About two years ago I visited Georgia for the first time, it was winter and I was part of a group of people engaged in a project for an NGO. I ended up in that project by chance and the chance wanted Georgia to become my second country. I remember that I arrived late in the night in Tbilisi. First thing you notice from the plane is a huge glittering antenna overlooking the city. My biggest fear was not to find the hostel I had booked online or worse, that it would be closed. I had just an address and an email in a city I did not know at all. I jumped on the first available taxi and headed for the Fox Hostel on Rustaveli Avenue.
Pitch black, I could not see out the window until we entered the city. Tbilisi was lit by Christmas decorations. In an instant I found myself thinking about my childhood and Christmas, which I do not celebrate. I was happy. The taxi driver tried to get smart trying to increase the price agreed at the airport once he arrived at the hostel but went wrong. Taxis in Georgia do not measure distance, so jump on and agree the price in advance. It is easy. The sleepy doorman opened the door, checked my ID and gave me Chacha (local Grappa) and cookies. We spoke for one hour before I went to sleep.
That famous antenna in Tbilisi Photo Credit: Salvatore Costa
The next day we started traveling to Kvesheti, near Gudauri, one of the most famous ski resorts in Georgia. During the trip I was delighted by the diversity of landscapes that gradually flowed in my window and disappeared into the deep white snow that slowly covered everything. We stayed in a cheap hostel with no internet. We were there, the snow and our stories. First of all, I swear I did not even know where Georgia was located and what kind of people were Georgians. They are simple people, warmhearted, big drinkers and they turned out to have great love for Italy. There I met the woman who would become my wife after one year. When the project finished I returned in Italy, but I was minded to come back in Georgia and meet again that girl and see again those places.
During NGO Project Photo Credit: Salvatore Costa
Meanwhile I looked at photos, those snow-covered landscapes, the narrow streets of the old city, the smiling faces, fruit shops, the spice stalls, and the river, which like Tevere in Rome splits the city into two parts. It was weird but … I missed a place in which I had only been for a week. I found a little piece of Italy outside of Italy. It was then, when I said: “I drop everything and I move to Georgia” I packed and without knowing Georgian and Georgians – I left. Reckless and fearless. But once in Georgia not as a tourist I had to come to terms with reality which is always different from dreams! At first it was really hard, I must confess.
The language, the alphabet, another culture. For example, finding a bread shop was suddenly the hardest thing in the world. How should I guess that that bread in Georgian is “puri”? So I started studying the alphabet with a children’s book and gradually I learned to read, write and speak Georgian.
Family Photo Credit: Salvatore Costa
Two years have passed since then, I have a steady job, a family, my home and I’m really proud to live in this country, even with its problems, because it doesn’t have problems. This is in brief what happened to me and how I ended up living in Tbilisi…