This weekend my roommate, Claire, and I had the wonderful opportunity to take a few short day trips to Florence, Cortona, and Castiglion Fiorentino. I love going to Florence because with each trip I seem to encounter parts of the city with a different perspective. However, traveling to Cortona and Castiglion Fiorentino were entirely new and sweet experiences. Cortona especially had a warm and magical feel to it. The choice to travel there was relatively spontaneous, and we purposefully didn’t plan to do anything specific once we arrived to allow for optimal exploring. We snagged a bus from the train station to the walls of the city, and went from there. As we made our way up the hill toward Piazza Mercato we stopped in several small artists’ shops. We met a woman named Francesca, who made jewelry out of glass from the Venetian island of Murano, and stayed to talk to her about her husband’s art and their relationship to the city of Cortona.
Claire and I stopped in the in the Palazzo Comunale to observe a man playing guitar by the steps of a large church. A man and woman, walking two large huskies stopped to watch and held each other’s hands. There were children amidst a balloon-sword fight circling a clown just trying to keep up—their parents, all close by, watching fondly and nervously. We saw some older adults sitting four across on a bench by the grocery store, hip-to-hip and giggling. There was this warmth and energy to Cortona that seemed to stretch to the edge of everything we experienced. Here, we didn’t feel like visitors, we just became part of the city, even for only an evening.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between people and places. Particularly, my relationship to Italy and the Accademia, and how my first experience with the ADA compares to my time here now. Part of me was worried that because I was the only one returning from the group of friends I made last summer, the villa and city would feel different and strange. I was worried that the people I’d met and grown to love in those intense four weeks were what made Italy feel like home, and not Italy itself. What if I’d made a mistake in thinking that I could find the same sense of belonging in a city that no longer contained the same spunky creators from last summer?
After all, I think any place could feel special if you’re with special people. But do places hold that same magic on their own? I don’t think Cortona would have been as magical for me without Claire. The decision to travel together—explore together, get lost together, etc. helped shape my memory of Cortona. However, for me, I know that it’s unfair to assume that a place will lose its magic without the people you love. The experiences will be different, but still valuable, and oftentimes returning to familiar places alone allows you to dive into new relationships and physical spaces head first.
Sometimes my heart feels so full with the friends I’ve made that I find it hard to believe that I’ll keep finding beautiful creative people to love and be inspired by. Luckily, hearts are stretchy, and the Accademia dell’Arte and the city of Arezzo attract a (hopefully) endless amount of beautiful people. I’m lucky to have had an amazing group to create with last summer, and I’m even luckier to have found something even better this summer. This is a phenomenal place, but the people it brings make it so much more than that.