While often times it is scary to set out and pursue our dreams, I find that sometimes its even more scary to share them with other people. Sometimes I don’t share them at all. I keep them locked away, for I believe all charm would be lost upon disclosure. But of course, I share some of my dreams with the ones I love most, sometimes even with random strangers. As I write this entry, I share my biggest dream turned reality…traveling to the Italian countryside.
In a very ironic way I feel like my little brother who was always so eager to share his dreams when we were kids. They were as fictitious as a young boy’s dreams could be, and he would always paint himself as the protagonist. Every time he’d reach the climax, it was all so predictable that he would be the hero. I think the best dreams are the ones we want to happen exactly like we dreamt them, setbacks and all. Like my brother’s predictable, “save-the-day” dreams, it should come as no surprise that I loved every moment of my Italian dream.
Never have I ever stopped in the middle of the street in sheer awe of someone’s hanging kitchen towels and undergarments. I’ve never cried at the sight of a sun kissed field. I’ve never eaten berries from a tree without thinking twice about whether or not they could be poisonous (especially after watching The Hunger Games). In Italy I did all these things. See, for the longest time I have dreamt of this place and my experience was tenfold all that I’d ever read about or seen in pictures and movies. I’ve always known that it would be.
On my first night in Verona, I had pizza in what used to be and still very much looked like a church. I remembered someone once telling me that New Yorkers make better pizza than Italians which always struck me as odd since most of the pizza makers were probably descendants of Italy. While New Yorkers do set the bar pretty high, I’d never eaten all white pizza with truffle on it. It was only after my first bite that I could not agree with that person. I couldn’t help but notice a big brick oven coincidently at the centre of what used to be the alter of the church. The food blessings flowed from then on.
There is no such thing as a small meal in Italy. Calories and carbohydrates do not exist and such words are never to be uttered. Nutella is in fact an approved breakfast food and encouraged by nonnas all throughout. Bread is served with or before every meal, and you can be sure to find the end of the gelateria line outside.
Public displays of affection are also highly practiced, and sometimes disturbing for onlookers. In this country, women are looked at in a different manner. It is as if they are the most beautiful creatures God could have ever thought up and having witnessed such a paradigm in person was more moving than the notion itself.
You’d be amazed as to how much Italian you can speak when you’re forced to. My husband and I stayed in the most idyllic bed and breakfast in the countryside, the kind where its even more beautiful from the balcony window. The women who owned the place spoke very little english and still, the human desire to just be understood proved itself during our brief exchanges with them. If we fumbled in translating our thoughts, they’d humbly correct us or switch places and speak the very poor and little English they knew.
Up and down every street, windows welcome you, their shutters like open arms and the flowers they hold like old, familiar friends. The detail of a door could fill you with so much wonder making you feel like you could never be ready to know who and what lives beyond it. Just when you start to feel overwhelmed by all of it, the church bell rings and a warm breeze passes, reassuring you that this is exactly where you belong.
When I came home, I felt like my then kid brother had reciting his dreams, evermore the dynamic protagonist. I was changed forever and I could hear myself narrating the end of a book or a film, like Sandra Bullock in While You Were Sleeping.
“Thank goodness my father was right. life doesn’t always turn out the way you plan. But Jack, Jack gave me the perfect gift, a stamp in my passport. He took me to Florence for our honeymoon. I guess you might say, he gave me the world.”