We love this nation, although of course like any place, Italy has its share of negatives and downfalls. But somehow, when we look back over the years, all we see are the people we’ve grown to love. The beauty of the land and culture. And the thread of God’s unwavering faithfulness woven through from beginning to end.
This is Italy, land of our hearts.
The memory of our first Italian train ride lingers with me to this day. We were on our way to Italy’s deep south! Today’s modern trains have dining cars, snack bars, and computer hookups.
But back in 1989, shouting Neapolitan men strode the aisles selling snacks out of dish pans! Just grab a dubious-looking paper cup jammed in among the bottles of water, soft drinks, and bags of chips, and enjoy!
Lunch? No problem! As lunchtime approached other vendors boarded, dish pans now filled with cellophane-wrapped sandwiches made fresh that day (?) or fresh coconut, cut and ready to eat.
Like an old Italian movie, rambunctious children jostled among the shouting vendors. Old women, as big around as they were tall. Screaming babies. And Italian mammas pulling endless quantities of food from immense shopping bags or baskets. Giant sandwiches, boiled eggs, cheese, bread, fruit, wine, and even pasta!
“So this is Italy” I thought. “This is really Italy!”
Yes, that was Italy, the Italy of yesteryear. Which to a large degree has disappeared, as the younger generations become more cosmopolitan. But what a delight it was! The food vendors, the shouted conversations, and gesticulating hands. The mammas stuffing food into chubby mouths, in between cuffs on the ear for poor behavior.
And all against the beauty of the marvelous scenery, rolling past the windows.
It was then that Italy became engraved on our hearts. A love that has never dimmed.
The Deep South.
“Ah, you’re going to Italy’s deep south!” a fellow passenger from a neighboring town informed us. And before day’s end, we learned what a long way down the boot it was!
Hubby’s birth area, il Cilento, was (and still is) like another world! And in shock, like Carlo Levi of the film Christ Stopped at Eboli, I wondered if we’d landed in some 3rd world nation instead of 20th century Europe!
The first time we watched the film Christ Stopped at Eboli, some years ago, it seemed we’d traveled back in time and place. Back to that first visit in my husband’s hometown which so gripped our hearts and minds. It’s a film worth finding and watching, because it illustrates that old world of the southern Italian mountain villages far better than I ever could. Check it out at IMDb.
But I fell in love with the rural mountain villages of Italy’s deep south that day.
And their unfathomable fascination continues to pull at my heart. An indescribable something in the culture and beautiful, simple people. Something far beyond the beauty of the landscape. Something intangible that tugs at the heart and soul.
Watch the film if you can find it. It’s worth it!