SARONNO, Italy - I realized yesterday afternoon that this was the 100th blog posted on This Italian Life. It’s a milestone, one I never dreamed I would reach when I first started thinking about writing a blog back in the summer of 2009. I knew I had a lot of stories to tell, twenty years of living in Italy worth, but was anyone really interested?
What I didn’t want to do was write articles glorifying the joys or living of Italy, there are enough of those out there without me adding to the pile. I felt my purpose was threefold, if there is such a word: the first was that I wanted This Italian Life to reflect life in Italy today lived by an ex-pat, which is different than life in Italy lived by an Italian.
The main difference is the Italians understand what’s going on, while I still don’t, even after all these years. Right this minute another one of those things I don’t understand is happening. Under a pouring rain, with lots of loud thunder and lightning streaking down from the sky, there is a parade passing under my balcony. It’s not a big parade, just a base drum and about 150 young guys who are all wearing some kind of uniform. They are chanting something I don’t understand, but whatever it is they are very enthusiastic about it.
Secondly I wanted to write about Italian food. While pasta really is my all time favorite thing to eat, Italian cuisine is so much more. And the beauty of it is that every once in a while I discover a dish or a fruit or vegetable that I’ve never seen before. Barba di Frate, (Auntie Pasta: Color Me Green, May 13, 2010) that strange dark green vegetable that looks like grass and tastes like heaven, was one of them.
And since I’m not a professional cook, although I did cook professionally in my day, I wrote not just about the successes, like Barba di Frate, but of the failures too, like the not-so-great Zuccotto (Auntie Pasta: Zuccotto, May 6, 2010). What I wanted to do was show how food, culture and daily life are all intertwined – for Italian food is life and a reflection of Italy. What I didn’t want to do was just publish recipes, those you can get from a cook book or the internet.
Thirdly, most of the places I have visited in Italy have been pretty spectacular. From my first days in Italy, when I lived on the Italian Riviera, I was out exploring the towns up and down the coast. I fell in love with the lushness of the greenery, the vibrant, red bougainvillea, the swaying palm trees, orange trees so full of fruit the branches would almost touch the ground, and the honeysuckle and jasmine that perfumed the air, and the sea. It was the most delicious place in the world, and it still is.
I remember walking past a bookstore with a friend of mine, just months before I moved to Italy. In the bookstore window there was a big, coffetable size travel book about Italy and it had a photograph of Camogli, a small town on the Riviera, on the cover. I stopped in my tracks – “that’s where I’m going,” I said to her. I don’t think she believed me, it was too beautiful to be real. But it is real, and I did go.
My hope was that the travel pieces would encourage you to visit not just the travel trinity of Rome, Florence and Venice, but entice you to venture out and explore some of the other magnificent towns that don’t get as much press as the big three. And to do it with a sense of adventure, not with a shopping list of “must sees”. Did I succeed? Like so many other things in this life, I guess I’ll never know.
For me it is nothing short of a small miracle that this is the 100th blog of This Italian Life. There’s so much more to tell about the Cleans and the Means, and all the comings and goings here in Saronno and elsewhere. in Italy I would like to do more fashion blogs, after all, this is Milan, and more reflective pieces. In spite of the difficulties my love affair with Italy continues, and grows stronger each day. I know how fortunate I am to be here - and that’s a celebration in itself.