job in London, going back to the roots in Paris: Everyone around me has wonderful plans, and none of them involve staying in Italy. I have never said so many goodbyes in the time span of only one summer, the leaving-Italy epidemic has fully infected my network of friends, some of them who have been with me since the very beginning, five years ago.
This has happened once before, right after I graduated from university and everyone started disappearing in all kinds of directions and I was the only one who decided to stay, convinced I could make it in Italy.
Today, I am struggling to not lose my sanity working as a content writer, every day trying to make the concept of booking hotel rooms by the hour sound like the latest trend instead of, uhm, what one would expect from an hourly hotel. I am saying goodbye to everyone who has accompanied me in the last years, people that were my safety net in moments of particular living-in-a-foreign-country-crisis. The Italian mentality could not be more uncomprehensible to me than at this moment and I still make mistakes using the damned Italian subjunctive, after five years. Sometimes I don't have the slightest idea why I am still staying here. Now is sometimes.
How strange that when we move to a foreign country to start over and look for something different, we still seek what is similar to us. This similarity takes on the form of other expats, with the same background and motivation. And most of all: the same problems with Italian bureaucracy, mentality, humour (read my take on Italian humour here. It's not fun.)
This is why my circle of friends became as international as a UN committee, but here's the catch: None of them sees their future in Italy. They remind me of myself before I came here, when I roamed around without destination and not knowing what it was that I was actually looking for.
It took a long time to break through the superficial level on which I interacted with Italians and until today, my Italian friends remain very few (probably around three). But these are the people who now introduce me to a new side of Rome, and it starts with food. Since I arrived in Italy, I’ve been going on about how it’s impossible to enjoy some international food in Rome, because, well, Italians don't like anyone messing with their food. Then D. takes me to a South American restaurant where I’m eating the most authentic South American food since my travel to South America. Another night I brought up the courage to try lamb heart, liver, lungs and a whole bunch of other weird intestines these Roman barbarians mix together in a typical plate called Coratella. And I am thinking to myself, maybe this is a possibility to finally get to know Rome as a Roman and not as an expat.
I still have no idea what it is I am looking for, but I might find it in Italy. And even if things are frustrating and make no sense whatsoever (a frequent occurrence in this country of the crazy), I know that rain and thunderstorms depress me when I'm in Switzerland. In Italy, I find them beautiful.