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  • Writer's picturezelda thomas-curti

How it all started- this desire to live in Italy...

This wanting to move to Italy started when I was a junior in college- oh of course it did- you might say- yes, indeed it was on my junior year abroad. But it wasn't like I was thinking about Italy for months or years before that- I literally decided to go on a whim.

My mother had said in June after my Sophomore year,

'Don't you want to go away for your Junior year?'

And I was like,

'Sure, I guess.'

And as carelessly as any sophomore teenager, I was just 19 at the time, I replied,

'I think Sarah Lawrence has a program in Florence.'

'OK, go there then!' she said.

And so I did.

I remember boarding the plane to Pisa from Barbados, my mother's outpost in the Foreign service at the time. Then from Pisa I got on a train to Florence. The windows of the train were wide open, the seats were old worn leather and

we all crowded in amongst other passengers in what seemed a slow moving picturesque movie of fields as they flashed by our window. With a tape of the Police playing over and over again on my walkman-"There's a little black cloud on the sun today , it's the same old thing as yesterday..." - I felt like had entered into Narnia from the back of a closet where queens and kings were long dead and where the the beauty and the feeling of grandeur still


For me it was like the Italian pandora's box had been opened and I was instantly mesmerized. I was like, what is this place? It was magical. It was if I was in a dream, or transported in time to a realm I didn't know existed. The fresh warm autumn air blowing in my face from the slow moving train with the wheat fields passing me by was the hook bait and sinker for me. As if that wasn't enough, my university program was in a 13th century villa called Villa Bosco bello - meaning beautiful forest. It was on a steep hill sprinkled with cypress trees as if Botticelli himself had used it for his backdrop of one of his paintings- he probably had. Was this where we were going to live, eat and study for the whole year- are you kidding me? Gosh, looking back upon it I was blessed beyond compare. I think I was so overwhelmed with it all I could barely focus on my studies. And then it was there at a bus stop that I met my first husband. Half Italian, but American.

Three years after my first encounter with Italy on my Junior year abroad, my sister moved to Rome. My sister, who is half french and was brought up in the south of France immediately felt more at home than living in the US. The European way of life, the intellectualism and the architecture and the Mediterranean cuisine were all like coming home for her. But moving anywhere that is not as efficient as the US can be challenging. Her girls remember her waiting in line to get her residence

card and waiting for three hours just to find out she had the brought the wrong documents with her. It is these types of things though that might make you want to go home, that is...until you look out at your vista from your apartment that has views on the forum, or walking down a cobble stone street where you can find the cutest cafe ever and sit there and people watch and listen to the bustling sounds of the city, that you just say: forget it all, it's worth it!!

After she got settled I would visit her every summer, first on my own, and then with my children. It was hard to travel with little children and my husband at the time couldn't come because he was working. Days before my flight I would try to change my mind and talk my self out of going and imagine the worst case scenarios- the dangers of the children- they would fall off a balcony or they would get run over by a motorino (moped), but then I would wake up and maybe have a shot or two of something to calm my nerves, and then board the two leg flight to Rome from Minneapolis. I remember one flight where no one could get comfortable and I had only bought two seats- the little one was still a baby - and so I laid the little one the two seats and the bigger one on the floor so they could sleep, while I sat on the arm rest and walked around the plane. Why such insanity you might ask?

Well, as soon as I stepped off the plane and listened to the language and the confusion and the chaos, once I smelled a cappuccino or an expresso wafting from the airport bar, and then stepped into my sisters little Peugeot -that she has had for 20 years- and looking out the window at the roads and the crazy drivers, and then finally entering the city and the piazzas and the golden sunlight, I knew my my insanity had been worth it. Every singe torturous part of my airplane ride with two little kids was worth it. For in Rome I felt at home, it felt real, and it was beautiful.

This went on summer after summer. I always envied my sister and her kids being able to grow up in Rome and speak Italian-and French and co-mingle with kids from all over the world at the international school they attended. I wished I could do the same - but the best I could do was to bring my kids every summer to visit my sister. So I had a third kid at 47 so I could finally bring one up here! And the two older ones are more than happy to have me based here because then they get to come visit me in Italy rather than Minneapolis!! Dreams do happen, and it is ok to move, you don't have to stay in the same place all your life.

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