We loved your lakes, particularly the majestic Lake Garda, with its surrounding mountains and old towns on the water’s edge. We loved your food. We may never recreate something so simple as the incredible pizza your served to us. Perhaps your secret is in the abundance of ingredients you draw from your soils?
My girl learnt to windsurf for the first time in your waters. My little girl cycled more than ever before. We all swam in mountain lakes the colour of topaz and got lost in colourful cobbled streets.
We saw towns on water, floating wonders full of narrow alleys and little doors. The simplicity of the neglected Venetian facades were in stark contrast with your lapping canals full of affluent tourists, floating by in glossy black gondolas. The people watching was captivating. Then we saw St Mark’s Square at dawn, sharing it with few.
We saw roman architecture in ruins, and commanding arenas that still stand tall at the edge of the ancient Roman Forum. We saw the home of the Catholic church. We smiled at nuns in habits and robes in shades of white, grey, Mother Teresa blues and black. We thank you for the psalms sung at St Peters Basilica during evensong, the organ vibrating through the cathedral, leaving devout visitors in tears.
We loved that you’ve preserved the Pantheon, an ancient wonder that inspires us as a modern feat of engineering. But we are a little troubled that there’s no mention of the role of slaves in building these great things for your ancestors.
We loved heading south and seeing the raw side of your cities. The broken shutters and the graffiti on the walls, alongside Hilton Hotels, and visitors from cruise liners wearing beautiful diamonds to match their bejewelled Italian sandals. We love your coastline that sits beneath steep cliffs. We love the olives and the lemons, the lush grapes for winemaking and the tomatoes drying in the sun. We love the simple meals down south.
We too are a country affected by earthquakes and volcanoes. We’re saddened by the lives lost in the ash clouds of Vesuvius. But we appreciate that lost city, inspiring us with its beautiful frescoes, its marble columns and its sophisticated streets, preserved for our special visit, some 2,000 years later.
Ciao Bella Italia