In a world turned upside down, we know that we can’t return to what was, yet we have no idea what will be. Although much has changed, one thing hasn’t: our love for Italy. Over the past few months, we’ve wept for the lives lost. We’ve worried about friends and loved ones. We’ve sadly cancelled our plans to visit. Yet when asked if I miss Italy, I say no. I’ve been going to Italy every day— and have found both comfort and inspiration.
Italy, now as in the past, remains a great teacher. Over the course of almost 3,000 years, everything that could happen to a people or a country has happened there. The seemingly invincible Roman Empire crumbled. Barbarians pillaged. Plagues ravaged. Wars claimed countless lives. Governments and economies collapsed. Yet after each calamity, Italy flickered back to life.
Italians survived, not despite these upheavals, but because of the resilience forged by them. They learned fully and deeply what it means to be human—creatures of body, mind, and soul, rooted in the past but relishing the present and reimagining the future. These days I take solace in the words of Dante and Boccaccio, the operas of Verdi and Puccini, the works of Italian artists.
The global crisis has taught us another lesson: Come what may, people do what they love. Dancers dance; singers sing; actors perform; writers write. And so I’ve created a new book: “A” Is for Amore. This letter-by-letter journey through the Italian alphabet, culled from decades of research, writing, and wandering, takes readers on a virtual tour of Italian treasures and pleasures, ranging from cucina to opera to vino.You can download the digital PDF for free—a small gift that I hope will entertain and uplift you.
For another Italian experience, you can watch this YouTube video on Leonardo, which I wrote and presented in collaboration with the London-based Corona Crisis Collective. If you’re interested in reading or talking about coronavirus in Italian, a guest post on my blog provides the essential vocabulary.
If you are on Facebook, I invite you to join a lively community of more than 5,000 Italy- and Italian-lovers in my La Bella Lingua group. If you are reading your way through these unsettling times, escape to Italy with La Bella Lingua: My Love Affair with Italian, the World’s Most Enchanting Language; La Passione: How Italy Seduced the World; Mona Lisa: A Life Discovered; and (in Italian) La Bella Lingua: La mia storia d’amore con l’italiano.
Throughout the coronavirus crisis, rainbows have appeared on signs and banners all over Italy with the message: Andrà tutto bene. Everything will be okay. Until we reach the better days at the rainbow’s end, stay safe and well.