La mia esperienza d'Italia
What shall I write of my Italian experience? There are so many accumulated since I first set foot in the land of my grandparents in 1977 and many times since, and they are all so precious to me! These are just a few of my memories of the country I love so much ... where do I start?
Is it that once-in-a-lifetime 3 week road trip through Central and Northern Italy with my 72 year old mother, who enjoyed it almost more than I did? And cried when she saw a full moon rise over the Adriatic in the Le Marche region from the place where her grandmother and my great grandmother emigrated in 1877.
Is it my 6 weeks of language school at Il Sasso in Montepulciano, classes taken over the last 6 years with teachers and staff I have come to regard as friends, in my most favorite hit?
Is it my first gondola ride in Venice, or getting lost down its mysterious alleyways, or drinking my first sgroppino in Piazza San Marco or walking on table tops during the Aqua Alta?
Is it my view of the Val D'Orcia countryside early in the morning when the mist rises from each hill and dale, turning the landscape into a fairy land?
Is it my thoughts of that heart-in-your throat drive along the incredibly gorgeous, but drop-dead scary Amalfi Coastline?
Or is it how I am are lulled by the beauty and simplicity of the quiet little village of Minori nestled into a little harbor sitting right on the edge of the Mediterranean, and where you quickly become family? And where a feast day becomes a celebration that includes all, be you citizen or tourist?
Is it my quiet boat ride across Lago di Como in the fog, where suddenly Bellagio rises out of the mist? Or the towering blue mountains that surround the lake? Or my walk through the Melfi Gardens in the sunlight with every color flower in glorious bloom and the buzz of honeybees in my ear?
Is it my memory of the herd of sheep grazing on the Tuscan hillside outside my window, knowing that soon their milk will be made into the most delicious Pecorino cheese?
Is it my first time driving alone in Italy, trying to read maps and understand road signs in a different language, as I made my way from Venice to the Cesena Nord and then on up through the Casetinesi National Forest, being well above the tree line, and soon above the clouds? Was it when I felt not quite sure I was headed in the right direction and hoping my very spare language skills will see me through? Is it driving alone in a foreign country feeling both afraid and also so in charge and alive at 58 years old knowing I could manage ANYTHING and do so in a foreign country?
Is it my short 3 days spent in a 13th century medieval hamlet perched on a hill, just 20 miles or so from Cortona, yet in the middle of nowhere, with all the stillness and beauty of early April with the lilac and forsythia and wisteria in bloom and then surrounded hours later by the stillness and beauty of a spring snow shower, all this with a sense of timelessness and filling all the senses?
Is it my trip up to Mt Aetna, wondering if there will be an explosion and finding instead what appears to be a lifeless landscape of red and gray rock, but on closer inspection the discovery of teeming life when I found every surface covered with lively red ladybugs?
Is it when I stood at the foot of "The David" or peered into the eyes of "The Pietà" or laid on my back on the floor of the Vatican Museum to take a photo of the Creation, taking in all the sheer beauty, magnificence and talent that is and was Michelangelo Buonarroti?
And I have not yet even begun to start recalling my memories of my first enjoyment of hazelnut gelato or my first sip of a really good Vino Nobile, or taking a cooking class in Radicofani making pesto or pici, or was it my memory of the deliciously goo and juicy lamb chops from la Trattoria di Cagnano.
Finally, is it all the people I have met and made friends with along the way, the teachers, the students, the butchers, the bakers, the vintners, the shopkeepers, the fishmonger, the florist, the hotel staff, the people in the street who smile and say "Giorno" I cannot put my finger on any one thing, however there is one memory I have of every place I have been in Italy and that is sitting for hours in a local café with my cappuccino or glass of wine, and talking with whoever stopped by while I people watch, read, or just enjoy the golden light of every day in Italy. My home away from home.