I Have a Suitcase Heart

“They should tell you when you’re born: have a suitcase heart, be ready to travel.”   – Gabrielle Zevin

I just got back from two weeks in Italy…a trip that was enlightening, beautiful, frustrating and evoking.

I love traveling. I love seeing new places, I love watching a country roll by from the window of a train. I love getting lost, I love getting found. I love eating strange food.

If I could do this full-time (like a few people I know did for two years(!)) I would. In a heartbeat. But for now, I’ll have to settle for small trips when I can.

Rome was a beautiful complicated mess. The history here is staggering.

That’s the Mouth of Truth – Bocca della Verita – stick your hand in there and, if you’ve ever told a lie, it gets bitten off. Priests used to help the rumor along by tossing scorpions in there. And if it looks familiar to you, it’s because of this:

Roman Holiday, one of my favorites

I have seen a lot of famous graves in my life (it’s a traveling hobby) including almost seeing Shakespeare’s but this one of Caesar’s funeral pyre is up there.

In fact, there were quite a few good graves on this trip:

Percy Bysshe Shelley

John Keats

– and in case you can’t read that it says: “This Grave / contains all that was Mortal / of a / Young English Poet / Who / on his Death Bed, in the Bitterness of his Heart / at the Malicious Power of his Enemies / Desired / these Words to be / engraven on his Tomb Stone: / Here lies One / Whose Name was writ in Water. 24 February 1821″



AND least I forget, in the Galileo Museum, his FINGER BONE!

(And a tooth!)


Dante (though he isn’t really in there what with being banished and all)

And Machiavelli

Phew. Enough graves for ya?

How about the art…actually that’s Art (with a capital A)

The Sistine Chapel

Caravaggios – especially this amazing Calling of St. Matthew.

A whole room full of Boticelli’s including the Birth of the Venus, which I couldn’t photograph so you’ll have to settle for this:

The David (also couldn’t photograph so here’s the replica in the Loggia where the original sat for many moons until it was damaged in a riot)

The sculpture was by far the most amazing piece of art I saw in Italy (bear in mind that’s genius amongst more genius). The detail in the right hand alone was riveting.

Look at those veins! Marble. Amazing.

And the food:



Il Santo and Biscotti (which according to my husband tastes just like Christmas Eve)


and of course gelato

and more gelato

So if those are all the good things, here’s the bad:

Dear America – what the hell? Are we so self-righteous and depraved that we truly have lost all manners? I’ve never been so embarrassed of my fellow countryman in all my life. I certainly don’t speak fluent Italian but it takes a minimal effort to learn the basics. Hello. Please. Thank You. Goodbye. And how to order. Instead I watched rude Americans (or as they are known in Europe Ugly Americans) walk around demanding that people speak English to them, demanding service, loudly complaining, cutting lines.

Then packs of young American’s chanting “USA! USA!” outside of the Duomo, which for the record is a church. I may be a heathen and everything but even I know that’s just not right. Have we absolutely no manners? You are a guest in someone else’s country. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. You might actually learn something.

Direct quote overheard in the airport on our return:

20-ish year old male: “I don’t know Dad….it just sort of seems…like, I don’t know, but like….Europe is sort of….like….retarded.”

To which his father whole heartedly agreed.

Oh America, I hang my head in shame. We dub thee Ham-n-Cheesers, after the ignoramus in the cafe who couldn’t manage to eek out the words “prosciutto” and “formaggio.”


So to not end on a bad note here,  a picture of the Arno in Florence at Sunset.

And on the a similarly beautiful night as when this picture was taken, my husband and I passing down Ponte Santa Trina noticed a young girl who had climbed out over the bridge onto the large stone slabs that are part of the archway. She was sketching the Ponte Vecchio further down river. Later that night, he coaxed me down off the bridge (a drop of about 6 feet) onto the stone slabs over the Arno and together we watched the sunset. It was incredibly romantic. And they say marriage is a drag. Fools!

our feets out over the Arno

Okay that’s all for now. Time to get back to regular life. Writing. Living. Brooklyn. At least until the next trip. London (again?) Prague? Dublin? Who knows?


By Ally Malinenko

I live in Brooklyn which is good except when it’s not which is horrid. I’ve been writing for awhile, and have some stuff published and some stuff not. I don’t like when people refer to pets as their children and I can’t resist a handful of cheez-its when offered. I have a burning desire to go to Antarctica, specifically to the South Pole so I can see where Robert Falcon Scott died. I like to read books. I like to write stories and poems. I even wrote some novels. You can read them.

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