Open my freezer and you’ll likely only find ice. I haven’t bought a loaf of bread or salad dressing in over six years. I go to the grocery store once or twice a week, buying only what I need for the next couple of days. I take daily naps. I believe wine is a food group. When I cook dinner at home, I eat my salad after my main course. A stick of butter lasts me for weeks yet I can go through olive oil by the vat.
These thoughts come to my mind after reading a post on my friend Maureen Jenkins’ UrbanTravelGirl blog about her inner Italian. Maureen and I met a few years ago when we both lived in Italy. Sadly, both of us returned to the States for financial reasons after begrudgingly accepting the difficulties in earning enough money as a freelance writer to live in the manner to which we had become accustomed. And sadly, neither of us found un bello ragazzo to marry and hopefully take care of us. Not for lack of trying and not that it was our priority. But that’s a post for another day.
Sharon Sanders, a friend of Maureen’s, spotlighted Maureen in her award-winning blog “Simple Italy: Italian Food, Culture, Lifestyle and Travel. ” Her blog is for “all those who embrace la bella vita.” As she writes, “Even if we don’t live in Italy, Italy lives inside of us.” (For me that is so unbelievably true.) At the end of the post, Sharon, who lived and worked in Firenze (Florence) many years ago, asked the question: Has Italy changed your life in a profound way?
That question brings me to how I began this post. It’s about how living in Italy changed my life. I’m still amazed that our stores have oodles of shelves of salad dressing when olive oil (and sometimes vinegar) will do just fine. I don’t believe in buying a shopping cart full of groceries and freezing fresh food. I wonder why waiters look at me strangely when I ask for a wine list at lunch time.
When I left Los Angeles for Italy in April 2003, I did so with the intention of never returning to the States. Or at least now for a couple of decades. Not that I dislike the U.S., although with all of these senseless shootings I do sometimes wish it were harder to buy guns like it is in other countries. I love my country but also get a kick out of growing (not taller because I think 6-foot-1 is tall enough). Outside of prison, where I have no plans to go, there is no better way to learn about oneself and test one’s limit than to live in a foreign country. I just figured I would grow old in Italy, either alone or with a husband, and preferably not someone else’s. Although I didn’t want to return to the States in 2005, I like to think I did so a wiser soul with more patience and tolerance being that I know what it’s like to be an immigrant barely able to speak a country’s language, more of an ability to appreciate the simple things in life and with a polished palate.
I don’t miss living in New York just yet but I daydream about returning to my simple life in Italy, where stemware wasn’t a priority when I drank wine and I really didn’t mind when my heel got caught between cobblestones while walking down a charming, dim street. The other night I had a chance to reminisce about those carefree days when I enjoyed a delicious Italian meal at Cafe Angelino with author extraordinaire Tracie Howard, whom I had the pleasure of meeting when she traveled through Firenze with a mutual friend and others. Tracie, whose latest must-read book is Friends and Fauxs, and her crew sailed through Italy in July 2003. I was still a newbie and under the belief that I was in my adopted country forever, thinking my oh-so-Italian apartment (one of the ones whose windows you see above because my bedroom and living room faced the Arno River) was going to be mine until the end of the time. Or until I married, whichever came first.
Maybe one day I’ll have the chance to move back to Italy, a country full of faults and pleasures. Until then, I have to embrace my inner Italian from here and try not to weep in my vino rosso when I look at old photos like these:
This was my first apartment in Firenze. An American neighbor eventually loaned me an expensive, antique desk from which to work but initially I sat at the dining table, which faced the Arno, and wrote masterful stories. Yes, that is a USA Today on the coffee table!
I lived right next to the Ponte Vecchio, which means “old bridge” in Italian. It used to be full of butcher shops but today has an excessive number of jewelry stores. The Germans spared it, but not the other bridges, during WWII.
This was the very first meal I cooked in Florence, when drinking wine from a tumbler suited me fine. I wish I had that ravioli and sauce now.
Clothes dryers were uncommon in Firenze so I used a clothes rack after washing my clothes in my little washing machine that took hours to go through one cycle.
Lucy‘s name was changed to Lucia when we moved to Firenze. She looks evil here but really she loved living in Italy because she likes to hear the Italian language. Just like me!