All day Tuesday, the sky was heavy and low-looking. No single clouds could be distinguished from the mass.
The sky was all one color - almost pure white, touched gently with gray.
I watched it throughout the day, expecting snowfall to begin at any moment. Someone mentioned to me that this week is, according to the newspapers, the coldest Brescia has seen in 27 years.
I remember thinking that I had to keep looking out the window, checking for precipitation, because there'd be no pitter-patter announcement. It would fall quietly and beautifully.
I have always loved snow. I never outgrew it like some people do. It was never about getting out of school, either. Snow has never been a nuisance to me, or a mess. I love the way it turns the world into a winter wonderland for a little while.
So when, around dusk, the snow finally started to fall, I was thrilled. My host sister, not a fan of snow, was grumbling " che schifo," which roughly translates to "how disgusting," but my excitement could not be curbed.
Tuesday's snow wasn't just any old snow for me; it was my first neve (snow). Like many "firsts," it came with a bit of thinking and reflection.
My host family and I braved the cold and went out for dinner at a nearby restaurant. Nonna and Lucrezia's dad joined us. The drive to the trattoria didn't last any longer than five minutes, but it was long enough to see the streets I've come to know so well and the mountains above caked with white.
What really struck me was how beautiful it all was. When covered with snow, everything is more beautiful and, more importantly, beautiful in a different way. Impressed by this new beauty, I was able take in and realize once again the beauty that is always there.
Italy's beauty amazed me at the beginning of this year. Then I started thinking about other things and at some point got used to it, but there it was, five months into my stay here, beautiful as ever, made new by a sprinkling of snowflakes.
What I'm saying is that people invariably grow accustomed to beauty and amazement. The people who live in the world's most breathtaking places often stop appreciating what's before them, because it gets to be normal.
In New York City, the only people staring up, marveling at the splendor of skyscrapers, are tourists. And without even realizing it, I got used to living in a picturesque Italian city.
I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing. Maybe by accepting incredible beauty as a regular part of our lives, we somehow become a part of it, at one and in sync.
Then again, I feel more like it's a mistake. Perhaps it's a form of giving in and becoming numb to all the joy the world offers.
It took a snowstorm to open my eyes again. I've been thankful for this experience all along, but I can assure you that for the next five months, until I come home in July, not a day will pass without my looking at these mountains, these painted buildings, piazzas and red tiled roofs, and appreciating every facet of their gorgeousness.
The last thing I want is to be numb to beauty. I have a feeling that after this snow, I'll be finding it everywhere - in Italy and in South Carolina and wherever else I end up going.
When I get home, I'm going to really look at everything as if I've never seen it before - the azaleas in the springtime, the Spanish moss of the Lowcountry, the rows and rows of peach trees.
It's easy to forget how beautiful the world is when you're seeing things without looking. The important thing is to truly look every now and then.