I’m a long term Italophile.
I was first seduced by the charms of Rome at the age of 23, visiting on a long weekend. I was on my own – the first break I’d ever taken solo – which felt both risky, alarming and hopelessly cool at the time.
I fell head over heels for everything: the food, the language, the beauty of the city, the vespas, the fruit market on Campo dei Fiori, the shouting… …and perhaps most of all, Maurizio, the silver fox who owned the apartment in which I was renting a room.
On my last day, he took me out for an alternative tour of the city on the back of his motorbike. We visited the abattoir, set off up Monte Gianicolo and he took me out to supper at one of his favourite restaurants.
As dusk fell, we took a walk through the centro storico and wandered upon a piazza where an open air tango class was taking place. We stood and watched for a while, leaning up against an archway. I started to feel a little nervous as Maurizio leaned closer towards me, butterflies in my stomach telling me that, oh god, perhaps this outrageously hot man 20 years older than me was about to try and kiss me.
Panicked, at the last moment, I walked off, suddenly keen to explore something else on the other side of the square, and the moment passed.
But though I spent the following four months regretting my fear and wondering what might have been (an Italian wedding! Hordes of Italian children! Learning to make pasta from the hands of a master! Etc etc) my love for Italy was well and truly sparked.
A few weeks later, I quit my job in London, and moved to Rome for six months, attending Italian language school in the mornings and wandering galleries, museums, parks and piazzas in the afternoons. *
Ever since, I’ve taken any opportunity I can to visit Italy, the most recent trip a fortnight in Sicily, from where we’ve just returned.
Our last Italian jaunt, to Puglia on honeymoon, was rather stressful with the sproglet at a tricky age for travelling, so I’m pleased to report that this trip was – if not relaxing, for what is relaxing with two toddlers – definitely more successful.
This time round, the boys were delighted by the proliferation of pasta, pizza and ice cream, and just as happy to wander round museums, art galleries and ancient ruins as they were playing at the beach. I also dragged them to a fair few gardens, with the promise of playgrounds that rarely materialised. (Not, I hasten to add, a cunning parenting ploy on my part, just an inaccuracy in the guidebooks…)
They were an absolute fricking nightmare at mealtimes, smashing up tables in the time it would take the food to arrive, but we soon learnt to eat only at restaurants on piazzas where they could run around or at their preferred café on the beach. (“Mum, please can we go to the place where the nice man talks Italian to us and gives us free chupa chups lollies?”)
But, overall, an enjoyable jaunt, marred only by a middle-of-the-night trip to hospital to get four stitches in the sproglet’s chin after he fell out of bed onto the tiled floor one evening.
I took my brand new, incredibly expensive camera lens with me, thinking I was going to get a selection of amazing photos. But on uploading them to my computer at home, I see that almost all are out of focus. So, perhaps luckily for you, I only have these to share with you. They are pretty representative of the whole area we were staying in: bougainvillea dripping over every wall, huge fields of bronzed grass and tall pines, every building a statuesque if crumbling beauty, and the backdrop of the turquoise sea wherever you look.
Italy: my love for you continues…
*I met up with Maurizio once for lunch – let slip that I had since accrued an English boyfriend and never heard from him again, ha ha. A good lesson about the desires of Italian silver foxes, I suspect…