I walk through the gate and step into the past. Streets snake up the hill; tendrills branching up from the sandstone walls of San Marino- perched on a hilltop that has kept it safe for centuries. The shops are quaint, and there’s an undercurrent of stillness that is incapable of existing in Florence. The air sits soft in my lungs. I scale the streets, winding around shops and museums, wine bars and cafes. And out from behind the walls, down the alleys and through the windows, views of the landscape sit pretty, boasting their beauty as if it was their right . The horizon is clear – dotted with terracotta and greenery. Italy is alive here. Sprawled out beneath a sleeping giant of Dante – within the quiet alcoves of the three towers standing tall against the backdrop of the cloudless sky.
Josephine works in the information office. Her eyes light up at the questions I ask. She pulls me into her office and sits me down. Her hands moving as she speaks, she spins stories of the past, the historic city that has been so lucky to have escaped the reign of so many others. She asks my age and tells me she’s proud of me for traveling so young. She paints the story of the refuge of Garibaldi – climbing the mountain, running from forces that had been on the attack, and his love for Anita – who he had brought with him, who was dying, who he desperately was trying to protect – and the people of San Marino saved them. Yet she died later on. Josephine grabs my hands and acts as if I had known her forever. Sends me off hoping that I find love that will be strong enough to climb mountains for.
Through this job at Bus2alps, there have been many moments where I need to sit back and breathe – and understand exactly what I am doing here, and how blessed I am in the process. In months, I transformed from sitting in front of a computer screen, my back aching from the dusty office chair, my eyes straining in the fluorescent light, to beauty. To language and visions some only see in their dreams. My list grows longer by the day.