A Love Letter To Italy


Not Just Another "Dolce Vita"Dear Italy,

Today marks 10 years to the day since we first met.

I was a reluctant and grumpy teenager then, and although I had heard a lot about you and was curious to meet you, you didn’t make a very good first impression.

I was already unhappy due to having been taken away from my friends for a good portion of the summer, but the burnt and lifeless scene you presented me with on the tarmac of Fiumicino Airport in 2003 didn’t win you any favour in my eyes. Neither did the subsequent hours-long quarantine in a back room in the airport terminal because our plane had come from SARS-infected Toronto, or the heat sickness I suffered on my first trip to Pompei.

Slowly but surely though, Italy, you revealed some of your charms to me. First, through a young, sweet waiter who paid me some attention one evening in an oh-so-Italian way, then with the experience of unearthing some of my familial roots in my Dad’s hometown, then through the discovery of what remains to this day one of my favourite dishes: eggplant parmigiana. Further exploration of your different regions revealed the types of landscapes I had always dreamed of seeing, and it was in Florence with the purchase of a stylish red leather jacket with a turned up collar and cuffs, that you sealed the deal and won me over.

By the end of our first 3-week meeting I was now reluctant to leave you, and you had me curious to know you better. I decided that the best way to do this would be to learn the language of your culture and your citizens, so I vowed to work at learning la bella lingua and then return to immerse myself in your culture and customs.

We had to wait another 7 years to meet again, but during our time apart I learned a lot about you.  Armed with a better knowledge of your language, I returned to meet you again, this time for a longer stay. I wanted to know what it felt like to live as Italians do, to speak your language and meet your people.

It was then that my feelings towards you, bella Italia, changed.

Many people claim that they “fell in love” with Italy.

I didn’t fall in love with you.

I simply found a place in you, where I felt as though I belonged. Please don’t think that I had come to you feeling like a displaced person, because Canada is my home and I have always felt as if I belong there. But it was just simply so beautiful to discover another place where I fit so seamlessly into the culture and the rhythms of life.

And while I spent a bit of time marvelling at some of the eccentricities of your rich culture and your vivacious people, I didn’t stumble over the cultural roadblocks my compatriots (even the Italian-Canadian ones) would have. I had no problem eating later, talking louder, forgetting my idea of personal space, and keeping my patience as even the simplest of things became difficult.

When our time was up, I knew I had to return again. I had originally come to you hoping to satisfy my curiosity in 3 months and be done with you, but it wasn’t meant to be. Back I came the next year, for 4 and a half months of getting to know you better. And do you know how much you affected me in that time? You influenced the way I dressed, the way I ate, the way I thought, the way I spoke. My Italian, although already good, became coloured with the accent of the Senese territory, and my taste buds learned to crave things previously unknown to them.

Since then, Italia, although I haven’t spent as much time with you as I would have liked, you’ve influenced my life in innumerable ways. You’ve provided me with mountains of material to write about, countless memories to replay in my mind’s eye, and enough fodder to supply me a lifetime of daydreams. Your landscapes, your language, your culture, and your people have helped me expand my knowledge of the world – of life, of love, of passion, of both the dolce and the amaro that this world has to offer.

So here’s to you Italia, my second home, my wonderland.

To a lifetime of loveliness between us.  

Con affetto,

Sarah 

Venezia 2-53

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83 thoughts on “A Love Letter To Italy

  1. I wish I had the ability to write as eloquently as you have about Italia…..you’ve truly captured the essence of my feelings…..especially about feeling so comfortable here. Thank you

  2. Sarah,
    Thank you for this post. It is so well written and expressive. When people ask me why I keep returning to Italy, I find it hard to put my feelings into words. You have said it so well.
    Having returned from 6 weeks at language school in Siena in April, I understand your love for the city and Italia. I am making slow progress in my study of the language….but I don’t feel bad about it because it just means I will have to return to Italy again and again!

    • Ciao Emolly,
      Thanks for reading and commenting, and in bocca al lupo for your study of Italian! It took me awhile to put my feelings into words, but I think when you write from the heart with honesty and sincerity, it becomes easier. Grazie!

  3. Dear Italy, today marks almost 47 years since the day we first met and I have to admit that I have gradually fallen out of love with you. In the intervening years I have been married, widowed and raised three boys who are now their own people. I have fallen out of love(if I ever were in love) despite the fact that I have a lovely house in a beautiful place and a number of very good friends. I have come to hate a state that treats its subjects like serfs without rights, particularly if they are old, poor ot needy; a country where ‘il furbo’ lives happily while the honest citizern is downtrodden and exploited. I have come to hate the senseless bureaucracy, the conformism and the acceptance of blatant injustice: a shrug of the shoulders and ‘intanto tutto il mondo e’ paese’. A country that refuses to change, marginalises young people and has no meritocracy is destined to slowly die.

    • Cara Deborah,
      Thank you for taking a look at my post and for commenting. I really appreciate that you took the time to share an alternative viewpoint on Italy, but I’m saddened by your words, as true as they may be. I hope that, if it’s your wish, you’re able to put Italy behind you and live your life in a place that evokes in you the same sentiments that Italy does in me.
      Grazie,
      Sarah

      • After nearly fifty years of course I can’t put Italy behind me – it is a major part of my life and may be that is what I was trying to say: it is easy to have this very romantic view of Italy if it is just a pleasant interlude but it is another question if you live here permanently and have to do battle with all the difficulties.

    • I’ve spent more than a little of my life being so deeply proud of being a member of my family (100% Italian, all four grandparents etc.) and proud to be Italian American but … conflicted about what it means to be “proud” of coming from someplace that treated my grandparents so badly that they were forced to liquidate their lives and get the hell out.

      My idea of what it means to be Italian has been permanently altered from Italy’s idea of it. To me, part of the great diaspora, being Italian is inextricable from having the hunger to better your life, and finding the guts to make it happen, to go searching for a meritocracy. Yet, the only way my ancestors found that in themselves and passed it along to us was to leave Italy behind, especially the medieval poverty and criminal neglect of the south.

      But still … what we are is still some kind of Italian. Italy and Italians did and do have that drive. But the country doesn’t seem to know how to enable it to bloom in its own soil.

      • I wholeheartedly agree that Italy is no picnic, hence the name of this blog. Italy isn’t just about La Dolce Vita, (see my post entitled Looking Past La Dolce Vita) and Italy and Italians have taught me a lot about melancholy. It’s one of the reasons I’d be reluctant to make it my permanent home, and it’s one of the reasons why, although I have sort of a standing job offer, I haven’t made the leap to go back.

        My grandparents and father too had to “flee” from Italy to Canada, and yes, they’re better off now than they ever would have been if they had stayed. But if you ask my Nonna what she thinks life would have been like if they had stayed, she’ll reply, “We would have been fine, Sarah. We would have made do. We were farmers, so we always had enough to eat, and there was always a little something left at the end of the month.” Yes, the country is in ruins, but there’s still something beautiful about it. 🙂

      • Agreed. 🙂 I’m afraid my comment sounded a little too down on the place. Obviously, it’s a thriving first-world country (with a third-world government, and I have no idea how they manage that). It’s just strange to strike that balance, as I’m sure you know well.

  4. My sentiments too…although I wish I had, like you, experienced Italy when I was young. I had to wait until I was almost 70. But, I’ve learned the language pretty well, as has my wife, and we’ve been back several times…and, fate willing, we will again. Live, love and enjoy…in the end it’s all we have.

    • Ciao Stan,
      Thanks for reading, and I’m always glad to connect with people who share the same feelings about Italy as I do! I wish you and your wife continued success in learning Italian. In bocca al lupo! And what you said is true, “Life, love and enjoy… in the end, it’s all we have.”
      Grazie!

  5. I visited Italy twice. It was for peace camps so I didn’t have the leisure to really get to know the country. But nevertheless, I fell in love with the people and the LANGUAGE. I have been learning Italian off and of for the past year, and I can understand and speak a lot of it.

  6. I always think Italy is a good place to go for the holidays, but, at the moment, it’s not a good place to live.
    Yes, people know what’s good in everyday life, know how to enjoy the pleasures in life, art and scenery are amazing (although not everywhere)… But as Deborah pointed out, life is way too difficult and unrewarding.

  7. this is an honest love letter and the truth shows through – it displays the love which grew and which was tended. thank you for sharing this beautiful love and congratulations on being freshly pressed.

  8. Pingback: 28 Jun       5 VotesDear Italy,Today marks 10 years | mohammadpakdel

  9. Italy was one of those places that I once dreamed to live in for the rest of my life but, in reality I have no means of getting there unless I can find a job that will best suit my lifestyle. Wonderful blog.

  10. sounds like a real journey, those ten years. And I think Italy gets the teenager part-who wouldn’t!? 😉
    And the flow of your writing is great.
    Congrats on the freshly pressed milestone!! :-*

  11. im not italian and i don’t know enough of the country’s political history to speak to any of what’s been said in the comments, but i loved my time there! i only had about two and a half weeks there in 1999 (it’s been too long since i’ve visited) but it’s such a lovely place. my parents sent me right out of high school to visit our italian friends (we met them when i was a kid during a work exchange for them). i went with my dad and grandpa and what a marvelous time. i loved the food and the people were also so nice. this just really reminded me of how much i loved it and can’t wait to go again some time. it’s well written and a lovely ode to a wonderful place. 🙂 congrats on freshly pressed!

  12. Stepping up and really learning another culture goes a long, long way to making one a better, more tolerant person, equipped to handle life’s surprises. Good on you for making the effort.

  13. Beautifully written. Its so great that you shared these memories with us. Your writing is wonderful how you described the culture and your most memorable places. Just so that you know I love Eggplant Parmigiana my Grandma Millie used to make it for me especially for my birthday dinners. I look forward to following your blog and beautiful musings.Have a great night Allie,

  14. Pingback: A Love Letter To Italy | The Pretty Canary

  15. Ciao! I’m a little envious. I have been wanting to see Italy ever since high school. Oh, how I wish I would find my place somewhere too. It feels like I don’t belong anywhere. Good for you to have found yours.

  16. Grampa must be very proud of you. Congratulations on your motivation to find the other part of your heritage.

  17. Excellent post! I am definitely one of those people who would say I “fell in love with Italy” the first time I visited, but I love the different way you describe it.

  18. Pingback: A Love Letter To Italy | CHANAPLUM

  19. Beautifully written, Sarah. I’ve been to Sicily three times and Naples and Pompeii twice. But I envy your four-and-a-half-month visit. That must have been amazing.

  20. This makes me wanna work harder on my goal to live for a while in Italy! I’m trying to Lear the language and save some, until the day presents!! I loved reading your post 🙂

  21. This was a great blog, very well written! I have slowly fallen in love with Italy and an Italian myself. My husband had to leave to America for a better life & that is where we met. We go back every few years and I love visiting- but as an American on vacation… there are good things and bad things for sure- as is the case in America. No way we could afford to live there with the salaries we’d make abroad, but I love visiting family and the Italian beach when we can.

  22. “Many people claim that they “fell in love” with Italy. I didn’t fall in love with you. I simply found a place in you, where I felt as though I belonged.” – I fully empathise with this sentiment, except that I’d replace ‘Paris’ with ‘Italy’. That said, Italy’s one of my favourite countries to explore in Europe; I especially like the ‘heel’ (i.e. Puglia).

  23. I really don’t know what to say, but I can offer these words: passion, love, good vibes, heart warming.

    And yes, I felt the way you put those words together.
    All the love in the world for you I sincerely offer.

    – Knight of January ❤

  24. Love this post – thanks! It’s so charming and holds the very essence of Italian romance. I experienced Italy for the first time last year – Rome, Perugia, Florence, Bologna and Venice – and it exceeded all of my expectations (which were not very high and largely based on terrible movie-like stereotypes). Cheers, Nic

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  27. Sara (said Italian style)
    I am a short Toscana who likes your blog. 🙂 I’m also a first generation Italian-American who was fortunate to spend some summers with my grandmother in Italy when I was young. Today, I’m a writer whose historical novel set in Late Antiquity, Rome and Gaul (France) will debut in 2015. Have you seen from the Perennial Plate “Ten things we love about Italy”? It’s a short video about Italian food and drink. I tried to link it, but it didn’t work. check it out.

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