I was known as “the exile poet” because I had just been deported from the UK that month. My nerves were shaken but I was determined to dive into this magnificent city and make a temporary home for my daughter and myself. Thank goodness for this city of serendipitous encounters and endless generosity of spirit, this city that welcomed my daughter and myself after we fled the UK at 3 am with our whole lives packed into two suitcases.
My new Internations friends and I met for a language exchange in the breezy upstairs loggia of the Biblioteca dell Oblate at the end of September. The library is a 12th-century monastery turned hospital turned library, and it’s just a 5-minute walk from my apartment in Santa Croce. This is one of my favorite places on earth – this terrace that overlooks the Duomo. The paprika dome of Santa Maria del Fiori rises over the city at night like a magnificent blood moon.
That’s me on the left with my scarf caught in the breeze. The lady to my left is now a great friend of mine here. Super great. I cannot – simply cannot – say enough good things about Internations, the “community for expatriates and global minds.” If you’re an expat – or like me, an expat /exile /wanderer – Internations will connect you with a family abroad who are all leading fascinating, quirky, artisanal lives. There were a few other Americans, a French woman, three Italians, a Dane, and a Romanian woman. The language exchange/potluck was a friendly and delicious.
It’s surprising that the library isn’t packed with tourists. It’s by far one of the most spectacular and low-key places in the Centro Storico. I come here often to write and study. It’s open until midnight.
I’m even the proud owner of a library card, though library cards are dangerous. I stockpile books and grow attached to them, then sort of without meaning to, neglect to bring them back until the library’s daily fines are stacked as high as my books. Thankfully Oxford University was merciful; when they heard I’d been deported they waived my £100 late fee. Library cards and steering wheels; two things that get me into trouble. One I take too slow, the other I take too fast. I still have an unpaid speeding ticket from Amsterdam. Books and speed.