Hedonic adaptation is the concept that people have a fairly stable happiness set-point, and that even after experiencing major highs or lows, we tend to end up more or less back where we started, life-satisfaction-wise. It’s been on my mind as we wrap up our second month of living in Florence, Italy.

Some things that at first seemed quite exotic or at least surprising now seem more quotidian. For example, I initially got a huge kick out of seeing all the meats on display in the restaurant windows. I’m talking huge skinned pigs (head, feet and all), giant legs of beef or pork, squids and octopi and enormous cylinders of mortadella. I was fascinated by how the grocery stores are so different from the Tom Thumb in Dallas or the Harris Teeter in DC – smaller, more cramped, less pre-packaged and frozen food, fewer American brands than I might have guessed, no Ziploc bags. Every time we walked down a new street, or turned a corner, we saw something we had never seen before, like a fancy manhole cover, a one-seater car, a beautiful mosaic or shrine to a saint on the side of a building, the claws on the feet of the lampposts lining the Arno River. I was positively gleeful that all the windows in our apartment have inside and outside old fashioned wooden shutters, and open up wide.

None of this surprises me anymore, and I wondered if I was or should be sad about that, if I had stopped taking as much delight in my surroundings as I had at first. Of course, the reality is that we have still barely scratched the surface of Florence, and I could seriously spend about a year staring at the outside of the Duomo and discovering new things I hadn’t noticed before that are enchanting and mysterious and beautiful. I expect I could get a PhD in Florentine Renaissance art history and still not appreciate hundreds of the finer details of the outstanding Uffizi Galleries. But still, I do feel myself adapting to our life here.

I have decided that, far from feeling kind of let-down, I have a couple of new things for which to be grateful: first, adaptation is a sign of becoming more comfortable here, and second, being a bit more accustomed to the overall tableau might free me up to do some deeper thinking on this place, these people and what this all means. Maybe it’s like going from first grade to second grade. Or maybe it’s like looking at a big painting of an Italian noblewoman in a museum, and finding it absolutely striking, then walking up close and suddenly seeing the brushstrokes, the patterns, textures, colors and other intricately-rendered minute details of her gown, the jeweled ring she is wearing on her perfectly painted hand, the silky coat and bright eyes of the little dog sitting at her feet and the intricate carvings in the huge gilded frame, itself a work of art.

As I sit writing this on a Sunday evening in late March, I’m on our little terrace overlooking the Arno, the sun has set and Florence seems dark and mostly peaceful. Steve just said to me, “I still can’t believe we are here,” and it’s true.