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By Chance/Per Caso

Each morning, I leave my apartment around 8:40 a.m. to walk to school. It usually takes about 15 minutes to walk there, and classes start promptly at 9 a.m. With the sweltering heat, I've tried to leave earlier and earlier, just so I'm not in a rush, therefore decreasing the probability that I would arrive sweating.

Not that that has happened. Not once--ever, in fact. When it comes down to it, I highly recommend that anyone who wants to visit Italy come in the dead of summer, preferably in July and August. The weather is just a dream! 10/10.

Those who know me have (surely) picked up on the sarcasm by now! But, I digress.

This morning, as I was walking to class (not sweating, in all seriousness), I was practically bouncing down the street as a result of being in a good mood. I happened to think about how many times I've taken this same walk to school over the course of the past seven months--how I've taken the same route, inhaled deeply every time I went past the fruit stand (the smell of fresh produce is to.die.for), pet the same dog in Piazza Santa Croce, and saluted my favorite statue on the Ponte Alle Grazie. It all felt so...familiar.

And then something relatively new happened. I saw my teacher, Gianmichele, who was going past me at that moment on his bike.

I had to let out a little laugh. "Buongiorno, Gianmichele," I said. Thinking back now, I hope I didn't startle him, because I'm sure he didn't expect to see me or receive that greeting at 8:40 a.m.

"Buongiorno, Stefanie!" he replied. "Ci vediamo in classe. A dopo." (Hello, Stefanie! We'll see each other in class. See you later.) He rode away.

Most people might brush off an interaction like this. You run into someone you know on the street...what's the big deal, right? It's a coincidence--something that could happen to anyone. A few months ago, we learned that the phrase for an unplanned meeting or something of this nature is "per caso" -- by chance.

But again, for those who know me, they know that I am the queen of attaching meaning to nearly everything.

What can I say, maybe it's the Enneagram 4 in me!

Personally, it wasn't a chance encounter. Since moving here, I have started to internalize the number of people I run into and take them very seriously. It's just never happened as much in any other city as it does in Florence, and I think there is something to that.

I've run into my classmate, Yoshie, at the supermarket. I once ran into my friend, Sonja, on a random street (that I never take) on the way home from a school trip. I've seen my friend Eunyong in the city center when I was out for the evening and he was going home from work. I once became friends with a man in the grocery store and then ran into him two other times in the city. This past Sunday, I ran into my friend, Laura, as I was walking home from the train station. I bumped into my friend, Busem, in my neighborhood and told her where to get lunch. One time my Italian teacher from Nashville was visiting Florence and I ran into her on the street the day after we grabbed coffee. In a strange coincidence, I've also seen another teacher, Serena, on her bike, on my street, as I was walking to class. It happens with an alarming frequency.

And then, as if I wasn't surprised enough by what happened this morning, I ran into someone else I knew this afternoon. I was going home from my first private lesson (coincidentally, with Gianmichele) and saw my friend Sophie, who was looking for the Biblioteca delle Oblate, one of my favorite spots for a great view of Florence's infamous dome.

She didn't have international data on her phone, she explained, and asked if I knew where it was. (Of course, cue my previous comment about it being one of my go-to spots!)

So, we walked there together, because at that moment I could either go for a coffee or a gelato. I settled on a crema al caffè, a delicious mix of both things.

She was waiting for a friend and needed to do some edits on an essay, so we hung out and talked for a while before I packed up my things to head home, too.

In my private lesson, I mentioned to Gianmichele how strange it is to run into people I know with such frequency. Not only in the context of the fact that Florence often does feel like a small town but because it makes me happy to feel like I know people and people know me. I mean, for crying out loud, on Sunday evening I literally walked by my friend Laura as she was drinking wine on the sidewalk and she shouted "Stefanie?!"

He agreed about how common it is to see people you know but also said something really beautiful. "It's often things like that which will make you feel like you're at home."

I couldn't agree more. Things in Florence always seem to come back around. They click. I'm on the right track, wavelength, or latitude/longitude coordinate. Whether it's by chance or by design, I just know that it is always a sign that I'm exactly where I need to be.

I'm home.


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