It's been a year now since I landed in Italy, tired and rumpled and broken and frankly scared out of my wits.
It's funny how physical being lost is, how you can travel in circles for fifteen miles looking for something three blocks in the opposite direction, and how suddenly you are faced with a lower back full of sweat and a friendly german shepherd and bleeding feet and feeling lost is the silliest feeling yet. I was constantly lost on that trip, lost looking for Bomarzo or the Colosseum, lost in a bus careening through the countryside by Siena, lost in the silent depths of Pompeii, because I have no sense of direction. Emotionally or corporeally. And being lost and limping and just plain tired out from looking at everything smashed me back together when I wasn't paying attention.
One afternoon in Florence I sat on a square right below Cellini's Perseus with the head of Medusa, with gelato in one hand and my journal balanced on my knee. Sitting alone in Italy is an invitation for conversation, especially if you're a young redheaded girl. In this square an old man walked over and sat down, and though I was wary--you never could tell which conversation would abruptly lead to a proposition--I slowly got drawn into conversation about books and politics. He was thinking of leaving Italy if Berlusconi came in, of traveling, and he asked the question everyone got to eventually: what I was doing in Italy alone. I shrugged and told him what I told everyone, that I was thinking, and resting from a bad experience. He nodded and narrowed his eyes in a manner that I would come to recognize as peculiar to old Italian sages, patted my knee, and sucked his teeth. "I think you are on a journey, yes?" he asked, squinting in the sunlight. "A quest. We have words for that here. In Italy, you say, farmi le ossa."
Which mostly, it turned out, translates to "building your bones".