My dearest Italy,
Many have asked me…why Italy? Out of all the places in the world, how did I come to love you most of all?
Love isn’t the type of thing that you can explain or justify, but I’ll try my best to speak the unwritten language of my heart.
You have always been in my life. At first you were just in the background, the setting in the story of my family history, the place from which “the old timers” came. I thought of you the way I thought of fairy tales…as tangible as a story in a dusty, old leather book…just a figment of my imagination.
My European affair began with France, because let’s face it…France was…there. Available. One of the only options of foreign languages in high school. I thought I loved France (I did fall hard). But sometimes we fall unwittingly into open arms that aren’t willing to hold us. Like the guy who woos you all night just to never call again, and you’re left with the bitterness of unrequited love, of falling without being caught.
And that’s how you found me, Italy, with a wounded heart. At my most vulnerable you picked me up and dusted me off, that American girl alone and sad in a foreign land. On that trip from France, I think you recognized me as one of your own. For even though I’m a melange of European DNA, my heart is made entirely of your own material. You sent me an angel in the form of a nonna, who saw me when I felt invisible, and then a Neapolitan train conductor, who gave me an Easter miracle. That was how my love started to grow. I knew it wasn’t just lust, but that you were also a friend. I finally felt that someone understood me, that someone had as many contradictions as my own. I understand your beautiful chaos. I too have been called “always late,” but who are we to dictate the timing of the universe? We are old souls in a modern world, you and I. You are a familiar mystery.
So that was the beginning of the inevitable, the intertwining of our paths. Actually, you have become the path – to love, purpose, life.
During my Torino semester abroad, you gave me my purpose, inspired by my Italian teacher – that I want to be not only a learner, but also a teacher, and that language is best shared over a cappuccino or the dinner table, and not just the classroom. And now that I have experience under my belt, my dream of teaching by learning while breaking bread together is on the tip of my tongue, ready to be spoken.
My desire to speak your language is what led me to my good-hearted man. Maybe it was a guise to bring us together that I was captivated by his country, and he by mine. I think we find a bit of home in each other, as at the core we each possess the characteristics of the other’s birth countries. He is structured and orderly like America, and I, guided by whims of inspiration like you, Italy.
When I experienced the most blissful day, you were there. It wasn’t even your beauty or anything that you did. Actually, everything had gone wrong! But somehow, walking down a street in Torino with a mirtilli e crema gelato, I was completely in the moment, not wanting, not needing. Letting everything just be. It’s okay not to be perfect, and it’s okay not to rush. That is the key to life you taught me, just be. That’s where the bliss is.
Oh, and they say the way to a man’s heart is his stomach, but let it not be just men! I can still taste the source of your food; earthiness in mushrooms, grassiness in cheese, and the saltiness of the sea in the fish. By eating your food I feel more connected to this glorious earth and the people I share it with.
Sometimes I think I have put you on a pedestal, as admiring from the distance can do. The more I examine you up close and discover all of your idiosyncrasies, the more I learn that to love means to see both the light and the dark. Sometimes while looking in the mirror, all we can see is the flaw of a single pore, and not the face of beauty. We all deserve to be loved as we are. It’s impossible not to fall for your physical beauty, but you captivated me with your soul.
You, my dear Italy, live up to the fine wines that you produce and just get better with time. More complex, yes. Even bitter at times, yes. Often bubbly. But I love that you make me feel everything, and therefore more alive. In you, my past has become my future, full circle. My love for you spills onto the pages that will one day become novels.
This post is a part of the #DolceVitaBloggers, a link up for Italy lovers, hosted by myself, Jasmine of questadolcevita.com and Kristie of mammaprada.com. Our topic for February 2018 is “write a love letter to Italy.”
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