When Italy and I Fell in Love

There is that feeling you get when something is on your mind but you can’t quite define what it is. You seem distracted and work doesn’t give you that same fulfillment it used to. You find yourself sighing a lot, looking out the window, wishing you were somewhere else. But where: on the stereotypical tropical island in a Casablancaesque hotel? On the beach, falling asleep as the waves rush up to reach your toes? In a mountain hideaway, where your voice echoes through the canyon below? Where is your spot? What is that itching or inkling that you have? You zone out when you drive and don’t quite realize when you’ve reached your destination. You’re having wine with dinner all the time because it puts you into a deep sleep and you don’t have to dream or be kept awake all night, thinking about nothing, something, what? It comes a time when you have finally reached that point when you want to change your life.

In 2006, that was me. I had a moment when I thought: ‘I have to get out of here.’ I thought about it all the time. I had fourteen years on the job, same company, two states. I had just been recently relocated from Detroit to Ohio and was trying to figure out how I fit in with this town. It was by all means a semi-rural semi-suburb family-oriented community. I was single and urban, looking for jazz music and poetry spots on open-mike night. It took four years to realize that I didn’t belong there.

I'd tried to make it home, but found myself continuously taking taxis to the airport just a few miles down the road or driving back up to Detroit to head out from DTW to Austria or Hungary or Jamaica or California or Florida or London or Italy. I passed through airports, sometimes extended layovers, in Munich, the Netherlands and Paris, but never got to spend much time. I fell in love with Vienna at first sight. The clean streets, the architecture and sensible maneuverability around the circles (rings) of the city; the international foods in unexpectedly quaint restaurants and hands down: Johan Strauss Park and the Symphony House. And every time I turned on the television back at the hotel, Billy Joel would be there singing, Vienna Waits for You. But what was I supposed to do with that? How could I stay? I could have lost my mind! I cried with every thought of going back home. I wanted to do whatever I could to stay there.

Through my travel connections, I met some people, spent the week chatting with them and going around the city, meeting more people in the streets, in shops and in their homes. I even found a potential job at a popular restaurant that served Mexican cuisine. But in the end, I had no clue how to go about staying there. After a week soaking up the culture and the love from my new-found friends, I moved on with my itinerary to Budapest, Hungary. There was a lot of quiet reflection time on the history of those twin cities (Buda and Pest), and the aftereffects of a brutal war. I still have the images in my head of bullet-ridden buildings decorated with hanging baskets of beautiful flowers in a kaleidoscope of colors. It impressed on me this culture’s ability to rise up out of a dark past and find beauty in life, but to never forget the atrocities that took place within. Someone told me that they didn’t repair the buildings or cover the holes as a reminder of what had happened. You don’t put a Band-Aid on a bullet wound and hide in a corner… Well, that might not be the best one-liner to use here… Anyway, life went on. And so did I.

Despite my desire, I ended up back home after almost three weeks of Europe. And then, more than ever, I knew I had to cross that ocean again - despite a fear of flying developed in 1994 for no particular reason at all. I met a young man named Enrico in Budapest. He was from Verona and spoke English quite well. His wife was Alessandra. I don’t know what the chemistry was between us but he felt like my blood brother. We meshed like pb&j. I called him half a year later and we worked out a good time for a visit. March 2004 was the first time I saw Italy. From there, I returned every year in the spring for three weeks until I began to sigh with relief when I touched down in Italy and groan inside when the pilot announced arrival back in the States. After Italy, everything in my life seemed to be moving too fast. There were too many people on the road, too much noise, too many advertisements and commercials and billboards. Like Green Acres, I wanted the green country life, fresh bread from the bakery, laundry on the clotheslines, vineyards and olive groves, the smell of wood-burning ovens and espresso in the kitchen in the morning. I was ready to go. Again, how would I make it happen? This time, it was all divine intervention…

More later... :-)

#Verona #Italy #spring #Budapest #Ohio #espresso #countrylife #JohanStrauss #Vienna #olives #vineyards #Austria #Jamaica #Paris #Netherlands #Florida #London #California #DTW #BillyJoel

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