I don’t know what it is about the Italian culture that speaks to my soul. I could probably list page upon page of beautiful things about Italy that make my eyes glaze over and my mind enter a dream-like state.
I fell in love with Italy and all things, people and places Italian when I was 17 and visited that most magical country as part of a school trip for two weeks.
I have never been the same.
I met amazing people, feasted on delicacies, viewed incredible sites. Then came back to the U.S. and set about making plans to go back. I spent four years at college taking every Italian class I could take – language, literature, film. I met other people like me, who wanted to learn, absorb and swap stories.
Six years after my first visit I made the opportunity to return to the amazing country again. I traveled from the top of the boot down to the toes soaking in every ounce of culture and Italian everything. The food. The people. The architecture. The natural sites. The history. My soul was complete.
Unfortunately it was another 14 years before I was able to visit again. With each visit my soul ached even more when I had to leave.
Italian men are notorious forward, romantic and just… Italian. I appreciate that. Even first generation American Italians are pretty incredible in my book. I’m not talking about the TV Italians who bastardize the language and are too cool for themselves, but the ones who know their own culture, can speak their language and embody what it is to be an Italian.
Let me be clear before I continue. I’m not Italian. Not one drop of blood. Not one hair follicle. I can pass for one when I’m there because I speak the language and have enough of “the look.” Maybe I’d feel differently if I was Italian. But I doubt it.
Amazing things happen when Italian men say the words, “Ciao Bella,” and give the approving look… when they speak of the word, “amore.” Even in song.
Italians feel love in everything they do. It’s a wonderful way to live. Taking the time to appreciate life, the people around them, the sights and smells of everything.
One thing I’ve learned over the years is that, unlike in the U.S., Italians do not say, “I love you,” to every person, animal and blade of grass they see. It is a cherished phrase only used for THE person with whom they fall in love…for life. The concept of love is all encompassing, but the phrase, “I love you,” “Ti amo,” is not. Other ways to show great affection or closeness do exist (“Ti voglio bene”), but to hold, cherish and protect love so closely while living love is fascinating.
Anyone can listen to Italian music and feel the passion (not sex, passion) coming from the words and the way the words are phrased. The artists speak of love freely, beautiful love, wonderful love. Just love.
I love it.
I’ve had random men serenade me. (I’ll chalk that up to the American Woman appeal when I was younger.) But, there are few things that can make this woman’s heart melt faster than hearing a man in a gentle voice speak of Italy and the love of the people, the love of the food, the beautiful life that exists truly all around us – not just in Italy. Put that to music, add some Italian words like “bella” and “amore” and I’m like a pile of mush.
I pretend I’m not. Really, I do. But inside… Voglio un bell’amore. I want a beautiful love. For now, I will live vicariously through beautiful music and wonderful film. I will dream of my next vacation in Italy and maybe, just maybe, of a serendipitous meeting with an Italian man.