Once Upon a Time in Calabria
Hi friends! Welcome to my first blog post! I mentioned before that I am an expat living in Italy, so I thought it appropriate to give you the back story of how that came to be.
If given the chance to go on senior trip with your friends or with your grandmother you’d choose your grandma right? That’s what I did. After graduating high school in 2010, I went to Italy with my Nonna to visit her hometown in Calabria, Italy. Despite the fact that I wanted to come home immediately after we got there (I’m not great with change), I’m so glad I stuck it out. That trip changed the course of my entire life.
After getting used to the lack of air conditioning and crying about our lost luggage, I started to take in the beauty of where I was. There’s something satisfyingly magical about the way the green and brown quilt work of the hills of Calabria meets the sea. The scenery wraps you up in the comfort of being everything you hope Italy looks like. Being there with my Nonna gave me the comfort of bringing me back to my roots.
This trip was a family affair- as most Italian events are. My cousins and relatives from New York were on the trip with us. A few days into our trip, the landlord of our rented apartment informed us that her son and his friends wanted to take us out that night to show us around. Giddy at the prospect of a break in routine, we spent the whole time after dinner getting ready as Shakira’s wildly popular “Waka Waka”, the anthem of that summer, played from a speaker somewhere in the distance. Three American girls ready to go out with Italian boys on vacation sounded like the beginning to any good pre-teen movie, and I was ready for the adventure. We were waiting outside for the boys to arrive when suddenly we saw a car slow in front of us. There they were, in their Italian glory, ready to take us to eat some gelato. Before we even had time to introduce ourselves, I turned to my cousin and said, “I want the one driving”.
“Ciao, sono Valentino”, he said in Italian. “Oh, your name? Your name is Valentino?”, I asked, just to be sure that is indeed what he was telling me. “Sì, yes, Valentino”, he replied. Even though it was dark outside, I felt my cheeks turn bright red. There were six of us and we piled into a very typical, small Italian car. Somehow, even though we barely spoke each other’s language, we managed to communicate. Soon we all knew where each other lived, how old we were, where we will go to university, what we want to study, and if we are having fun on vacation. Valentino and I somehow managed to break off from the group.
Valentino and I, in the few hours that we spent together that night, connected in a way that I had not experienced with anyone in my 18 years of life. We snuck behind a tree, and he slowly and gently kissed me. We were inseparable for the rest of the trip. Together at the beach during the day, and always together at night. I felt like for the first time, I was truly alive. One day when we were on the beach together, he took my head in his hands. With the broken, minimal English that he knew, he managed to say, “I love your eyes” followed by a kiss on the side of my eye. “I love your naso”, he said as he kissed my nose. “I love your hands”, he whispered as he kissed my hands. “And I love you”, he said gently, kissing my forehead and my lips. I had started this trip crying, and ended it crying even harder. Valentino and I promised we would keep in touch, that we would connect on Facebook, and we did. We had a long-distance relationship for three years. While it was hard, I knew it was worth it.
After many years of being together, then some years of us living our separate lives, we began communicating regularly again and in 2017 I made the move to Milan, Italy to be with Valentino. I was lucky enough to gain Italian dual citizenship, and I’d love to share more of that experience in upcoming posts! This past May, Valentino proposed and we are engaged to be married. I typically think you can shape your own destiny, but this trip was was a moment in my life where I believed the stars aligned all on their own.
Lots of love,