Several months ago on the TV show House Hunters International, there were an American woman and her Italian husband who had lived in Bologna for many years. However, after they had a child, they decided that they wanted to move out of town to the countryside. When asked what she was looking for in a house — even though she had lived in Italy for many years — the American unhesitatingly said: The Italian Dream.
“The Italian Dream” is that thing that begins in your brain the first time your breath is taken away by a photo of something in Italy. For me, it was pictures of the rolling Tuscan countryside. There could be an incredibly picturesque town at the top of the hill, or perhaps just a few perfectly placed cypress trees guarding the undulating land.
Not everyone has the same reaction when seeing these pictures. For instance, one woman I know said, “If you’ve seen one hilltop town, you’ve seen them all.” A true Dreamer, on the other hand, cares enough to recognize that the hilltop towns of both Montepulciano and Cortona have an impressive church sitting just beneath them, but Montepulciano’s church — as well as the valley below — is prettier.
Of course, someone else’s Dream could focus on an entirely different part of the country. The woman on House Hunters was pretty much in my “rolling green hills” camp, except that she wanted to live on them rather than just view them. However, for someone else, the Dream could be triggered by the sight of the emerald green meadows that act as the base for the craggy Dolomites, or the view down to the blue-green water from the heights of Positano, or a photo of a narrow Venetian canal, taken vertically so you can feel how the water is held captive by the walls of the elegantly faded palazzi.
For some people, just looking at the photos is enough. They can live with the idea that Italy is out there without having the need to see it in person; they SAY they’d love to see it, yet they never have quite enough ambition to actually go there. We’ll call them the Category 1 Dreamers.
Then there are the Category 2 Dreamers who go to Italy for a normal vacation. I’ve never known anyone who hasn’t come back much more infatuated with the country than they thought they would be. I use the word “infatuate”, not “love”, because the feeling they’re left with doesn’t take them any further. The next time they see the photo of a place they visited, they feel the same way as when they see a photo of their first boy/girl friend: a beautiful memory, but life has moved on.
I am a Category 3 Dreamer. Though I started out as a Category 2 with a two week vacation, it quickly turned into two times a year, then three, then two normal vacations plus an extra month, until I’m where I am now: six months a year. I do know many Category 4 people who’ve given up wherever they started and call Italy “home”. I’m not sure I can ever get to that point…..but then again, 8 years ago I never expected to be a Category 3. Or maybe there will come a time when I’m back to being satisfied with just looking at photos and savoring old memories. The only certainty is today, and now, when I’m in Italy, I don’t really miss the US, but when I’m in the US, I REALLY miss Italy. While I’m not ready to call it “home”, I certainly love being a Part-Time Italian.