I was 17 when the thought of moving to Italy first crossed my mind.
It was August of 2008, and I had just spent three wonderful weeks on vacation traveling the boot with my family—stopping briefly in Venice, then making our way down south via the regional and Frecciarossa trains to visit my grandparents. This was not my first time in Italy, as my parents had been bringing my brother and me to their hometowns nearly every summer since we could wobble on two feet. This was, however, the first time I fell head over heels in love with Italy.
I can’t even pinpoint what it was that made me so enamored of ‘la bella vita’ that summer. Maybe it was the majestic twists and bends of the canals that lured travelers like me into oblivion as we lost ourselves in the City of Water. Perhaps it was the picturesque hillsides that danced before my eyes as my train roared through Tuscany into Lazio. It may have been the feel of cobblestones under my sandals or wine on the tip of my tongue as I exchanged countless stories and incessant laughter with new friends in the piazza of my father’s town in Salerno.
Whatever it was, it has stuck with me for just under a decade—ten years of fantasizing, and plotting, and planning, and envisioning a life in Italy. In 2010, I returned with my brother for a two-week trip, another unforgettable vacation in Salerno with a brief visit to Cosenza to see my mom’s family. Since then, I’ve visited the country five times: on a month-long vacation in 2011, for a semester abroad in 2012, on a three-month long post-graduation summer stay in 2013, for a two-week winter getaway in 2014 and—finally—for a year abroad in pursuit of my post-graduate degree in 2016.
I should also add that during my semester abroad in Rome, I fell in love again—this time with a man. A friendship with someone I had known for years had blossomed into full-blown, bat-shit crazy love in just a few short weeks. As cliché as it is, my someone was Italian, and—you guessed it—lived in Italy, so since then we’ve been in a long, long distance relationship. Out of the six years we’ve been together, only one of those years was spent in the same continent, let alone country. How did we manage? Daily Skype calls, neverending Whatsapp conversations and plenty of transatlantic flights.
Surely you’re sensing a pattern here—lots of visits to Italy, none of them permanent. Several work opportunity rejections, slight financial insecurity and the most absurd red tape (I’ll hold a perpetual grudge against Italy for this…) are mostly to blame. I guess somewhere along the way I also came to fear the unknown, not only uncertain of what I’d leave behind, but even wary of what kind of future awaited me in Italy. I mean, after talking about moving to Italy for so long, it almost seemed so entirely out of reach and practically impossible at some points throughout this journey.
But, alas, I’m thrilled to write that I’m finally here. I did it! (Imagine I hadn’t, and still decided to keep the blog post name?!) After what seemed an eternity of weeping, wondering and waiting, I bid farewell to the city that raised me, and welcomed with open (albeit, reluctant) arms my new home—Milan, Italy.
I’ll save the ‘How I Moved to Italy’ for the next post, but I think the ‘Why’ is a good start for now. I’ll admit my reasons for staying in the U.S. were plenty, but my reasons for leaving were significant. We weren’t meant to merely exist on this earth; we were meant to live. To love. To learn. To bite the bullet, be brave and believe in ourselves. We have to be willing to risk it all and take chances sometimes, even ones that scare the shit out of us—especially the ones that scare the shit out of us.