When people ask me how it all began it becomes a jumble. It would be like asking someone how they entered an ancient labyrinth. You know how you entered, but once inside the direction you thought you were going was only a mirror of what you thought you believed.
It was a warm and pleasant mid November night in Rome. Walking around Roma Termini people seemed to be in good mood. The new millennium had finally arrived. That summer I had been in Florence realizing a dream to learn some Italian and spend quality time in Italy. My plan was simple. Go to Florence for the summer to learn Italian, a little Italian culture and maybe meet a beautiful dark haired olive skinned beauty to have fun with. Seven years before I had been to Italy under very different circumstances. At the time I started something, but didn’t finish it. More on that later. I could kid myself all I wanted about why I was here now, but the truth is I had to come back.
“Why Italy?” People always asked me.
“Why anything?” I responded. With travelers oftentimes there is no why. It’s a feeling. Some choose France, or Spain, or South America, Africa, Australia, or Japan. It could have been something we heard, or read. Maybe a movie, or a song? We fell in love perhaps. For me it was Italy and the experiences I had had over time. Experiences that cut deep and left scars, both good and bad. Experiences that transcended who I was and who I would become. It was the language, the culture, the food and the people in all their glory and their dark history. I always believed that to understand a place and the people who lived there you needed to know their language, their history and the land they called home. For many in Italy la Terra, the land, is their blood and sacrifice. It’s what created how they are, how they speak and how they express themselves. The root to knowing how things ticked was learning their language. Once you did that doors opened up and it could also save your life. Learning a language takes discipline and time. It’s not about staying for a summer and expecting to keep it in the foggy recesses of the brain. Yes I learned some Italian this past summer, however it wasn’t enough. I wanted more. I needed more. I had to finish what I started, no matter how long it took, or I would forever be trapped in a world where I didn’t belong.