I have spent a lifetime trying to satiate my passions. I know that’s embarrassingly self-indulgent and like many self-aware Americans, I often tried to hide my obsessions. Then I moved to Italy. I found an entire country of free spirits. From Milano to Palermo, Italians live their lives in quest of perfect pleasures.
I don’t know if it was geography, citizenship or impersonation of the Italian quest for “la dolce vita” that helped me escape the self-imposed prison of my mind. Perhaps a bit of all three, but the shackles are gone. In Italy, I found freedom to indulge … unrepentantly. I’m never going back.
Like socks in a suitcase, I packed my passions and brought them with me. But I found it more fun to acquire those “Made in Italy.” For instance, I’ve admired from afar Ferraris and Lamborghinis, but here I learned to appreciate the Fiat 500 (Cinquecento). I can’t take my eyes off those impossibly tiny four-seaters. They are the epitome of “small cars” but in the late 50s, and 60s, they had the might to redefine Italian transportation and reinvigorate Italian industry.
I like to open my windows and let the sounds in, the vibrant open-air market, the roving accordion player or priests advising parishioners. I’ve learned to appreciate early walks and late dinners, both long and slow; line-dried laundry; begonias growing from my window pots and lots of basil on the terrace. I like my coffee now in small cups and very strong. And once in awhile I sneak a siesta after lunch.
These are preferences, not obsessions (well, maybe the espresso). And it’s not that I adopted all of Italy’s products and idiosyncrasies with equal fervor. I mean I really appreciate good wine and fine fashion, opera and soccer, but I wouldn’t call them obsessions. My preferences tend to be more culinary. I’m nuts for pleasures of the palate starting with “P,” like pasta, pizza, pesto and parmigiano (the 42-month-old kind freshly cut from a wheel). But my true passions – those worthy of a crusade – are for olive oil, grappa and gelato. So if you care to come back for subsequent postings, I’ll write about the holy trinity starting with the quest for the perfect gelato.