I first fell in love at the age of eight and am still in love thirty four years later. A childhood romance blossomed into a full-blown affair and then settled into an on-off relationship for the rest of my thirties. Despite many break ups and betrayals, this has been the love of my life. Therefore, on this Valentine’s Day, I dedicate this story to Italy, for it is Italy that has been my one, true, constant love.
Italy is somewhere that transcends being merely a country. It is a dream. Romantic, idyllic and breath-taking are but a few of the myriad words used to talk about Italy. Fellini’s Dolce Vita encapsulates this as the film moves between reality and dreams, much as those feel about Italy. Don’t get me wrong, I have many a time fallen out of love with Italy. And yet, like those sailors, I find myself drawn to her shores year after year.
I first came to live here as a child, attending school in Milan. At that point I fell for pizza, pasta, foccaccia and gelato, as any self-respecting eight year old does. Unable to shake off Italy’s spell, I returned to study at the University of Siena, where I spent lazy days in the Piazza del Campo, sipping on cappuccino and watching the world go by from the outside cafes that lined the square. I returned to live in Rome where I embraced the true dolce vita lifestyle, enjoying long nights out and days spent wandering this open museum of a city.
However, Italians themselves can be very much like marmite. I can love them for the same reasons I can despair of them: the way that no is never no which means there is room for negotiation; the undue focus on appearance, which on the flip side means everyone looks amazing; the dogmatic approach on what to eat and how meaning that Italian food is unparalleled. On the latter point, it might be said that Italians approach the eating of food like journalists approach writing a story. They want to know with whom you are eating (so they know if they need to be jealous), what you are eating, why you are eating it, at what time you are eating and how you are eating (slowly being the recommended way). Were it not for food I am not entirely sure that Italians would have anything to talk about, well, other than of course, love.
Why do I love Italy therefore? I love its beautiful little towns. I love its piazzas. I love downing coffee in one. I love the fact my day is more dictated by those coffee stops than by the turn of the clock. I love the food. I love the elegance. I love the weather. I love the adherence to tradition. I love my Italian friends and the welcoming nature of so many here. In short, I love almost everything about Italy, perhaps with the exception of a few of its Casanovas 😉
My sisters and I in Portofino where we loved going on weekend breaks when living in Milan.
Me and my older sister wearing our sports uniform for school; we didn’t have a school uniform, just a sports one…and this is the only time you will ever see me in any sports uniform 😉
Me and my sisters in the Veneto
Me in our garden in the outskirts of Milan in my then favourite dress…
A little more recent! Me in Venice (as if I needed to say it 😉
And me in Florence last summer in my now favourite dress 😉