The Italian Dream

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.


9 thoughts on “The Italian Dream

  1. I feel like I’m the first person to talk on a beach, or the first skier down the slopes on a gorgeous sunny morning. Congrats on getting your blog off the ground!

  2. Susan,

    You are describing the ” buon giorno effect ” It is the first layer of the infinite onion that is Italy. Just when you think you understand it, it jumps up and surprises you , not always in a good way.

  3. Susan:
    How wonderful to hear from you and to see those beautiful, enticing pictures! Very clear why you are a “parttime Italian”. When you get back to Delaware, we need to see each other and catch up. In the meantime, continue to enjoy beautiful Italy and the wonderful Italians!
    Love, Sonia

  4. Susan!!! You’re a lucky girl . . . and this is a beautiful blog! Congratulations! I’m a Category 3 who’s now stuck working in the US, and desperately missing Italy everyday. I hope to change that someday, and live the “Italian Dream” again. Auguri!!!

  5. Susan,

    I am not certain which Category I fall into but I know I am most definitely infatuated with Italy. I look forward to reading your blog.


  6. Susan, I love that you are bringing Italy to me, since I can’t go right now. This will be a much better way for me to keep track of your journeys, I still have a folder full of Susan travel files from many past adventures. Having Italy withdrawal is never a fun thing, we are doing way to much whining (and wining too) while we await our next trip. Miss you much, Louise.

  7. Ciao Susan, brava ! I could easily identify with your position, but just somewhere a lot further down the back of the Category 3. My best effort to date was as a Quarter Year Italian, but definitely one with higher ambitions. This is the first year in the last 8 that I won’t be in Italy, and the withdrawal which that induces cannot be shaken off, and at the same time it underscores the depth of the addiction. I’m confident this year is an aberration and 2012 will see things put right. Meanwhile I’m looking forward to regular therapeutic doses of “halfyearitalian”. Abbracci, Mark.

  8. Ciao Susan, We learnt of your blog two days ago and will now be checking for new insertions on a daily basis. They are delightful and put into words in such a charming way ones gradual and total ever growing addiction to Italy. Abbracci forte,forte, Antonella & Brian

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