After a year filled of cured meats, fine cheeses, and endlessly flowing wine, the end of my course at the University of Gastronomic Sciences was not enough to get me to leave my ‘hometown’ of Parma. Unfortunately, in the last week of my stay in the school provided apartments, I realized that soon I would find myself without a place to live, unemployed, and illegally undocumented in a European country….luckily this is Italy, and rules are more of a social suggestion than something strictly followed.
It was my last day in the school provided housing, I desperately wandered the cobblestone streets of Parma, eyes glazed over by the overwhelming pressure to find a place within 24 hours of my predetermined departure. This was crunch time. I went to the center of local classifieds which turned out to be like a scene from Midnight Express. Little pieces of handwritten housing requests pinned up on a never ending wall of pixelated colors. I left the office discouraged and mentally trying to prepare for my return into the United States.
As a final effort, I found myself in Parma’s historical center in Piazza Duomo at the famous and elegant hotel Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati. I knew this hotel doubled as a long-term residence and I asked the man at the counter how much I would have to spend to rent an apartment in the next 24 hours. He gave me a price of 1600 euro and my mouth dropped open. I felt a sense of overwhelming doom, feeling my vision closing in. Like a rat’s final attempt of escape from the grip of a cobra, I somewhat jokingly asked him if I could work for the hotel instead of pay….a kind of ‘dishwasher’ deal.
He smiled with surprise, and accepted my offer. I now live in the heart of Parma’s most beautiful streets, working for a Michelin rated hotel, and have begun the second chapter of my Italian life. In life the best things tend to happen at the last minute. Let’s see what this adventure has in store.