It happens when I drive up the hill towards our farmhouse in the Tuscan countryside: butterflies bubble up in my stomach and I look around at the majestic mountains – making me think of Jurassic park sometimes – and I’m just in awe.
I live here.
I actually live here.
This is so many people’s dream and this is my home. It leaves me speechless at times.
My love affair with Italy started when my stepfather decided to take us to Italy on holiday one year. He loved all things Italy – from wine, to opera, to food, to the language – and one of his big dreams was to have a house on top of a hill in the Tuscan countryside.
We went to Lago Trasimeno and spent two weeks at a campsite full of Dutch teens; we were in paradise. We enjoyed it so much that they decided to add another week to our holiday there and I was the happiest girl in the world.
Even though the place was full of Dutch kids my age, I found myself being drawn to the bagnino stand; where the Italians were. Now, I was twelve – and here I could share how I was young and innocent – but man, those guys were hot.
Yes, I’ve always been ahead of my age.
I remember for the first time ever also being noticed by guys. In Holland always thought I wasn’t that special, but in Italy I felt seen – and always have ever since. Now I can see it as a superficial they look at everyone who slightly resembles a female form kind of thing – but still. For the first time I really did feel seen and for a girl for whom that used to be intrinsically important, I felt appreciated.
I kept coming back to Italy. We convinced our dad to take us to the campsite the year after and we had another two weeks in paradise booked for the Summer. It was pure bliss! The third year I went back again with my mum and my stepfather and this time I brought a girlfriend; I just needed to get my Italy hit and she needed to see what I kept on talking about year round.
I kept on going back ever since; holidays, language learning experiences, city trips, even my graduation project. I just had to be in Italy every once in a while, otherwise I’d go crazy. Or rather, I’d go numb.
The Netherlands is a wonderful place if you like organisation, predictability and order, but if you’re looking for a interpersonal warmth, exuberant expression and lazy Sundays full of sheer enjoyment of life, then it’s not the best place to be at. Italians are loud, they take up their space and share how they feel; that can easily be too much for the modest, self-aware and emotionally regulated Dutch.
Italy makes me feel alive because of its natural beauty, its incredibly tasty olive oil, its people that are walking theatre shows. But most of all, it allows me to be who I am – who I truly am. I feel I can share my affection, talk louder than I normally would and emphasize emotions that in Holland would be seen as “over the top.”
I love it here because of the regal, yellow ochre buildings, the mozzarella oozing pizza that Italians eat with their hands, the clinking of coffee cups that come from each corner, where people are having their coffee standing still, yet on the go.
Italy is full of contrasts and full of things to be frustrated about: the bureaucracy, incomprehensible politics and illegal under-the-table practices that nearly everyone is involved in, since they’re practically left no choice. I choose not to focus on those disagreeable things simply because they don’t make me feel good.
I prefer to watch what works; to amaze myself when I see elderly people gather together in the square, which serves as the local home. To see kids who gesticulate just like their parents and men and women dressed impeccably, only to go and take their dog for a walk. The sense of style, the knowledge of good food and seemingly innate cooking skills, the sincere care for family; I feel there’s a lot we stranieri can learn from this peculiar people.
They know how to live life well and it’s contagious. They focus on what feels good and revel in that. They know how to appreciate beauty, flavour and style and that’s what makes this country so attractive. That’s probably why my stepdad dreamt of living on top of a hill here, overlooking all this gorgeousness in awe – wine in hand. Sadly he didn’t live long enough to live his dream, so now I’m living it for him.
Thank you, Jacques, for sharing your love for Italy with me – I’m forever grateful.
Love & courage,
P.S. Do you also dream of moving to Italy? As a life coach I help women turn their Italian dream into reality! Feel free to check out how I do that right here, or you can always book a free discovery call to find out more. A presto, talk soon!