Reflections on Italy: Conversations with a Local

Posted: November 25th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: ATW Updates | No Comments »


I spent a couple days on the tail end of our unexpected month-long jaunt into Italy in Verona with an email-pal friend of mine, Michele. We’d been corresponding for over a decade, and he always wanted me to visit him in Italy. When we changed our plans at the last moment, I emailed him to let him know we were swinging by. He welcomed us with a home-cooked meal, a delicious powdered-sugar cake, a warm bed down beside the kitchen, and a lot of great conversation.

Italy is a country of contradictions. Its history is long and storied, but it’s only been unified into one country since 1861, and as a republic since 1946. Even now, Michele says there’s a huge difference between Northern and Southern Italy (and Sicily is in a category of its own). Still, there were times when I felt the stories imbued in the walls of each city we visited beckoned out to me like the shades of the dead. One of our favorite tours in Rome was an evening storytelling tour, giving us new perspectives on things we would’ve walked right by, and a deep understanding that these aren’t just tourist spots. The places we walked through are filled with centuries of people living out their lives.

And while there is darkness hidden within its history, with poison and betrayal and mafia bombings, there’s also a certain naïveté. Michele expressed his confusion as to how people could even sue their friends if they were accidentally injured at their homes. Friends are friends. Family is family. That’s it.

No, the real danger in Italy (aside from the rampant pickpocketing) is its notoriously glacial and complicated bureaucracy. Michele regaled us with hilarious examples out of his own life. Rick’s cousin visits Rome on a regular basis, he loves it so much. However, when I asked him whether he’d be willing to live there on a more permanent basis, he shook his head. “It’s different living there than visiting. You’d have to figure out all the details of life.” 


The thing I loved the most about staying with a local is to be reminded that these cities we’re visiting aren’t just postcards sold by the handful, filled with picture-perfect scenes, photoshopped to perfection. No, these are homes, and that turns the postcards into 3-D motion-picture real-life awesomeness. Thank you, Michele!

This is my last post on Italy (you can all breathe a sigh of relief). As you can tell, we both enjoyed Italy more than we expected. Someday, we hope to return. We’re crossing our fingers since we forgot to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain. Onwards!

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