As I wait for the plane doors to open at Fiumicino airport in Rome, I feel the same sense of excitement I did back in 1988 aged 8 years old, waiting with my mum for the doors to open to the first foreign country I had ever visited.
As the doors opened today I felt the hot breeze on my face like I did back then and I was right back in that moment in 1988. Standing on the airplane stairs walking down the steps with my mum right by me, feeling that hot air like I had never felt before. The smells of the airport were the same, and that along with this heat made many lost memories flood back. Things I didn’t know I still remembered.
The airport looked exactly the same, still as chaotic and as disorganized, it was quite fitting to wait as long for my bags as we did in 1988. I suppose many things don’t change, which is quite nice really.
On route to Ponte Milvio, the neighbourhood we lived in back then, where I’m staying this time too, I remembered so much of Rome I didn’t think I would. I left 25 years ago, I assumed I wouldn’t remember much, but I do. I suppose a city like this doesn’t change, 25 years is nothing to a city as old as Rome.
Life here seems so similar, the smells, the tastes in the air. On my first wander around my old neighbourhood that evening it was like I was living there again, the smell of our bakery, the scent of familiar Italian food wafting around, it felt homely, like I knew it so well. A few things have changed here, different restaurants, and new bars have popped up, but ultimately it’s the same as when I was here. The water fountain mum used to take us to cool down is still here, the granita stand I loved is still going, our old road with our old flat still there like it was yesterday we lived here.
It didn’t make me sad or long for my mum being here, I thought it might, it actually makes it seem like she is still around. All those familiar things, all these smells and tastes that remind me of her. After the first bite of my spaghetti alle vongole that evening, I was right back sitting in our local restaurant with mum eating it for the first time as a child.
Food is amazing for bringing back memories. Smell and taste are the most powerful senses when it comes to memories for me. They take me back to that very moment, similar to the way music can, they bring me right back to that spot. This keeps happening here, every mouthful of melon sorbet, fresh pomodoros, roasted artichokes, watermelon and I’m eight again experiencing it for the first time, it’s lovely and something I didn’t account for.
I wonder though how do I photograph something like this? Something that doesn’t exist in any physical form. It’s just a feeling, a very personal feeling, how do I show this physically? Perhaps I don’t, I just enjoy it and write about it if I want. I think this trip will be much more about emotions and feelings and not so much photography, but that’s fine, I’m enjoying it so far.