Years ago I promised myself that I wouldn’t be one of those people who write about how they bought / built / rebuilt their house in Italy. This fad is unusually persistent and as more and more people write books about their Italian house adventures, it gets a little boring (to me). They have their Italian dream, they buy the house, they leave for Italy full of hopes and illusions, they find out it’s not what they thought it would be, they struggle, they call it funny and write a book about it.
I have no chance of doing this, and if I tried, readers used to the above mentioned pattern would probably find it dull and uninteresting. I own an Italian passport. I speak the language. I have never experienced a culture shock (in Italy or anywhere else for that matter). I’m very familiar with Italian ways and quirks because I proudly call them my own. I haven’t bought the house, it has belonged to my family since 1932 and it was built by my great-grandfather. As you can see, this is not novel material – not enough drama involved.
However, although there may not be enough drama involved, there’s lots of fun, day and night. I may not write a novel about these “adventures” but I may share a bit or two here on my blog. And if you find it boring, you’re welcome to not read it
Very few people know about my house in Italy. I have owned it since the death of my father in 1998 when I chose to keep it as the last link to my family and my heritage. For years I didn’t know what to do with it. Most people advised I should sell it. Yes, if I did, I could probably enjoy many years of a financially carefree writer’s life. But it would mean selling a huge part of myself and my life, it would mean selling my family and my soul. Memories and the loving family energy still stored in its walls cannot be replaced by any amount of money, and although I love being financially comfortable, buying beautiful things and indulging in exciting experiences, I still prefer to work for it and I’m not planning to choose the easy way out by selling something that’s important to me. Call me crazy.
When I came here earlier this year, something was different. I was in so much pain after the loss of Mr. Brinkley, my best friend and companion. He was more than a dog, he was my soulmate and spiritual guide. We were kindred spirits and our relationship was special and unique. He had been ill for a while and it was time to let him go. It was the biggest, and the most painful proof of my love for him. The amount of pain was shockingly unbearable. And so, just like many times before, I did what I knew would help: Go to Italy.
It’s three am, there’s a storm outside and I can’t sleep. Summer storms here are incredibly beautiful and frightening. The sound of thunder is deafening and the windows are lashed by a torrential rain from all sides. As a child I loved these storms. Today I’m not so sure. I think I could do without them.
Suddenly I remember I left a window opened in the hall. As I walk down the staircase, I stop in the middle to look at my family’s “hall of fame”. A wall of old photographs. My great-grandparents, my grandparents. Wedding photographs, portraits. I look my great-grandfather in the eyes and sigh deeply.
“Seriously, Francesco,” I say to him softly. “What the hell am I doing here? Alone, in this huge house in the foothills of the Apennines. You know, Liguria is just a stone’s throw away. Why couldn’t you build the house on the seaside? Why here?”
Francesco smiles. He knows and it’s time for me to know as well, to understand. It’s time, it’s time, it’s time. “Sweetie, me and Francesca just fell in love with this place.” Yes, my great-grandparents’ names were Francesco and Francesca. It was a great love story. Maybe one day I’ll tell you about it.
“We knew it was the right place to build a house and raise a family. We loved its peace, and although we enjoyed our place in Milan, our dinners with friends and nights at La Scala, we were always happy to come back here. To rest, to just be. And you know what? We always knew that one day there would be a lost girl who would need to find her way home. And we wanted to build a lighthouse that would lead her where she needed to be, no matter where she was in the world. And here you are.”
And here I am. Maybe I’m not sure who I am right now but at least I know where I am. I’m home. La casa Conelli. La mia casa. And today that’s all I need.
Barbara Conelli is a travel writer specializing in the charm of Italy. In her enchanting, delightful and humorous Chique Travel Books, Barb invites women to explore Italy from the comfort of their home with elegance, grace and style, encouraging them to live their dolce vita no matter where they are in the world. Click here to discover Barb’s books