Italy has changed me

I’m not certain when, which day or year, but it did happen and just dawned on me the other day. For such a spontaneous person I can be slow; nice to know irony is not dead.

I was in Riva del Garda when struck by this epiphany. I’d suspected it for some time, but now I’m convinced it’s true. I have changed. And there’s something about Riva that always helps clarify. I’ve been visiting the lake for about 20 years. After we sailed across the Atlantic in 2002, we hung out at the in-laws in the south of France, got the keys and since then we’ve been hanging out in a small flat on Lake Garda. Back then we were chossing our next home. We chose Rome. Now, we may be choosing Lake Garda as our final home. Such are the cycles of life.

But before our odyssey began, before we made our ‘home’ in Paris, Prague or Rome – our first home was on Lake Garda. And Riva del Garda is special for so many reasons, not the least being it’s one of the prettiest places on the planet – and I’d never even heard of it. Now I talk about it all the time.

Each day I wake up, take my cappuccino out to the balcony, look across the lake as my eyes land on this lovely church attached to the side of the mountain. It’s called Chiesa Santa Barbara.

I thought this was kind to name a church after my mother, especially after she died; that church has been soothing my soul from afar, for 20 years. Every once in a while I hike up and the views are exactly as you might assume; spectacular. I’ll include a vid for your eyes only.

Anyway, after Geneva, Bucharest and all the rest, we ended up in Piemonte, a place that would complete the change. But before all the rest there was Lake Garda and because I’m writing a book on Piemonte I’m spending more time in Riva. We all know how distance gives writers objectivity. I mean, it wasn’t until I left the US that I had the confidence to write about my former home. And really, I enjoy the mountains in Piemonte, they are steady and strong but they can also tie you right down to the ground. And being on the lake feels emotional, it expands the mind, unleashes the imagination and frees the soul.

I know this to be true, but now that I’m back in Piemonte, I find myself typing away about Lake Garda, remembering the minute I knew I’d really changed. I was probably drinking my cappuccino and talking to my mother across the lake. Or listening to her. She always seemed to know…

As Joan Didion says and I always quote; best to stay on familiar terms with our former selves. Perhaps that’s how I know how much I’ve changed. I follow Didion’s advice. It’s key to self-awareness and I’m pretty key on knowing thyself. I’m less embarrassing; and this is a very good thing, even in our social media world where we’ve all become an acquired taste.

Dictionaries do lag behind and words can’t always capture so that’s why I write; to try and unlock some of the mystery. It seems to working as I write about Piemonte, or today, about last week on Lake Garda.

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