Friday, March 30, 2012

How I moved to Italy and married the love of my life, part 1

As you may have already guessed from the name of this blog, I love Roman pine trees. I adore them actually. I could sit and look at them for ages. Today I have come to the pines for some inspiration.

I am writing this from a bench in my favorite spot in Villa Pamphilj, what I call the pine grove, where the trees all grow in straight parallel lines. No, I didn't bring my computer to the park. I would never commit that sacrilege! I am writing this out longhand. It almost feels like I'm writing in a diary, perfect for the post I have in mind.

As you well know by now, it was my not so brilliant idea to post about my wedding every 29th of the month (because I got married on the 29th), but I quickly got overwhelmed by the back story I wanted to tell.

It started out fantastically. I had a great time writing about my ancestors, and how I feel that they have, in some strange way, guided me here. But when it came time to write about myself, I clammed up. In January I skipped the post, in February I admitted my reluctance to get too personal, but my lovely bloglings encouraged me to bag my inhibitions and open up. So here goes. (I have a feeling this is going to be long. I'll have to do it in multiple parts. Oh, how I love to draw things out. I apologize in advance!)

To tell this story properly I must begin, if not in 1861, then at least in the early 80s when I discovered that I have Italian blood. I can't remember the exact day but I remember the feeling... I felt Italian. Of course I had no idea what being Italian ought to feel like, but I knew I felt it. Never mind that I was only one quarter Italian, never mind that I spoke not a word and had never set foot in the country. Never mind the German, Irish, English, Portuguese and who knows what other blood I had--that didn't matter. What mattered was that I was Italian.

No, this isn't me, although I wouldn't be surprised if a photo of me like this exists.

Not by citizenship of course. The Italianess came to me from my mother's mother, and a ridiculous and sexist law makes it impossible for me to claim Italian citizenship through my ancestors. But that didn't stop me, especially as an exuberant 7 year old, from feeling Italian.

I'll never forget my first trip to Italy, with my mother and sister when I was 14. At that time I was blindly obsessed with the film A Room with a View. I ate, slept and breathed this film. I literally (literally!) had the entire script memorized. Being kissed on a hillside with Florence in the distance was just about the most romantic thing in the world as far as I could tell, and I wanted it to happen to me. So going to Florence was almost a pilgrimage.

I'm embarrassed to admit that at that age I didn't care much about the David or the Botticellis or even the Duomo. I cried when I stood in the Piazza della Signoria, not because of the amazing art surrounding me, or the hundreds of years of history, but because I was standing where George caught Lucy when she fainted.

A Room with a View, Merchant Ivory Film
Ah, the romance! How this scene thrilled my adolescent heart!
A Room with a View, Julian Sands and Helena Bonham Carter

What can I say, sometimes fiction is more moving than history. Blame it on my youth.

We took an overnight train from Paris, and in the morning as the train barrelled through Tuscany, I stumbled down the corridor and bumped into someone. "Scusi!" I said, automatically. Then I stopped, realizing, "I can say 'scusi' now... I'm in Italy!" Bliss.

What would I have thought then to know I would one day live here? Maybe I knew all along it was inevitable. As life sometimes works like dominoes, my obsession with A Room with a View introduced me to the music of Puccini, which began a whole new (and much more time consuming) obsession, this time with opera.

By 16, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro filled every available corner of my brain. Just as much as I longed to perform the role of Susanna, I equally longed to be able to speak Italian. I would memorize the endless recitativi from Figaro, and rattle them off, imagining I was having a conversation with an Italian (preferably a dark, handsome, male one).

Ten years and many trips to Italy later, I was plotting to find a way to move here permanently. I no longer yearned for anything so specific as a kiss in a barley field. I just wanted to live this magical place, to soak up the beauty that Italy emanates from its very core. At first it was more of a day dream, something that almost didn't seem possible. But I wanted that dolce vita so bad I could taste it. Eventually it became a mission, until finally one day, I said to myself, "What's stopping me?" and three months later I was here.

[Cue record scratch as blissful Amelie type music screeches to a halt]

Those of you who live here know, life in Italy is not only about romance, cobblestones, and picturesque alleyways. It can be a frustrating, exhausting and extremely harsh place to live, despite what the films make you believe. I found that out not long after arrival.

I'd love to be able to say I met the man of my dreams the day I got off the plane, and that my life fell instantly into place. Instead followed four mostly wonderful, sometimes miserable and always challenging years on my own in this crazy country. Still, I wouldn't trade those years, what they taught me and how they shaped me, for anything. You'll have to tune back in this time next month to hear the rest of the story.

If you are wondering what all of this rambling has to do with my wedding, well, I'm getting to it. I have never been capable of telling a short story. The point is, just like Mr. Beebe, I am naturally drawn to all things Italian. If it were not so, I would never have met my dashing Maritino.

Photo sources: 1, by author; 2, 3, 4

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