I had not known about the hostility toward the first black government minister in Italy or the racial problems that followed talented Italian soccer players and, even years later, Daisy Osakue, a black Italian-born star athlete whose eye was injured in an egg attack.
For me, it began with passers-by on the street calling me Michelle Obama, Rihanna or Beyoncé — as though I can resemble all three — and the Italian men selling Pinocchio marionettes in the piazza near the famed cathedral, il Duomo, shouting “cioccolatta” (chocolate).
When I turned, another splash of beer went directly to my face.
The man in the swim trunks was hurling the contents of his bottle on me and the other black female — only droplets landed on the women he had argued with.
No one mentioned the possibility of racial encounters and tensions, largely aimed at the rising number of African immigrants.
Before I landed in Italy, I was unaware of the growing anti-immigrant sentiment in the country, a main entry point for migrants into Europe.
After a few heated words were exchanged between them, we all started walking away.
As we trudged through the deep sand, I suddenly felt a cold liquid hit the side of my body.
Up until about five years ago, I didn’t have much experience being black outside the United States.
What I mean is, with the exception of a few family vacations in the Caribbean and Mexico, I didn’t know what it might feel like to travel while black abroad.