It didn't seem at all like our first time.
The area of Switzerland we live in is as far south as you can get without actually being in Italy.
We are surrounded by Italy.
We can see Italian mountains from our house.
The lake we live by flows in and out of Italy on 3 sides.
There is a tiny island of Italy encircled by Switzerland less than 15 minutes away from our little corner of Montagnola.
We basically breathe Italian air.
Everybody we meet speaks Italian.
Every meal we have contains something Italian.
So our first time in Italy was not a completely foreign affair.
It was a lot like Switzerland, but at the same time it wasn't anything like Switzerland.
The streets looked the same only with faster traffic and much more dense.
The tunnels were the same only slightly less cared for.
The lakes and houses and mountains looked the same only the colors seemed to be a bit hazier, and pinker. They say it is the Milan smog but I think it does wonderful things to the hillsides.
They look gentler and softer.
It's almost like living in a watercolor painting.
The trains are the same only much less predictable.
The people look and sound the same only they are warmer, and louder, and assertive in a way the Swiss never are.
The food is the same only there's more and you can access it better.
Everything is available more widely, and later into the night, and longer throughout the day.
There are carts, and boats, and restaurants on every corner to satisfy any whim for the delicious.
The same way that the people who serve you make themselves visible.
They push in, and shout out, and cut through, and shimmy alongside, and reach over, and laugh out.
Italians will not be ignored.
They make themselves noticed.
Discretion will never be an Italian characteristic.
But it's this authenticity that is so endearing about the Italians.
And yet I find their quieter, gentler, more delicate Swiss counterparts equally endearing.
I cannot pick a favorite, they are so alike and yet so unique from each other, these two countries.
I think I shall continue to love best whichever of the two countries I find myself in!