♥ The Face of Italy ♥

Let's Go to Italy Together!“Love and understand the Italians, for the people are more marvelous than the land.”
—E. M. Forster

Photo - Victoria De MaioWhen I started to write about the “face of Italy”, I realized that, for me, growing up in an Italian family and the “face of Italy” are inextricably intertwined and interwoven.

It was a natural segue to fold in the past with the present. So rather than write something new I decided to tweak, recycle and add to a guest post I wrote a few years ago for my friend and fellow blogger, Rick Zullo (Rick’s Rome) about what “growing up Italian” meant to me.

Today I have folded that into how being a grown up traveling to Italy has been and continues to be a rewarding and enriching experience for me.

I hope you enjoy the result as much as I enjoyed writing it…

Let's Go to Italy Together!♥ The Face of Italy… ♥

Scrolling through literally thousands of photos and reflecting upon the past few years, I am positively overwhelmed with gratitude. So many heartwarming memories and moments… And I am touched and reminded over and over of my love and passion for the country of my roots and for its people.

For truly, it’s the people that are the face of Italy – warm, beautiful faces. genuine, welcoming faces and arms that embrace you. And I’m reminded over and over again of how fortunate I was to grow up in a loving Italian family and to have roots to a place and a people that I love so much…

♥ Grazie di cuore ♥

Let's Go to Italy Together!On Being Italian! Or  Growing Up Italian!

“Open my heart and you will see graved inside of it, Italy.”
–Robert Browning

Drama! Emotion! Passion! The gesturing and waving of arms! The raising of eyebrows and the shrugging of shoulders...the look! No soft undertones or measured words, no discreet glances… Everyone talking at once! Everyone trying to talk louder than everyone else! Everyone interrupting everyone else! No shades of gray here! Everyone has an opinion about pretty much everything and you are going to hear it!  A soap opera? A movie? The opera? A play? Heavens no. just life growing up in an Italian family!

And growing up in an Italian family, I pretty much took all of this for granted. I didn’t think about “being Italian”.  Didn’t everyone have coffee (with lots of milk) and a sweet for breakfast? Didn’t everyone display their emotions and express their opinions freely? Didn’t everyone pretty much have a home life like we did? Over the years I realized that, of course, they didn’t.

We lived in a small town (at the time), Napa, and there were quite a few Italians there. My parents spoke Italian to each other and like so many of my generation (boomer), sadly we were never taught the language (except for mangia, basta, a letto and a few other commands!).  Of course, even as a child I could interpret a lot from the very expressive tone, volume and gestures (facial and hand!).

There was a generation of Italian old-timers in Napa, including my grandfather, who never learned English but worked hard – most often with their hands. They tended their little vegetable garden, made a little vino, smoked their pipes, played a little bocce, rarely learned to drive, wore those classic suspender-ed pants and a fedora, and loved their families.

We were a rather small family and although most of the families in my neighborhood and most classmates weren’t Italian, I never thought about it much. I never knew that my Dad was discriminated against at work (subtle but nonetheless…). Even after traveling to Italy for the first time in my twenties, I loved it, but I still didn’t get how much it meant to me to be Italian. That took another 20+ years ( please, don’t do the math, OK?)

When I decided that it was time to go back to Italy, and since no friends or family were going to join me, I signed up for a terrific tour. I’m not sure why, but landing in Rome and setting foot in Italy after a long absence, I wondered why in the world it had taken me so long to come back?

Well, despite that, it still took another five years to get back, then another five and by this time, I had lost both of my parents. My Father had wanted to make a return visit to Sicily and we were going to go together but it never happened. That’s when I knew I had to go to Sicily… and finally I just got it!

I understood that thread of DNA, the roots, that run so deep. I understood him more, I understood me more. Not just understood, but embraced. I had a new respect and gratitude for all of my grandparents who I barely or never knew who came here with so little but with hopes and hands ready to work…and I got what it meant to love a place so much…to miss it every day…and to feel like you really have arrived “home”.

That’s Italy for me…my passion, my heart’s home. Oh, she has her critics and detractors, but her allure is inarguable. She touches everyone who visits her. There’s just that certain undeniable something that fascinates us. La bella figura? La dolce vita? La spezzatura? Is it that sense of style in everything from a Ferrarri to the way fruit is arranged in the market? Is it that unmistakable sensuality and love of beauty? Or is it that gorgeous melodic language? Or, the passion and romance that seems to permeate everything and enthralls us?

For me, si…all of that and something more… it’s something that comes from the heart that….well, it’s like being in love – it is being in love…

Oh, I don’t know the name of every type of pasta or every region, I don’t know every custom or historic detail and I’ve taken Italian language classes more times than I can count (and I’m still not even close to conversant, much less fluent). It used to bother me, but not anymore. No matter, I will always be 100% Italian and I let my heart and love of being Italian speak for me.

Let's Go to Italy Together!♥ I would love to share my love of Italy with you! ♥

You’re invited to join me in 2016 in the Italian RivieraTuscany and Puglia!

Also, learn more about Italian Ways in my book:

Victoria’s Travel TipZ Italian Style


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About PostcardZ from Victoria

Wish you were here! I love sharing my passion for travel and insights I've learned along the way. Enjoy my travel tips and inspiration with a lighthearted twist! Join me as we create a forum for sharing experiences and information! Enjoy my newly updated & edited book, "Victoria's Travel TipZ Italian Style!" with MORE great TipZ and then, let's go to Italy together!
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23 Responses to ♥ The Face of Italy ♥

  1. Ishita says:

    Such a beautiful post, Victoria! Loved it. So heartfelt..<3 I love how you capture every face of Italy. I hope to be like you someday in this aspect! :)

  2. Shannon D says:

    Love this post, Victoria! As an Italian-American I can totally relate!

  3. bonniegm says:

    Beautifully written Victoria!! Wonderful photos you have of your parents!!

    • Bonnie,
      Thank you so much! I wish I had more photo of my grandparents. I never knew my maternal grandmother or paternal grandfather and only met my paternal grandmother once – yet I’m so grateful to them and to my own parents.
      I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment VERY much!

  4. My eyes are moist….Victoria, you sincerely shared your heart for Italy and why you are so passionate about bella Italia. Thank you for opening your heart to all of us…your photos are wonderful. You are such a cute little girl…and you all look so happy. Brava for one outstanding post that I won’t soon forget….smooch!

    • Grazie amica! This post has been percolating for a long time and then bringing together “my story” and some of the beautiful people I’ve met into one post (although there will be more “faces” shared) came to me.
      Thank YOU for being a part of this chapter and sharing your heart with me.
      Baci xo

  5. Carol Lucas Lembas says:

    LOVE LOVE LOVE it! Best post yet, Victoria!

  6. Oh! Victoria….I can feel the love coming through! Even though I don’t have an ounce of Italian blood (although friends often wonder), I do know and sort of “get” what returning back to Italy would mean to you. When we went back the second time, once the plane landed, I started to cry I was so happy to be back where my soul seems to want to be…I wonder if my soul will feel the same way when I have gone to Denmark? There is something intangible that I feel in Italy…the people, the people, the food, the language…all the sounds…the bells…just thinking about the bells brings tears to my eyes….

  7. So well written and full of passion, love and enthusiasm for all things Italian!!! I love reading about your family and Italian roots….AND am so very happy that you are getting so spend time delving even deeper into the culture of the country you love so much. What a blessing!

  8. An absolutely beautiful, passionate and heartwarming post Victoria. It is no wonder that you return so often. How wonderfully magic it must be for you each time you step foot in Bella Italia! Such a deep connection that you have – how fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing this with all of us. It, and you, are truly special!!

    • Grazie, Rae!
      So very sweet of you and I’m quite touched that you enjoyed it. Yes, a deep connection for me. It took a LONG time to be comfortable sharing and now I’m so gratified at the warm response. I know that you are going to really love it.
      Abbracci amica!

  9. Toni says:

    Victoria, So much of what you wrote I could totally relate to. Growing up the only Italian in grammar school, not able to tell a story without waving my hands, my parents speaking Italian between themselves but never to us kids, learning “basta” and
    “manga” from my Nonna. I too felt I had returned home on my trips to Italy. You were able to relate all this so well in your post. I truly enjoyed it.

    • Toni,
      Oh, I just love it! For soooo many years, I thought it was just my experience! To learn that it was the same for so many is really gratifying, consoling and a wonderful connection.
      Grazie for taking the time to read and comment…and stay tuned – I’ll be sharing some very good news on Monday…

  10. Bev Borges says:

    Victoria, I enjoyed this so much. The part about Napa brought back memories of growing up in Napa. My Dad’s family was Portuguese but I always thought we were Italian because my Grandmother was a member of the ICF at St. John’s! I was very confused!
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Bev,
      Thank YOU for sharing! Little did we know how special it was to grow up in our little town. That’s so
      interesting that you thought you were Italian. No one talked about such things so we just “grew up” and
      figured it out later–more or less!
      Love re-connecting & sharing…

  11. Pingback: ♥ Smiles from the Face of Italy ♥ | PostcardZ from Victoria

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