It was my Italian grandmother, albeit unknowingly, that started my love affair with Italy. She gave me my first taste of spaghetti thickly dusted with parmesan (surprisingly not the real thing but I wouldn’t have know the difference then. She used to tell me off for shaking on so much but maybe that was because she knew the real thing was so much better!). Even now the smell of ragu cooking on the stove reminds me of her. As a child, I loved her because she was so different, from her strong accent that she never lost to the food she cooked; no-one I knew had a grandmother like her, well apart from my primary school friend, Ann Carbonara (yes, that really was her name) who obviously had one, but hers lived in Italy so that didn’t count. My life-long fascination with Italy and all things Italian derived directly from my grandmother and as I grew older I thought her very foreignness defined me, made me different too. I wanted to be Italian but above all to go to Italy. Of my two grandmothers I saw her the least but her impression on me was so great. I am only sorry that she did not know that.
It was not until I was a teenager and my mother bought a flat in the Valdarno, strangely not in the South where she had spent her childhood, that I actually stepped on to Italian soil. She carried on where my grandmother had left off and every summer holiday would show me daily life as an Italian would live it. It was during this time that I knew that one day I would come to live in Italy, Tuscany if I could. My self-taught Italian became more practised in an attempt to blend in, to be mistaken for a local. I made friends, I mixed and mingled. And I never stopped dreaming. I also never stopped looking at property!
So here I am, after several years and many false starts embarking on a great new adventure with my husband. We have sold up and said our goodbyes and are now living in a rural house with a small patch of land, in the Lunigiana, northern Tuscany. Welcome to our future!