My first memory of London is of when I was a little girl watching "Mary Poppins", the scene when Mary Poppins is descending from the sky with her umbrella is the one that stuck with me most: Big Ben, the river Thames and those rooftops made me dream of London from a young age. You can say it was love at first sight. However, I wouldn't get to visit London until the summer before my last year at High School, when I begged my parents to send me to UK for a few weeks to improve my English, to my disappointment when we booked the trip it was recommended I wouldn't go to London, but a different cities for a better chance to immerse myself in the culture and avoid being surrounded by Italians. So I spent three amazing weeks in Canterbury.
I still remember being at the airport at the start of this adventure: my first trip abroad on my own, my first ever flight. I felt so grown up and independent.
I didn't stay in a college, instead I lived with a British family and it took me weeks to understand what the lady was saying to me over breakfast. Every morning, the house would fill with the smell of toasted bread, a breakfast so different from the one I was used to back home, where I would start my day with a bowl of caffelatte and biscuits. I remember spending hours browsing HMV, never leaving without having bough a CD from either Oasis, Blur or Take That (guilty!). During my 3 weeks in Canterbury, I did go to London for a day and I remember having lunch in Hyde Park watching people passing by rollerblading and thinking "I wanna live here one day".
So after I finished High School, I got a job as an au-apair for an American family and moved to London for a year. I had the best time and loved living in the city, most of all I loved being able to take the tube to a concert instead of travelling for hours to cities like Milan or Bologna, seeing gigs not only in places like Wembley Arena, but in small clubs too. Heaven! After a year, I kept the promises I made my parents, and I went back home to start University, however I soon realised that I missed London, A LOT. I had the opportunity to move back when a couple of girls I met whilst being an au-pair said they were getting a flat together, and wouldn't I like to join them?
It wasn't an easy decision, I knew it would upset my parents as they worked so hard for me to go to University, I raised the money I needed for a return plane ticket by selling my stamp collection and off I went.
It was not easy, even after living in London for a year, my English was still not great, when I moved in with my friends I didn't know how I was going to pay my next rent. Thankfully I was very stubborn, determined to make it happen and not to go back home; not sure how, I managed to get a job as a waitress in a restaurant where, a few years later, I met my husband. This was many years ago, nearly 20 years ago.
I didn't stay in London all these years, for a few years me and my husband moved to Leeds for my degree, and during my degree I spent a year abroad (six months in Granada and six months back home in Italy). Still I dreamt of being in London and at the first opportunity available, I returned to my city, my home. People often asked me whether I would like to move to another city or country, maybe one day, for the time being, I am not tired of this city for many reasons.
I can't deny that Brexit made it harder to love this country, but my experience has and continue to be only positive. London is open.
London is not perfect, far from it- non existent summer, anyone?- but it is multicultural, full of opportunities, has plenty of free museums and exhibitions and I found a great community through Instagram.