The first thing that strikes you about Italy, coming from Germany, is the light. Italy has a whole new level of light. The moment you emerge from the Alps, you’re blinded. The colors look different, they’re mellow, and the air is a pleasant warm embrace in which you can float. Your heart lights up too, and you simply feel so free. So in touch with your natural self. Not all is lost, you tell yourself. You realize you have been living under a sinister dark lid until now and you wonder what have you done with your life, how was it possible that you squander it so. This is it, stupid, you slap your forehead. This is life.
Especially in the off season.
Radio moderators chatter happily away in the most limpid of languages (the kind of language that sounds noble and cultivated out of the mouths of seven-year-olds), a sort of patient Mediterranean fertility blankets the scenery left and right, and almost every farmhouse could stand on the cover of lifestyle-and-design magazines.
Ok, ok, I like to exaggerate a little, but that’s just how I feel. Italy is the home of my heart.
We make our way to Lido di Jesolo through the quiet Italian countryside and everything seems magical. We’re full of anticipation. My son (5) is confused that the place does not look boot-shaped at all, and asks where the Leaning Tower of Pisa is and how come there are no red Ferraris. Then, close to our destination, we hit a giant roundabout with malls on each side, supermarkets and fast food joints and we panic. But it’s soon forgotten. Our residence of creamy walls and pale blue Venetian blinds sits buried under oleanders still blooming and purple valerian. The pool is lit by underwater spotlights and gives off a zesty damp smell in the indigo night. In the restaurant across the street a drunk old crooner gives a live, disturbingly off-key performance of “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” which sounds more like he should be looking for himself. His raucous voice blares into the microphone with the elegy of a Leonard Cohen impersonator on antidepressants that aren’t working. While we’re having dinner the mosquitoes go about theirs, too (our limbs). They are particularly keen on gelato-laden blood. It’s sweeter. Sweet, good-natured Italy.
Venice in the rain is an adventure. Venice in the rain with two kids and a heavy buggy is an extreme sport. Lots and lots and lots of bridges. Lots and lots and lots of stairs. But you’re there, you’re damp, wearing impromptu raincoats made from plastic bags at €1.50 apiece, stepping in every puddle, taking in all the beauty, the cosmopolitan bustle, the colors – sienna next to ocher next to terracotta next to the milky, dingy turquoise of the canals; taking in the stunning architecture – a column here, a typical arched window there, a crystal chandelier behind a burgundy drape as heavy as 500 years; the unexpected piazzas, the awe-inspiring wealth of the museums, the slow-moving gondolas and the melange of the flowing human masses as well, and you don’t even mind your bruised hip from all that lifting of the buggy.
Next thing you know, you’re home staring at the pictures and realizing how happy you were in them, how at ease with yourself, how dizzy with joy and excitement, and how much younger you seemed to look only five days ago.
Italy: instant beautification.