Check back soon for travel, food and culture and various bits about Italy that have no definite classification as yet, and possibly may never. They’re the bits you’ve maybe always wondered about, or at least I’ve certainly wondered about in various states of pseudo-existential crisis. They sometimes stem from a woman of a certain age I once met on a plane, who leaned in towards me on a plane and said to me “you are SO LUCKY to live in Italy.” It was one of those times reminiscent of being at school, where she could have easily added an “and don’t you dare complain, young lady.” At the time I had two small children under the age of two and it made very little difference where I lived. The result would have been the same. Two sets of nappies (I honestly believe I have never changed a nappy since), exhaustion, maternal boredom (yes, it does exist, and anyone who tells you differently is not to be trusted), failing to live up to the ideals of motherhood (both self-imposed and imposed by others), punctuated by exquisitely beautiful moments of delirious joy and desperate internal cries of please don’t grow up ever.
Of course I am lucky to live in Italy, just as I would have been lucky to live anywhere else. It’s a beautiful place to live, and not just because the food is decent, or rather a lot better than decent. It’s food that I’ve eaten and food that I’ve learned to cook, often in large quantities, and foten pasta. (Just call me mamma.) There’s culture pretty much everywhere you go. The landscapes are varied, and at times painfully beautiful. (Think Venice on a rainy day.) There are lots of pretty medieval hilltop towns. There are lots of pretty lakeside villages. And there’s a city called Milan that I call my spiritual home. Milan is the invariable constant, along with the mountains. Maybe we all need our places that speak of home.
I came to Italy, knowing no Italian and never having been here before. I never went back. Fast forward I’ve-forgotten-how-many-years-exactly and I was driving round the ring round, eyeing up the Abarths and singing on along to a dance mix of a Mina song*. Parole parole, or words words, which is pretty appropriate as that’s what Italy has given me. Words, and a lot of them at that.
Nowadays I’m still driving around the Milan ring road, still eyeing up the Abarths (having opted for a mum-mobile in a major lapsus oh why oh why oh WHY), although the playlist is generally 90s house as I hurtle towards middle age, and dare I say it, menopause??? Menopause may well feature in the parts that are unclassifiable. I am currently obsessed with menopause just as I am currently obsessed with Venice. (SPOILER: we are both falling apart.)
All this will all be accompanied by a new guide to where to go and what to see, do and eat across Northern Italy. That bit will be classifiable.
In the meantime, I’ve written a book. It’s about fashion in Milan, and you can read more about it here.
*If you don’t know who Mina is, follow the link. It’s not the dance mix version. It’s the one that fits the stereotypes, as stereotypes have their place at times and can be very enjoyable indeed.
Photo: Rainy days, Venice, Rachael Martin