In college, my parents strongly encouraged me to spend my second summer giving long distance dating a second chance. My high school sweetheart and I had ended our long-term relationship and they were pushing their friend Italy’s son, Florence, on me. This was a complete stranger, but they adored him after meeting once, and my brother had been friends with him for years and agreed. So I gave in to the pressure and planned to spend a month going to school with him.
We had a bit of a language barrier and I had expected to spend the summer with Barcelona, so I was hesitant to even give Florence a chance. Then we hit it off immediately, literally moments into introducing ourselves. He was very handsome and I simply couldn’t resist his charm. Upon meeting, we took a long walk down cobblestone streets, romantically strolled through markets and piazzas, and scarfed down pasta and bread. That’s right, I ate in front of him, on our first date. Florence was unlike anyone I’d ever met, and interested, I decided to at least get to know him better.
We found we both prefer walking everywhere and can do without a car, we both love fresh food and vegetables and could eat homemade pasta every day of the week, and we’re both night owls. We’d stay out all night together just not wanting the days to end and enjoying the company of our new mutual friends. Then we’d sip on cappuccino’s each morning before class and he’d tell me his life story in class.
In a few weeks together, he introduced me to wine, art and the art of slowing down. He brought me to one of his vineyards, taught me how to taste properly, and walked me through the grapes where we took in the most beautiful views he was clearly proud of. We went to every museum imaginable and stared in awe at his art, another beautiful sight. He told me the story behind each painting and sculpture, all pieces of him he was willing to share, although I had a feeling he’d shown a girl or two before.
He even introduced me to his family. My own family had told me I’d love Italy, but I got to know a few of Florence’s brothers, too. Spending time with Rome, Verona, Sienna and Venice, I could see the similarities, but found Florence and I were clearly most suited for each other. I adored his mom, though and as with so many boyfriends, could’ve stayed just to visit with her.
Florence was so captivating I completely forgot about my ex. I was enamored and hadn’t had a spare second to think about him. Yet somehow no matter how busy we were getting to know each other, we never felt rushed or stressed. I was worry-free and completely relaxed with Florence and most of all, I was myself. I hadn’t planned on pursuing a relationship any time soon, but got attached against my will. Florence kept hinting we should be together, but I knew we were crazy to rush it. Could I have found the one in the middle of college? Should I stay and finish school with him?
Logic and responsibilities came in between us before I knew it. Head over heels, I wanted to run away with him and never look back, but it wasn’t meant to be. I had to return to school, continue to find myself, and date around before settling down. He was undoubtedly my first true love, someone I’ll hold in my heart and maybe even try again with in the future, but he was a rebound. As I suspected he’d done with many a girl before, Florence lured me in, kept me distracted, and played with my emotions, but he wasn’t ready for anything serious either.
It was a summer we’ll never forget, much like Sandy and Danny’s in Grease, and that I hope we’ll relive one day. That goodbye was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but having met New York and Paris and Costa Rica, I’m glad I kept looking. Who knows who I’ll end up with, but for now I’ll brush up on the language and maybe indulge in pasta and wine to tie me over.
What I learned about dating: It’s easy to get attached before you know it.
What I learned about travel: Never let the unknown intimidate you–go find out.