I wake up to the gentle sound of rain outside. Movie posters and postcards from my recent travels litter the walls and a soft, gray light escapes through my curtains and into my room.
I’m making breakfast when I hear a familiar tap on my balcony door. Giovanni, my neighbor, greets me with a smile. I let him in and he sets his breakfast down on the kitchen table. We do this often. I offer him some toast and a cup of coffee and we talk about little things — how grateful we are for the weather that has finally cooled, our plans for the day. I ask how his roommates are. He invites me to his graduation ceremony on Friday. When we finish eating, we pull our chairs out onto the balcony and watch the rain together.
I get dressed slowly, shuffling through my sweaters and jeans like playing cards. When I’m ready, I look in the mirror and admire how I’ve changed — my hair is longer and a bit darker. I look older. I’ve recently turned 21. My necklace is new — I bought it a few days ago in Venice. A leather jacket from Florence rests on my shoulders.
The city bustles around me as I walk down Via Zamboni, where students sit on high curbs, legs dangling down into the street. The porticoes lining either side of the street protect them from the light drizzle of rain. They share cigarettes and read books before class, and laughter and Italian chatter float comfortably through the air. I bump into a few friends on their way to class. Ciao Molly, they say. Come stai?
In my favorite coffee shop, I make small talk with the barista while she steams the milk for my latte macchiato. She tells me that she plans to visit her parents in Puglia this weekend. I tell her grazie mille for my coffee and take it outside to drink and people watch for a bit. A group of students walk by, jostling each other’s shoulders. One lady receives a phone call as she passes my table. A couple sits down with their coffees at the table next to me. On the wall next to the cafe there is a painted sign that reads vogliamo una vita bella, or, “we want a beautiful life.”
In class, the girl next to me compliments my sweater. Che bella! I understand more of the professor’s Italian lecture than I did yesterday.
I take the long way home, walking in circles around the foreign city that has slowly become mine. I sit and read for a while. What a beautiful thing it is to make a place your own! Someone asks me for directions in Italian, and I point them in the right direction. It gets dark and streaks of pink line the sky above the orange buildings of Bologna. When I look up, I see a half-empty glass of wine that someone has lazily left on their windowsill.
I get home and say ciao to my roommates and cook dinner while they watch a rom-com. They giggle as the scenes of the movie get cheesier and cheesier. I learn the Italian word for second-hand embarrassment — così imbarazzante — specifically the type experienced when watching an extremely cheesy rom-com. We laugh as my roommate, Fran, imitates the actors in the movie, repeating embarrassing lines from the scene and making kissy faces.
I take my dinner out to the balcony and stare at the dark sky. My life in Bologna is beautiful. It is peaceful; it is simple; it is still. It is filled with wonderful people and wonderful food. In coming here, I have allowed myself to take a deep breath. I have placed a hand on my shoulder and told myself to slow down, to enjoy my life, to be.
Molly Green is a junior from Orange County, Calif. studying Writing Seminars. Her column centers around beautiful moments and things in her life.