In September of 2003, my wife and I and our infant daughter had a trip planned to Italy. We’d arranged to stay in a refurbished barn, behind a villa in the hills south of Florence. A rental car, complete with child seat, was reserved. I’d read books on Tuscany and beyond. I’d studied some Italian. Everything was in order. Yet, at the airport, Pam and I were in minor states of disbelief: a surreal atmosphere surrounded us; our nerves surfaced in mawkish smiles; we giggled at times and stayed silent at others. We were like children entering a magical yet scary world. And it was magical, and it was scary, for this was no ordinary vacation. We would be staying in Italy for a year.
The idea was born, more than three years before, on a high marble terrace in the city of Florence. Pam and I had left Venice the day before and would be off for Rome in 72 hours. It was our first time in Italy. So far, four days in, we were moved by the experience and anxious for more. We sipped prosecco on the terrace of our room in a magnificent hotel off the Piazza Ognissanti, looking over the River Arno, the beautiful bridges and the ancient buildings lining the far bank, the dusky sky a maze of clouds and colors. We had dinner reservations at a place I’d read about in a fancy travel magazine. We were alive, immersed in this lovely country: its buildings and landscape and food; the elegant people with their lyrical language and old-world charm. We did not speak of our lives in New York, only of Italy. We talked about coming back someday. And that’s when the idea hit me: we should live here. Not forever, but for a good amount of time. “A year,” I said. “A year.” Pam smiled and sipped some prosecco as the soft Tuscan night sifted down on our marble terrace above the River Arno.
A few years later, back in New York, we had Sophia. Pam eventually returned to work, though she wanted to be home with the baby. I’d been at the same job for over 10 years. I wanted to write. Pam wanted a break. I mentioned the Italy idea. Pam smiled. I did the math. I did it again. The numbers worked. The numbers worked. We could do this. We could. We found someone to sublet our furnished apartment. We found a place to live in Tuscany. I visited and signed the lease. We rented a car – for 12 months. Pam put in her resignation. I put in mine. We got Sophia a passport. We told people. They warmed us with their support and frightened us with their concerns. We were overjoyed. We lost sleep, wondering what the hell we were doing. Eventually, we had a goodbye party, finalized all arrangements at home and abroad, packed our bags and left for the airport in September of 2003…
Each month this blog will host a new posting, a reflection of our time in Italy. Please feel free to respond with any comments or questions. We’re happy to talk about our beloved second country and the amazing experience of Our Italian Year.