When Shelley put out the call for entries for La Mia Italia while she’s on her honeymoon, I didn’t even think twice. Besides the fact we never took a honeymoon (sniff, sniff), the last thing you want to do is worry about the blog while you’re on vacation.
La Mia Italia….My Italy.
I thought about the theme for quite a bit, because even though I’ve been living here for almost 4 years, Italy doesn’t feel like “mine.” S makes noises every time I say “home” because he knows I’m talking about California. But after I stopped shoving the square-peg Italy into my circle-shaped idea of home, I feel we are both taking baby steps towards each other.
And seeing as yesterday I got my Carta d’Identità in a mere 15 minutes, I am seeing today’s patchy blue sky instead of the scattered clouds that are covering it.
I recently took down my posts from the early days of this blog, when it was still called a “journal” or “online diary,” because it read like an abbreviated version of my daily activities for my friends and family back home. Some of the entries flit from topic to topic with every paragraph (or sentence), and some are brutally honest and raw and painful for me to re-read because I remember what was behind the words.
Looking back, I realized that THIS was La Mia Italia.
I came to Italy confused and alone. In the States I was surrounded by a lot of people, some supportive and some distracting. Once I removed this support system and the distractions, I had no choice but to face myself and figure out what I wanted to do, and be completely responsible for moving my life forward.
One of the big changes for me was getting out of debt. I couldn’t fathom how, when making such “big money,” I was so in debt (over $10,000). I was spending carelessly and therapeutically. Now, making 1/3 of what I did before, I’ve been debt free for 3 years. Did it take coming here to do that? To change my mentality, to remove my salary as an enabler? I think so.
Of course that’s not all Italy is to me, but it represents a huge catalyst of change in my life.
And then I started thinking about all the other people that moved here, and what Italy means to them (Shelley, don’t worry, I’m not going to duplicate your post!) and I realized that for each of them, being in Italy means something different. Just check out the sidebar of other Expats – raising a family, becoming a writer, following love, opening a business, pursuing a career, and of course drinking lots of wine and eating lots of wonderful food. Reflection, exploration, comfort.
Italy is not special because it does all those things. Italy is special because it does all those things for US. And just like finding a pair of jeans that fit, different people try on Italy and see if it fits. For some it doesn’t.
This is a post from the first month I had moved to Italy – I was in Milan the first time, before moving to Rome. It was a weekend that was pretty solitary but I was starting to get into a routine in a new place and feel that I was a part of it. This is the beginning of La Mia Italia for me.
I have a private concert in my apartment several times a day. I am on the fourth floor (which is 5th floor to those of you who don’t start your numbering at 0 like the Italians) and every day I climb 94 steps to my door. I counted this, once in English and once in Italian because I thought I lost count the first time (I didn’t) just to make sure. My door is a big, imposing door with no doorknob with a key that is long and antiquated that opens the five deadbolts that slide into place like a fortress. The front door also has stained glass on it, partially covered at one point by brown paint which I am determined to remove.
It is this apartment, at this height, which allows the music from the apartment across the park and across the street to stream directly into my open windows as if I had summoned it. It comes at different times of the day, for different durations, and at different volumes. But it is always the same, piano music with no accompaniment (luckily I also enjoy this music).
I have two theories about the origin of this music.
One is that it’s a tormented pianist, who has come to this apartment to escape…life, a love (lost or found), or society. It’s in this apartment that he escapes into his own world by pouring his emotion out through the music, until he can play no more. Then, sweating, and worn out, he leaves the bench until he again is awash with this passion to play.
The other theory is that it’s an ederly man or woman, who lives alone and listens to this music to remind them of…memories, love, family, but something that is lost to them that they are trying to regain through the feeling of this music. This music is pretty passionate and I often listen to see if I can hear mistakes, pauses, or other indications that it’s live and not recorded, but I am undecided.
Leaving this morning to run some errands I rushed across the street only to see that the windows were now closed, and I was no closer to the truth. I stood and stared up at the building as long as it was decent to do so, and moved on. The mystery is probably better than the reality.
Today is Sunday, a day where the country shuts down, pretty much everything. I had of course to prove this to myself as I went to the grocery store, which I knew was open as I had seen a sign the day before about their being open for 4 hours on Sunday. On the several blocks to the store, I passed a lot of stores, and tourists who were finding out the hard way that window shopping was all they’d be doing that day. A gelateria was open as well as a random bookstore, but no more. I got my six bottles of l’acqua naturale (very heavy but worth it), mosquito repellant room dispenser refill, and mosquito repellant stick and some Baci Connetti, tiny ice cream cones for a treat.
You don’t often hear about people languishing in cold baths. That’s because they don’t. It’s one of my better ideas that I had to have a cold bath on of course, a pretty humid day. As I inched in to the bath, I had to rethink my great idea, and I did not linger long.
Going to the disco in the park the other night, I discovered I hadn’t visited the castle in Milan, the Castello Sforzesco and accompanying park, Parco Sempione which I was delighted to find out was open on Sundays. I took the metro there and discovered it was in one of the areas of my Mastercard-searching-frenzy a few days before. The park was alight with lots of people, sunbathing, playing basketball, laying on the grass and hanging out. It seemed to me to be the Central Park of Milan, a haven away from all the cement of the city.
I wandered around the park, discovering that I was woman, snake, and bird as I discovered another favorite pastime of those in the park – attracting attention of women. There might have been a time when I was hissed or whistled at more, but I can’t remember. I sat at a few benches, and then a park bar to enjoy the view, a Corona, and do some reflection. Afterward, I walked around Milan, ended back at the Duomo, which I saw before but didn’t go into as I was so disappointed by the covered facade, but this time I went in and listened to part of a liturgy in Italian, which I understood most of. There have been few times when I really understand how small I am and it seems to be very clear to me in a few places…the Duomos of Milan and Florence, St. Peter’s in Rome, and the Notre Dame in Paris…to name a few.
Now as I sit here in my apartment, Milan has become a hurricane of wind and passion. I shut the covers of my windows partway so I could still enjoy the breeze (or torrent) but leaves were coming in and now the rain is coming too so I shut the cover-downs outside (much like blinds but heavier) and leave the windows open to enjoy the show.