Homesickness wasn’t a feeling that had ever occurred to me, therefore I didn’t recognise the emptiness that was creeping in after every phone call and Skype chat with my Mum.
Was I done here? No. Could I speak enough Italian? No. Had I cooked and eaten enough? Despite my expanding dress size… hell no!
Making the most of the limited, child-less social time I was given, I’d meet friends as a nightly ritual at Bar Poeta. Starting with a peach caramel tea, we’d sit outside overlooking the main city’s piazza discussing the day and watching the world go by, progressing to wine until the group had all gathered and soon after an alternative bar; we’d discover random events in castles, manor homes and beach huts. Non-void spaces between buildings became pop up bars in the summer months and we soon learnt there was a time and place for everything:
Cheers to a beer and free beef jerky, Prosecco poured at Osteria, legs tired from the dancing at 24 Mila Baci, karaoke belted at Mayflower, bands performed at Irish Pub Doolin / The ROCKIN… We’d often find ourselves on the beach at the end of a heavy night watching the sunrise and without fail, finishing with a Nutella Bomb and an espresso from Dolce Notte Cafe before bed.
I was living in the fast lane! Until the Italian police stopped me (oops!).
On occasion, the plans I’d made with friends would have to be cancelled at last minute in order to accompany the family. Gutting but frequently totally worth it!
An impromptu trip to Roma as a VIP at the Ennio Morricone and Roma Sinfonietta Orchestra concert in Piazza del Popolo sticks in my mind. There is something about a live symphony that draws you in so that you are completely immersed in the experience. I am captured from the first note. The music surrounds me, transporting me back to times as a little girl where I’d be perched on a pew of my Grandparents’ church, watching, wide eyed as my Grandad’s feet lifted off the ground by the force of his excitable arms waving around as he conducted the orchestra. Like then, I am enraptured in the performance begging for it not to finish. When it did, we sat outside Tiffany’s with a Nutella pastry. Nana would be super excited when I tell her about the concert.
That longing for home again? What was wrong with me?!
Although I prepared most meals for the family myself, the mother, a fantastic cook used to part own a family cook shop. Like most Italians, her mother taught her the traditional ways which she expanded on through the Roma cookery school. This only made her an inspiration to me and together we’d take all week to plan a guest dinner…
The business dinner.
An early start and chaotic battle for the best produce; discussing freshness, cut, colour and source, we spent hours in the local market as though selecting diamonds for royals – The same care and attention given to prepare and cook each dish. Laying the table with the best china, 5 sets of glass wear and napkins folded, ensuring the lighting and music were perfect, her innate sense of conviviality and the necessity to entertain in such style would excite me, installing that bit of extra love for gastronomy inside.
Things were so different here; no phones, no TV, no dietary requirements. Time’s spent around the table socialising and once you get to the eating part, you can sense the appreciation as everyone savours every bite. It’s written on their faces. With every chew they remember the last time they tasted it, where they were, who they were with, and then move on to hope they never forget by creating a new, refined memory.
It has always amazed me how hearing a particular piece of music or eating a certain food allows you to re-visit a memory you thought you had forgotten, locked away never to be re-experienced, now unlocked for you to appreciate all over again. It has been suggested many a time that these experiences define us, and I soon came to realise I was having spontaneous longing memories of home, not because I wasn’t there, but because part of me never left. As by perfect coincidence, the next film I watch in Italy quotes Oliver Wendell Holmes:
“Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts”.