I cried tonight because I am leaving here tomorrow. I have had a full full time, though. For once in my life I have no regrets about how I spent my days. Here in Florence, I tromped up the hills to San Miniato, looked down at the city from the Boboli Gardens, visited every gallery and church I had time to visit, practiced my horrible Italian with my new wonderful friends and gave a presentation at a conference:I played the voices of Italian immigrants to Gloucester; my friend Paul Goldberg did a slideshow; then, I talked about the importance of storytelling and that the reason I was interested in Italy was because I am writing a book about Mary Shelley; I loved that everyone there knew that she had spent time in Florence. Of course they did. My niece was there and she said the pictures of Gloucester made her homesick ( she is studying in London for the year). I took that as a good sign. Afterwards, we went to dinner at an enormous stone palazzo, owned by an exquisitely mannered count, who dined with us, and kissed the hand of Paul’s wife, Lee, many times. He did not notice me. But one young man, (who I thought was the age of my students, but is actually thirty-three, which tells me how much I have aged; I think everyone is eighteen) thrilled me by telling me he liked my curly hair. I stayed glued to his side for the rest of the evening. This afternoon I said goodbye to the conference people; went to a concert in the hall that Mary used to go to when she went to concerts in Florence, ate huge amounts of food, and now am refusing to go to bed because I do not want to wake up tomorrow and trek back home.
There is something about being a writer and being in Europe that I love. I am not Whitman. I am not Thoreau. I am certainly not Emerson. I like being surrounded by evidence of other artists and other intellectuals. I like walking down the streets that Dante and Elizabeth Barret Browning walked down. If she did walk. Wasn’t she bed-ridden? I can’t remember. I also don’t know how to write bedridden.. At any rate, it seems to ease my existential loneliness to see evidence of other writers and other thinkers scattered around the city — plaques, portraits, rubble, ruins — I feel much less alone when the past is all around.