Every time we have to drive out of Monterosso to the highway (autostrada), up and down the winding, narrow roads, my stomach lurches, but as soon as I see a green and white sign with "Firenze" or "Roma" written on it, I can't help but smile.
I know it's just a sign, there to direct traffic and make sure you take the right exit and the right road, and I try and explain this happiness at highway signs to my poor, bewildered boyfriend, but it's hard to put into words. Italy has always been a dream to me. The first time I stepped off the plane in Rome, when I was 15, I cried. I was ecstatic to just be at the airport.
That's obviously changed, almost 14 years later, when I find myself actually living in the country I've dreamed of almost all my life. Even before coming here, stories about Italy always floated into conversation from relatives, and it's foods were served on our tables more then mac and cheese and meatloaf.
When I get out of Monterosso, and see signs pointing in all directions across this crazy, beautiful, enchanting country, I smile at the memories of Rome, of Florence, and the towns I have yet to form memories of, some I can't even pronounce. It just reminds me, again and again, that I'm actually here. These dreams and memories are just a drive away. The first time I saw a road sign for Via Aurelia, I chatted for several minutes, excitedly, that I could actually be on the same route that had been used for centuries and centuries before. These things might be overlooked by some, but I never stop thinking how amazing this long history is, and how incredible it is to walk in the footsteps of centuries of civilization. Sometimes it's easy to get swept up in the closeness of Monterosso, in the relative isolation of the Cinque Terre and in the newness of it all. In the clean-up from the flood, the new home, the challenges and daily activities that overwhelm any life. That is, until I see "Roma", with a simple arrow, in the distance, like simply following an arrow can bring you to a memory and a dream all in one.
Sometimes, all it takes is a sign pointing to where you've been, to remind you where you are- and where life can still send you.