When I meet other foreigners married to or dating an Italian, at some point we always swap the old “How did you meet?” story.
It’s interesting to see the colorful array of responses, from meeting randomly in a bar in Boston to those who were so in love with Italy itself, that they uprooted everything and moved here to start a new life. Little did they know that their love of Italy would eventually lead them to the love of their lives.
The stories are always unique and special to each couple and the result is that we – the spouse or companion of the Italian person – find ourselves in the same boat.
To some, that “boat” may feel like a luxurious yacht; to others, a romantic a gondola.
There are also some who may feel like they’re up shit creek without a paddle, but the beauty of it all?
We are not alone.
It took me a while to realize this: that I was not the only expat in my area.
Once I found a few other “me’s” around (and I started getting involved in social media), I realized that there are hordes of people just like me sprinkled throughout Italy.
Little by little, I will tell you how I met my Italian husband.
Part 1 – How We Met
Prior to my first visit to Italy in 2008, I was in Spain. I spent the summer as an au pair with a wonderful family in Andalucia, where I stuffed my face with tapas, browned my skin on the beach and drank unhealthy amounts of sangria.
Before returning home to the States, I left myself a few weeks to travel around Europe. I figured that I’d just wing it and see what struck my fancy once I was ready to go.
Then a last minute idea came to mind.
Why don’t I see if I can visit Letizia in Italy?
I met Letizia in 2005 during a study abroad program in Spain. We remained in touch here and there, so in October 2008 when I asked if I could visit her in Italy, she was thrilled. The timing was perfect since she had a few days off between contracts, so she generously invited me to stay with her.
I bought myself a ticket and hopped a plane for Italy.
For some reason I decided to book a ticket to Milan and then take the train over to Friuli.
Why didn’t I just fly directly to Venice or even the Treviso airport, which were much closer than Milan?
If I remember correctly, it had something to do with price and I figured I could see a little more of Italy if I sat on a train for half a day, so Milan it was.
I was really nervous about the fact that I didn’t speak Italian. I know that English is widely spoken and I could have gotten by just fine, but if I visit a foreign country, I like to blend in as much as possible and prefer to speak a little of the local language.
Before I left Spain, Letizia had written out a nice note in Italian for me to give the person at the train station, explaining where I needed to go.
Once I arrived, I took a bus from the airport to the train station and whipped out my little note when I got up to the ticket counter. I didn’t even attempt to use English, I just gave him the note.
The young man behind the counter took it and started reading, then a smile formed on his face as he handed it back to me.
The rest of the transation was done in English, since he spoke it perfectly.
Ha! Why didn’t I try using English in the first place?
I don’t know. I was shy and traveling alone. It worked out in the end and now I have a funny memory to share.
My First Train Ride
After I purchased my ticket, I had to find the train.
This was my first time in a train station and my first train ride, so I definitely felt like a duck out of water.
Um, how does this work?
Being the shy gal that I was, I didn’t ask anyone. I just stood and observed everyone else to see how this whole train thing worked.
I eventually found the train and got on. I found a seat that matched the number on my ticket and sat down.
The problem, however, was that it was first class and I was supposed to be in economy.
Whoops! I picked up everything and moved on down to the right car and the train started moving.
The whole point of taking the train was to see the Italian countryside, right? Too bad it was raining the whole train ride and the windows were dirty. Ufa, such a disappointment! At least I found where I was supposed to be.
Now, back when I purchased the ticket, the young man at the counter told me that I had to change trains in Venice, which didn’t sound like it would be a problem. However, Venice has two train stations: Venezia Santa Lucia and Venezia Mestre.
As we drew closer to Venice I really had to start paying attention to the announcements since I didn’t want to get off at the wrong stop. I was used to hearing Spanish every day and now I was trying to figure out the Italian annoucements and signs that flashed by as we chugged on down the line.
Thankfully, I got off at the right station (Venezia Mestre). Now it was time to catch the next train to Letizia’s town: Sacile.
I was a little panicked since I didn’t know how to read Italian and I wasn’t sure where to find out which platform I was supposed to be on.
Somehow, I found a sign and saw “Sacile” and happend to notice that everyone stamping their ticket in a little machine on the wall.
“This looks important!” I thought, so I ran over to the machine and stamped my ticket, too.
(Don’t judge. I told you this was my first train experience!)
I looked at my ticket and back at the sign. Ticket, sign. Ticket, sign. Ticket, sign.
Was this the right train!?
A man was stepping on to the train so I caught his attention and pointed at the train saying, “Sacile?” in a hopeful voice.
I hopped on the train and off we went.
The train ride from Venice to Sacile was supposed to last an hour, so after about 50 minutes I started paying close attention to all of the stops, still doubting that I had actually gotten on the right train.
Then, to my great relief, the conductor annouced that we were now arriving in…
I did it! I made it! I’m here!
I got off the train and looked around just in time to see Letizia walking up the stairs with her sister. I laughed as I told her my exciting train ride experience and we were both proud of me for having made all of the switches and stops without a hitch.
I still consider it a miracle that I didn’t make any mistakes on that train ride. My frist time in Italy and first train ride, alone, and I got exactly where I needed to be.
The moral of the story: always go with your gut feeling!
Cheese, A Magical Place, And A Friend
Letizia was the ultimate tour guide.
We went to Venice and Murano, she showed me her favorite local shops and took me to a birthday party where I had homemade tiramisu and spritz for the first time. Mmmmmm spritzzzzzz…
Before coming to Italy, I didn’t really know what to expect from the country since I had planned my trip last-minute. Some pizza, cypress trees, dark haired vuluptuous women and a lot of hand gestures, right?
Everything I saw left me speechless. The most magical place I saw was in the picture below:
This is an absolute paradise at the base of the Dolomite mountains where the Livenza river begins.
We also went to a festival in her town where locals were making fresh cheese.
That was the day when I met real, all-natural, fresh from the Italian cow cheese…and we’ve been in love ever since. (Speaking of, I should get some Asiago and Borgaiolo soon…)
That evening, we returned to the town festival to meet up with Letizia’s friends and eat at the little food stands set up throughout the center.
She had already told me about a particular good-looking guy that I needed to meet (wink wink, nudge nudge), so I went out with a bit of excitement and anticipation to meet this misterious man she had told me about.
I’m not even sure why she had thought to introduce us! I hadn’t seen her since 2005 and I had changed so much since then. We kept in touch here and there, but for some reason she thought that I should meet this fellow.
“You guys have the same birthday, too!” she told me.
We rounded a corner and entered into the piazza where a rather large group of Letizia’s friends had gathered.
Everyone introduced themselves in English, including this Francesco guy.
Hmmm. He’s cute, but he’s shorter than me and he smokes.
That was my first impression of the man….
(The story continues…part two here!)