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. Not long after, I met my all-Italian boyfriend. 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 went up mountains and learned about the food you can eat there. I cooked pasta, and finally put salt in the water. When I first met my husband and cooked for him, I didn’t put any salt in the water. He was horrified. I soon started to cook pasta in salted water. 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 cross-cultural waters of everything that involved. One day I will finally sit down and write THAT book. (Spoiler: it involves madonnas and whores and looking for me.)
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 in which case I just stayed home and made fresh pasta and bread. (Not strictly true – my husband made the former. Of course 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’s brought its highlights and low points. I treasure the highlights and learned from the low points. Possibly everything I write is part of this journey. I 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.
I’ve also learned to cook like a true Italian mamma. I cook kilos of pasta,
I’m obsessed with the Italian breakfast, and a cappuccino and brioche is one of my favourite moments of the day.