Why Italy Will Break Your Heart Many Times Over

By: Catherine McNamara

Why Italy Will Break Your Heart Many Times Over

This isn’t about sex. It’s not about having your heart pummelled by some dopey guy or silly female. It’s not about an affair or the end of a long marriage. Though it could be. Italy will affect you in a way that is as turbulent and as succulent as a lover. Italy will strike a chord – many of them – in the deepest reaches of your soul.
Here are seven reasons why your heart will often be in shreds in this languid yet vital land of contrasts. And why you will weep should you ever have to leave.

1. One blessed day of your life you will eat a perfect mozzarella di bufala. It will be perfect, an exquisite experience. Something you will talk about for the rest of your life, causing friends and family to roll their eyes. But will it ever happen again? This is the rub. If you leave Italy there is a good chance it will not. You will order mozzarella di bufala in a good restaurant in New York, or Sydney. You will wait expectantly. But…alas… Your heart will weep with eternal disappointment. Outside of Italy, no food tastes the same. Nothing tastes like what your best friend’s grandmother puts on the table. It’s either too fancy, too rich. Or way overpriced with nasty olive oil.. Or too much pasta sauce thanks very much! You’ve been ruined by that perfect mozzarella di bufala, do you know that? Ruined for life.

2. Many times in your Italian life you will be invited out in centro for a simple aperitivo. But it will not be simple. It will be glorious. There will be lights strung across the piazza through the cold winter. Or in the summer there will be people parading with ice creams, families and kids on bikes. Your heart will hammer at the beauty of it. You will go home to your tired grey city and the film of your life will have ended on a sad note. From living Fellini, you turn into Woody Allen. In Italy there is joy, noise, carnevale in the streets and you will be a part of it.

3. Architecture. Anybody say architecture? How about the Byzantine wonders in Ravenna? Or the Ancient Roman forum? Or the Roman Arena in Verona, still used for concerts both classical and contemporary? Or Palladio’s Vicenza and the villa-dotted hills? Or Brunelleschi’s wonders in Florence? The architecture in this country is incomparable and will take your breath away. You will stand beneath the mosaic ceilings of Saint Mark’s in Venice and rise above the kerfuffle of tourists. You will soar. You will remember Dirk Bogarde in Death in Venice and Donald Sutherland in Don’t Look Now and you will swoon because you are walking by these same waters. Your heart will pound, just as other hearts have pounded for centuries before you. You will become part of the substance of life. Seize this!

4. If you are clever enough to speak Italian you will learn how to express yourself in another key. It will be another you, attuned to another way of thinking. Or perhaps it will be the real you after all. In opening your mouth wider, gesticulating, you may discover a hidden side to yourself – you are more extrovert, more jovial, more confident. You will begin to throw your hands about and raise your shoulders in massive shrugs. At home, people will shake their heads, thinking you have lost your marbles. But you haven’t. This is the Italian you, possibly the real you. You will feel crushed, alienated, adrift. It will crush you to have to scale down, speaking in a moderate, controlled voice. Nobody but nobody does that in Italy.

5. I assure you your heart will break when the sales come around twice a year and you are weeping in front of a pair of boots or stilettos you cannot afford. (I told you this post wasn’t about sex – but I didn’t say I wouldn’t mention shoes!) You have been warned. And don’t think you are immune just because you are a guy. Ever tried on an Armani jacket? Or shirt? I assure you, once you are far from this country’s shores, you will remember those shoes/that jacket, and your heart will smoulder.

6. All countries have beautiful landscapes tucked away but few have the variety and texture of the Italian peninsula. Go to the Dolomites and inhale pure icy air while absorbing the breathtaking views. Go to the Aeolian Islands and observe the volcano of Stromboli tumbling down to the delicate coastline. Sunbathe on the beach. Oh, certainly, there are many beautiful beaches the world over, and Italy’s beaches are a maddening showcase of a richly tanned and tattooed and robust culture. The experience will either send you running to the hills, double your heart rate, or have you topless drinking Campari spritzes on the beach.

7. Care to Titian or Caravaggio? Or Canaletto or Tintoretto? Italy is the source of so many art movements it isn’t funny. You will not live long enough to study her devotion to art. Her maniacal patrons, her mad fresco painters, her tempestuous visionaries. But some of it will cross over into your blood and you will be richer for it. Wilder for it. You will sit down on a brocaded divan and breathe deep to the bottom of your soul.

Ten years of living in this country have made my heart thump and rattle, bleed and break. I challenge you to leave these shores untouched, unmoved. It won’t happen. Italy will make your blood boil or your blood race, but she will lead you deeper, closer, more meaningfully, into the labyrinth of life.


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About the author

Expat Blog ListingCatherine McNamara is an Australian expat living in Italy. Blog description: CATHERINE MCNAMARA grew up in Sydney and moved to Paris to study French, and ended up in Ghana running a bar. She moved to Italy eight years ago.
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Contest Comments » There are 15 comments

Cathy wrote 3 years ago:

Wow Catherine, super article. I love all your points about Italy, you are spot on. So well expressed.

Thauna wrote 3 years ago:

Oh I completely agree!! My heart will never be the same! And I am so happy about that.

Draza wrote 3 years ago:

This is so true, I've lived in Italy for six years now and everything down to the "other you" created by learning Italian, it's all true. I wanted to thank Catherine for an awesome article that made me better appreciate the things I will leave behind when I leave this beautiful country.

Suzie wrote 3 years ago:

Ciao Bella, I just wanted to let you know what a great writing talent you are and how I enjoyed reading your heart breaking list. And glad to have discovered your blog... wait! No wonder, you are a writer already! Congrats! Will have to read more. Saluti from a village by the sea, your fellow italian-expat Suzie

Lisa wrote 3 years ago:

ahhh but what a lover!! One that leaves me yearning for more. Italy is my soul and our children have her blood in their veins....beautifully expressed Cat xx

Stewart C McKay wrote 3 years ago:

Great article - I've never lived in Italy but have visited many times. And many more times to come, hopefully...

Jennifer Avventura wrote 3 years ago:

A lovely true post about Italy leaving you feeling in love, over and over again.

Debbie Oakes wrote 3 years ago:

Exactly Cat. Nothing tastes the same, nothing feels the same and for all her tempestuous demands - it is impossible to forget her - because nothing compares to her touch

George-AlbettOne wrote 3 years ago:

Big up Catherine for your blog! Point 4 is super true

Alison Lock wrote 3 years ago:

Catherine, your post sparkles and fizzes on the page. Living in Italy seems to be a delight for all the senses - can't wait to visit!

Raachel Fenton wrote 3 years ago:

A feast of a post, Catherine - Italy, who wouldn't want to dog in after reading this?

Jennifer wrote 3 years ago:

I couldn't agree more! But as they say, it's better to have loved....

Arrigo wrote 3 years ago:

cwpsh half Italian- half Australian I can totally get where you're coming from. Gotta work for your money to really find the good stuff.

Furio wrote 3 years ago:

Great post! I like the apertivo point and make sure to keep this up Furio

Omar wrote 3 years ago:

Fascinating read so many truths they don't call it the belpaese for nothing!!!

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