Hello, and welcome to Chick Literal. Every week, I’ll be living out a new activity straight from the pages of chick lit or scenes of rom-coms and seeing what happens. Your suggestions of books/TV/movies to emulate are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After reading or watching Eat Pray Love, you might be inspired to take a trip to one of the countries Liz Gilbert visits. But, you wonder, will I still achieve enlightenment if I don’t have a book deal? If I go to Italy, will it cure my ennui or just cause me to gain 15 pounds? I don’t know what will happen to you, but let’s talk about what happened when I went to Italy to “find myself” and see if it was as Eat Pray Love-ly as promised.
I hadn’t read the book when I set off on my journey to Venice, though I probably looked at it in the airport bookstore before deciding I couldn’t afford it on a student budget. Unlike Liz, I wasn’t running away from a divorce; I was a stressed out study abroad student trying to put off studying for exams a few days longer, and to forget about a particular ex-boyfriend. A quick little trip, my first ever on my own, seemed like it might be the perfect way to do this.
I chose Venice over Rome, the site of so many chick flicks, because I’d heard good things about it, and because it was the setting of one of my all-time favorite girly movies: Dangerous Beauty. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. My BFF and I decided to watch it in college because we thought it would be a little racy, and it was, but despite being about scantily clad courtesans, the movie also manages to work in some history and quite a bit of feminism. Go watch it, you won’t regret it.
You will also not regret visiting Venice, if you’re looking to visit somewhere beautiful and full of art and history. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to forget about a boy, do not go to Venice. In fact, it may be best if you skip Italy entirely. Venice will beat you over the head with romance from the minute you arrive until the minute you leave, and if you’re me, you’ll secretly wish you hadn’t traveled there alone. The gondolas, the restaurants, the alleyways that would be perfect for making out in: everything seems tailor-made for couples. If you’re not a masochist who’s trying to prove something to herself (I can have a great time in one of the most romantic cities in the world all by myself!), try Sweden or Poland or anywhere else that’s cold and bleak and matches your mood. If you’re not in the mood for bleak, go to Belgium. It’s a country whose main food groups are beer and chocolate and waffles; you cannot possibly go wrong.
Anyway. Italy. Let’s talk about what was obviously the most important part of the trip: the food. Italy’s an easy place to go up a jean size; it was fortunate that I was only there two days, which was just enough time to gorge myself on gelato and overdose on all foods carb-centric. Strangely enough, I didn’t have any pasta the entire time I was there. My carb of choice on my Venetian adventure was bread. I know, I know, you can get bread anywhere. But there was something about the bread in Italy that made it so much more delicious than regular bread. Then again, it might also have been that bread was something you could grab from one of the infinite number of bakeries scattered around the city and eat on the go. I had one real meal in a restaurant, and sitting there eating pizza by myself while watching other people on dates or out with their families made my solitude feel oppressive instead of liberating. So gelato and bread it was, which worked out for the best, because eating while walking means more time for exploring.
The rest of the trip was kind of a blur. Two days is not long enough to spend anywhere, and I spent most of my time getting lost and ogling architecture. I’m not complaining; I enjoyed my map-less wanderings through Venice’s picturesque streets. Really, the best part of the trip was being in a foreign country by myself for the first time ever and getting to do whatever I wanted (except for making out with a cute Italian boy in an alleyway, because I didn’t meet any, and even if I had, I’m not the kind of girl who hops on the back of a strange Italian boy’s scooter).
So, did my trip measure up to everything described in Eat Pray Love? Both the movie and the book have taken a lot of flak for being the unrealistic and self indulgent adventures of a rich white lady, but honestly, I found them both pretty true to my own experiences. (Does this mean I’m an unrealistic and self indulgent middle class white lady? Ack.) Sure, I didn’t make friends with any gorgeous Italian men, but Liz’s ups and downs between the joy of taking a trip just for her own enjoyment and the loneliness that can sometimes bring were incredibly similar to my own feelings. I enjoyed the book, I really can’t tell you what I think of the movie (no, seriously, I can’t, after the scene where James Franco talks about spending their lives together and being miserable but happy not to be apart, I just lose it and cannot be objective about the quality of the film), but if you’re looking for a movie to emulate and you’ve got the money for the plane ticket, this one is worth the calories and the frequent flier miles.
Image via Film Fresh