I set off on my Italian travels at the end of the 1990s, dreaming of the Merchant Ivory production of A Room with a View with Gianni Schicchi’s O mio babbino caro playing in the background. As often happens in these cases, it wasn’t too long before I met my all-Italian boyfriend, who had rented a house in the mountains with friends for the ski season. It was the best thing I could have wished for, and not just because I eventually married him.
In the meantime, I was falling in love with all things Italian. I revamped my wardrobe with a pair of D&G jeans and a pair of black Moschino ones (this was the 90s), became well-versed in café culture and ate every form of focaccia, pizza, pasta and polenta I could find.
I learned to ski – of a fashion, and when I wasn’t hitching a ride in a snowcat as ‘you must be mad if you think I’m going down there,’ I learned about mountains and the food you can eat. I learned to cook pasta, and put salt in the water. When I first met my husband and cooked for him, I didn’t. He was horrified. I soon started to cook pasta in salted water, and learned to cook like a true Italian mamma. I eventually married my Italian boyfriend, and I have enough international girlfriends to prove that this is by no means a singular event. Two kids followed, and navigating the waters of everything it involved.
I made Italy my home. It kind of happened, gradually. I came to Italy and roamed about on trains, and am still roaming around on trains, as my kids will testify. “La mamma è sempre in giro,” roughly translated as mum’s always out and about, and often accompanied by eye-rolling. Apart from when we’re living through a global pandemic. I’ve had a break from the trains before, only the last time it involved nappies.
The shiny patina wore off years ago, but my love for Italy remains. I chose it and in many ways it chose me, and almost like any marriage, it brought its highlights and low points. Possibly everything I write is part of this journey that gave me a life, a family and a job I love.
In any case I’m still here, living and breathing it all, and trying to tell it and show it through my work.
My book The Fashion Lover’s Guide to Milan will be published on 31 March 2021.