Ever since I left Italy in 2016 to travel, then study and work abroad, across the over 20 countries I have been, “Where are you from?” is one of the questions I got asked the most.
Where am I from? Tricky question. I’m from Italy – that’s the easy answer. Where I feel I belong – that’s another story.
I was born and raised in the north of italy, in the lovely Bergamo. I do have a quite pronounced accent from the area. Many family members and some friends still live there. With some I’m used to going to get ice-cream when I’m back. We walk around the park close to our place and eat it there. That park is my childhood.
My childhood is also Salerno, the place where my dad was born and lived most of his life. I used to spend my summers in Salerno, visiting my family. I know my way around the city, I understand the dialect and I love it when I’m there.
My youth, that’s Milan. Milan is the nights spent on the bike, riding across the city. The lights of sunset. The smell of books in the library. That’s the place I loved, and yet, that made me feel the urgency of leaving Italy. If I close my eyes, I can still feel it burning my chest, that need of leaving for good.
I think I’m a bit from Brussels too. Brussels is the place of my young adulthood. It’s where I fell in love and where I got my first job. Rainy, grey and windy Brussels…and yet so warm.
My identity as an adult comes a bit from India as well. India is the place that made me doubt about all the things I was sure about, and that encouraged me to open up to new sides of myself.
I also come from non places.
“Non places” are what Augé defines “spaces of transience where the human beings remain anonymous”) such as airports, trains or bus stations around the world. I’ thinking of train stations in Milan, Paris, Vilnius or Amsterdam; airports in Brussels, San Paolo, or Fort de France – places where i’ve been spending so much time in the last few years. There, I learnt to wait, and to feel at home even where the place where “I was seemingly from” was thousands kilometers away. I belonged there.
Explaining where I am from, to me, is unveiling where my deepest memories are scattered, where my identity is rooted, and where I feel I belong.
This is where I would say I am from, today. Where am I living today – that’s another story.
And I’m going to tell you about it here.