We left Italy in July and it has taken me this long to write a farewell blog. It seemed impossible to sum up two amazing years in a few words…
We appreciated the opportunity of life abroad while we were there. We truly did. However, looking back, the life we lived was absolutely positively unbelievably amazing. We lived in a 500 year old Italian palazzo (palace) that was broken up into a few apartments after the war. It was still owned by the same family that bought it 300 years ago (and who still lives in one half of the building) so the integrity of the building was preserved. The rooms were the same as they were 500 years ago, with the only new rooms being the bathrooms. We slept under a 300 year old fresco, we walked on gorgeous original herringbone wood floors, our children played in a private Italian garden that was so beautiful it was visited by elite international garden tours. The house was full of history… even the strange door I hated for 2 years because it looked like a wall, turned out to be that way because it was the door the servants once used to enter a room unnoticed. I realize now, this is a part of Italy most tourists will never see and yet we actually lived there.
We traveled to countless cities in many, many countries and were not rushed in our travels. We were able to truly experience the culture in each place, sipping wine at sidewalk cafés with the locals, not rushing from one tourist attraction to the next.
We were forced to assimilate to the culture of our city where very few people spoke English, and everything was different. From the times people ate (dinner at 8, lunch never before 12:30), to buying the basic things we needed to survive. I will never forget our first trip to the big grocery store. Everything was so different, we were there over two hours and came home with little more than wine. We didn’t know how to buy whole milk for our one year old and 2% for us. Even the dish soap was baffling. Yet, at the end of our two years, we could successfully make it though cocktail parties in Italian (Not a dinner party, but we could small talk through aperitivo.) We were on a first name basis with the neighborhood grocer, the pizzeria, the guy who owned the bicycle shop, and the sidewalk café. Oh how I miss morning cappuccino and evening aperitivo at the Jolly bar (our sidewalk café).
We learned to live an urban lifestyle and thrived in it. We lived on a busy street but I loved waking up in the morning to the buzz of the city and the parking lot guy across the street yelling in Italian. I loved walking or biking everywhere. Of course the few times I did drive were precarious, and along with the buzz of the city, we were often woken up at 2 a.m. with drunk Italians singing outside our window. Even so, I wouldn’t have traded it for the world. When we walked out our front door, we were within a 7 minute walk of prestigious museums, a medieval castle, and countless beautiful shops.
More than anything we learned a better way to live. Italians really do know how to live. People are just simply happy and life just flows. We spent our days in “un bellissimo sprecco di tempo” (a wonderful waste of time). We had three hour, multiple course lunches, and when my husband came home from work, we had aperitivo in our 500 year old garden while the children played. We spent weekend mornings sipping cappuccino at sidewalk caffes while beautiful women in stilettos bicycled past. If we found ourselves with nothing to do, we could hop on a train and be in Venice in just over an hour. Our life was extremely social, yet never stressfully busy. With only a handful of Americans in the city, we tended to overcompensate and were often out and about together. Our international friends were quick to invite us to dinner, drinks or even just coffee. From our Italian friend planning elaborate dinner parties for the Americans, to my neighbor sticking her head out second story window and inviting us up for a quick drink before lunch, to chatting with my dear friend for hours in the garden, these moments with friends were what we will never forget.
On that note, I must agree with E.M. Forster that in Italy “the people are more marvelous than the land”. We came back to the United States with dear friends from all over the world… (ex-pats tend to stick together and have so much in common.) From my sweet septuagenarian neighbor who taught me how to cook authentic Italian food, to my wonderfully graceful Italian teacher who taught me the ins and outs of the culture in addition to the language, to my close, close friends who met at the Jolly Bar for cappuccino in the morning and knew my personality even better than I know myself… all are dearly missed every day.
And now, we are into the next chapter of our lives. We are in Idaho (yes, Idaho) in the middle of the desert in a town of 12,000. We are settled into a house that we bought while still in Italy, sight unseen. It turned out to be just as we expected and with new floors, new paint, antique Italian chandeliers, and the treasures we brought back from Italy (my husband bought that black mirror for me!), we have made it our own.
My son asked the other day if we would live here forever. When I told him no, he said “Good. I like having adventures.” I think I can finally agree. I’m content to experience this part of the country for a while and even more excited to see where life takes us next.
15 hours ago