From the moment I started hearing Italian spoken at the airplane gate in Abu Dhabi my heart started singing a bit. Like hearing a familiar song from a good chapter in my life, I noticed my load lightening perceptively. I was coming home, in a sense.
To that perfect balance of peace and excitement. Content in the adventure.
It's not really an obsession (but close). Passion is the closest word that seems to fit for how I feel about Italy and everything Italian.
Love it all.
For the fifth time I've been able to return on a two year cycle after first going with my sister and mum on a European tour when I was in my early twenties (I am ever aware that this has been an incredible blessing for which I am tremendously grateful and hardly worthy of). Four of these trips have been with Judy (three of them also with her husband Steve). I guess you could say I've been the beneficiary of their love for Italy. And a convert.
These are frequent thoughts as I settle in to the vita Italiana:
I feel so alive!
I can imagine myself living happily here.
I could fall in love again.
I am so aware of all my senses: smell, sight, sound, touch, taste. And a sixth sense I can't describe but transcends the usual. A sense of well being.
I am truly happy here.
I need to figure out a way to live here.
I want to gather my friends here (had a pretty good go at that one in a villa near Siena to celebrate my fiftieth a few years back)
As I am breathing and moving around in my body in Italy it's like perpetually being in a state of subtle inebriation. Like having a good drink and a half in me and staying at that place. All the time. You know: before finishing off that second one and then the third and fourth and feeling maybe beyond good and maybe behaving badly. And waking up sorry. (If I do occasionally have that extra glass or two in Italy I always still feel good and always wake up glad to be in Italy and never sorry.)
I wish everyone could experience this place. How can I describe it to help them do so? Where even the shadows reveal grace and hope.
In Italy the Italians humor my attempts at their lovely language. Like the very delicious wine there, my attempts improve with age. And with each glass of very delicious wine. The Italians typically are gracious enough not to correct my mispronunciations. And let me live in the illusion that I am beautifully Italian as well. When they speak, it is always with such passion. With their hand gestures and inflections.
"Avete un funzionamento nella vostra calza" (you have a run in your stocking)....I hear "My heart sings for your lovely face."
"Grazie. Glie pendero la cura quando ottengo las casa" (Thank you. I will take care of it when I get home.)...I hear "Thank you. I think you are the cure for my broken home."
When I was in Bologna, after walking through a food market place, a lovely proprietor of a salami shop pulled me close as I neared her counter, looked deep into my eyes, cupped her hand to my ear and spoke something that sounded like "I think you should marry my son" then pointed to the area below her belt and moved her finger up and down saying something like "I'm so sorry." and pointed at my area below my belt at which instant I realized I had been wandering around the food market with my fly wide open. It's hard to tell but I think in retrospect that those food merchants had been particularly flirtatious. And the women acting more jealous of me than the usual! (yes, the Italian air does play tricks on ones sense of self esteem in which one should feel particularly ugly being around all the gorgeous tall and skinny women whose legs don't come together and their skinny tight jeans don't leave that for guessing, but for some unreasonable, unexplainable reason one feels beautiful too instead).
This trip around I had my new camera with me. I took a few pictures. A few too many, perhaps. Judy and Steve humored me as I lagged behind, popping off pictures of the balconies laden with big baskets of blooming flowers;
bicycles propped against walls;
even laundry hanging.
I lugged that heavy camera everywhere, trying to remember to look up and back and sideways not to miss a good shot. Which in Italy means a hell of a lot of pictures because (I speak the truth) everything in Italy makes a good picture. Especially when you are wandering around feeling like you have a drink and a half in you (even if that drink and a half is really only a cappucino).
Oft I'd take a big breath in (this time most of those breaths came scented with blooming jasmine) reminding myself to register consciously the entire feeling so that I could recall it and try to rechannel it as I resume my life back in polarly opposite Abu Dhabi. "Remember this" I said to myself. The feelings so intense, so appreciative, so abundantly full that it breaks my heart a little. In a good way.