Why you shouldn’t believe anything that is being said about Italy and everything people say about Italy.
Machos with too much hair gel, ferrari drivers with false self-esteem, corrupt politicians that hook up with under age prostitutes, mafia dudes with poker faces and generally people that speak too much and too loud.
There are many prejudices I had before going to Italy the second time in my life. The first time I was 11 and had not even passed Lago di Garda in the country’s north, a number one German tourist destination and therefore as much of an authentic experience as a club resort in Egypt. No offense.
“I want to go home”, I had said, looking at the ferrari drivers and posh women in bewildered fear. And my Dad and I who did their “boys away” trip (I have no brothers just one sister, so I was the boy), returned to Germany, checking into a little Bavarian hotel and spending the remaining holidays exploring caves and building mountain river dams. Much more what I liked. I grew up in the country and cities scared me.
Fast forward to when I was 24.
In what I call the summer of a lifetime I suddenly saw myself confronted with the choice of continuing my job in a bar and hostel in Central London; meaning scrubbing toilets and showers, lifting dirty glasses into a piping hot washer and folding sheets in a hot and humid basement at minimum wage or ditching it and going to Italy – for romance.
Within a week I found myself at Stansted Airport after a long night dozing on my backpack and waiting to board the low fare jumbo at 6 am.
The moment I reached the plane seat, I fell asleep and only awoke when the plane landed hard on Venetian ground.
Just four hours later I wondered along Venetian canals, slightly tipsy, after a snack of deep red tomatoes and roasted peppers on crusty bread and a small bottle of Birra Moretti, which felt so much bigger in 30 degrees celsius and bright sun light.
Much has been said about Venice. Therefore, I would just like to say two things.
1. It does not stink.
2. It was love at first sight.
From Venice it took us to Bologna (it was plural now given the purpose of the journey) to Florence to the Tuscany countryside and over to Pisa. It was a week of silly laughs, olive trees, moonlight walks, too much wine, hotel rooms, grand plazas, guitar plays, gelato, gnocchi, other g-things, shouting Italian Mamas, Leonardo Da Vinci works and wooden window shutters. From Pisa I made my way up to Genova and Milan via Lucca, Riomaggiore, Cinque Terre alone.
Even the names sound like sweet liquor and raspberry gelato.
Italy is like the guy at school I never liked but actually totally had a crush on.
Scooters honked and hummed, the coffee was strong, the people chatty and warm, the sun was shining, the sky deep blue, the ocean shimmering and nothing but nothing could bother me. Looking back, I am not sure if I ever had such a crush again – on a country!
Much has been said about Italy and many people love Italy. And perhaps that’s why I was trying to love places like Norway and Ireland instead.
But Italy defeated me.
You can believe what people say about Italy, it really is Bella.