As soon as we crossed the border I could feel it. Even on that speeding train I could tell. We were in Italy. Italia! The vibe was different. I sensed that crazy Italianness (I think I just made up a new word) in my bones.
While I really love Switzerland (it’s beautiful), Italy has my heart and soul (not to mention my stomach and brain). It’s a place where for some odd reason I feel totally at home. No, I’m not of Italian decent. No, I don’t speak the language (although I love it and am learning). I just love this country. The art, the architecture, the history, the food, the wine, the landscape, the language, the people. I love Italian style. Nowhere in the world (at least in my eyes) do people look so good riding a bike to get from home to work and vice versa. Every time I am here I don’t want to leave. Thankfully, as of now, I just arrived and have a lot of time here. Perhaps I’ll feel differently by the time nine weeks is up? Somehow I doubt it.
This country has gotten under my skin. It has its faults, no doubt. But, it’s still a wonderful place. A place to stand in awe of churches built long ago. A place to meander through the small towns with winding cobblestone streets. A place to walk amongst the grapevines. It’s special, this place called Italy.
As I begin to make my way from north to south in this country, it is my hope to capture some of the essence of this magical, nutty country through words and through pictures. It’s not an easy task. For you see, Italy is a feeling. It’s an emotion. It’s walking down a quiet lane in Verona, going away from the crowds and spotting the local elderly man reading his paper and having his espresso. It’s wandering through the vineyards of Valpolicella and, having really muddy shoes, washing them off in the puddles of water and having the farmer who is out checking on his grapes tell me, with a smile on his face (and in Italian) that the water isn’t for bathing. I did understand part of this. And I laughed with him. It’s just a feeling – from the people, to the art, to the landscape, to the food and wine. I wonder if I was Italian in another life…