An American’s Yearlong Trip to Italy

All I was thinking about while I was on my summer vacation was Italy. In my 20s, I tried a number of times to make that country my home, but never managed to shake the daily routine of New York. I’d come there and it seemed like the exact same situations from my twenties emerged — first coffee at noon, off to work and my long commute, then dinner at 6. I’d wonder how different this experience would be if I was in my late 20s, early 30s, or a little younger, and suddenly felt more motivated to visit. In my late 20s, Italy seemed like the longest and most promising goal to accomplish.

But I wouldn’t have it any other way. In the early 1990s, I was a full-time student and working 60- to 70-hour weeks, chasing a doctorate in economics. I read enough books about la dolce vita to wonder how easy it would be to relax once I finally found myself in Italy. I’m not sure I even thought of it as an option.

It wasn’t until I got married — and then had kids — that I began to reconsider the quest for home. It was during my husband’s doctorate that we started renting out apartments in our new town. I was looking for somewhere relatively centrally located, but with plenty of space for my family and, most importantly, almost no phone company contracts (that was a decade before FreeCell). Then I noticed the beautiful, lush hills of Campiglio. For the first time in my life, I imagined a place with plenty of natural scenery for running, bike rides, or even simply lying in the garden and falling asleep to the soft mountain breeze.

The months of compiling house lists, building decks, and persuading my husband to drive up a total of six hours just to plan something for the entire weekend — how did I even keep it going? — came to an end. I felt that this was finally our chance. It felt like Italy is somewhere in the country that you can be a certain way for all your life, always living the same way until you retire or die. There’s a feeling that, without a reservation or an email, you’re completely at home.

Last year, I finally started working as a freelancer. Then my husband and I decided to purchase a house in Campiglio that we’re happy to call our home. We had a friendly open house, but by the time we left, I was thinking, Who would buy a house in Italy?

I’ve never been to Italy but would consider it a home away from home anyway. The list of joys, bonds, and friendships I’ve made with people I’ve spent time with over the years reminds me of my happiest times in New York — people who are alike and different in ways that you can learn from. And although I’m usually a slow starter, on this last trip to Italy I was overwhelmed by new friendships I’d made and random things I stumbled across. A visit to Polignano has produced so many beautiful things I don’t even know what I’ll put in my blog post. We’ve shared a common language, a common love of wine, and now I look forward to receiving cards from my new Italian friends every three months, in order to enjoy a weekly walk on the beach.

Time and people change, but I know one thing: I wouldn’t have traded our Italian adventure for any other vacation. Sometimes you get more into something, and never find it again.

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