Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Longing for an Italian Renaissance

ren • ais • sance
a revival or renewed interest in something;
origin FR, meaning "rebirth"

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who love Italy and those who have never been there. If this sounds vaguely familiar, that's because it's a slightly revised version of the introduction I used for this post — a renaissance of the topic, if you will.

In case you haven't noticed, it's January and 23°F here in Chicago. January wouldn't be so bad if it didn't end in February. Everyone knows that God made February the shortest month of the year because we just couldn't take it for more than 28 days (29 tops).

At this time of year, I never feel warm. All I want to do is take a steaming hot bath and crawl under the covers to hibernate. But winter lasts forever in Chicago and then crashes directly into summer, so I've decided it would be far better to start my rebirth in Italy now, rather than wait for an unlikely spring awakening here at home.

Don't get me wrong — I don't want to become an expat. I love my country and my city, for at least half the year. If only I could live in Italy between, say, November 1 and June 1 — oh, wait, that means I only want to be here five months a year. Well, so be it.

Why Italy and not, for example, France? Well, I've never been to France. I'm sure it's very nice — lovely, in fact. But in Italy, blue is azure, lemons make limoncello, architecture is old, fashion is new, and life is dolce.

I don't want to do the whole Under the Tuscan Sun thing, where I dump all my (nonexistent) savings into a dilapidated villa. I have a hard enough time maintaining our 117-year-old Victorian.

No, I want a little pied terre (it's the same in Italian as in French, only without the hyphens; I looked it up), and I want it here, at the Hotel San Pietro in Positano. Today, it was 54°F in Positano, not exactly tropical, but way above freezing. Seriously, look at these pictures and tell me you couldn't be reborn in such a setting:

Think of the writing those views would inspire. One small problem. The current rate (and this is the "low" season) for a standard single/double room with a sea view (the "cheap" one) is Euro 420, or $591.57. Per night. I'm accepting donations. Look for a button to appear on my sidebar soon.

I had the pleasure of staying at Hotel Il San Pietro one night, 20 years ago. I don't remember the room number, but if you examine the door jambs carefully, you can tell which one it was by the deep fingernail marks I left behind as my new husband dragged me kicking and screaming back to reality.

The bathroom was generous, but not huge, and all marble. The tub, which could comfortably accommodate you and four or five of your closest friends, was a square affair that butted up against a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that gave you the illusion of bathing in the Mediterranean. The entire hotel was all clean and cool and tiled. Sitting in the lobby, I expected to see Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman step out from behind the palms at any moment. Or maybe Spencer and Kate. Sigh.

This is presenting such a dilemma. Do I stay here, in the frozen wasteland, performing my chosen role of mother/wife/wannebe writer? Or … do I run away from it all and devote myself to a life of creativity and hedonism? To help me make my decision, I've created a classic pro/con list. Wikipedia, that fount of all knowledge, claims that pro/con lists oversimplify and are never complete, "thus inviting biased contributions." Look over my list, and leave your votes, contributions (biased or otherwise) and comments here:

  • It's Italy.
  • Great food.
  • Better weather.
  • Compari and orange juice.
  • Inspiration.
  • Rebirth.
  • Could maybe hang with George Clooney.
  • Room too small for a family of six, so I would have to leave five of them at home (wait, this may belong on the "pro" side).
  • I don't actually speak Italian.
  • Distressing reports of rising racism and anti-semitism in Italy.
  • Lack of funds.
  • No money.
  • Senza soldi.
Before you go, I wanted to offer a final bit of encouragement for you to enter my Guest Blogger Writing Contest. It's easy. It's fun. You have until February 1st to write up a post about your idea of Two Kinds of People. Then simply email it to me. What can I win, you ask? Oh, baby. The first place winner will earn a guest post right here on Two Kinds of People (and now I know how to Twitter, so I can tell lots of people to read it). Wait, there's more. Don't forget about the exclusive 2KoP logo baseball/golf cap, pictured below. With prizes like these, you can't afford not to enter.

"In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Reanaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."


Shari A. Brady said...

I'm laughing out loud at the Orson Welles quote...Thanks for my early morning entertainment!

Michelle Kretchmer said...

You forgot the real #1 reason to visit Italy -- the WINE!!!

Susan Bearman said...

Michelle, so true. I don't know what I was thinking. And gelato! How could I forget gelato? Although maybe that is included in food. Nah, it should have its own separate bullet point.

Unknown said...

I agree with Shari, the Orson Welles quote got me laughing out loud! I also have a love of so much that is Italian. My husband who traveled in the Navy to the "belly," of the country said I wouldn't like it but I so want to go. Guess it's a result of dealing with those anal Northern European attitudes here in West Michigan and want a more laid back and less on the over perfection that is expected of everyone and everything!

Ellen Seidman said...

Oh, man, this post gave me serious wanderlust. I studied in Florence in college, never quite recovered. Italy is my all-time favorite country. Everything is outstanding—the food, the art, the architecture, and the scenery (and by that I mean beautiful countrysides as well as the MEN)! Oh, and yes, the gelato, which is its own food group.

Anonymous said...

Sounds wonderful to me. You know, you could always write a lovely novel set in Italy. That way, non of your "cons" apply.

Susan Bearman said...

Linda, that's just a brilliant plan. Of course, I would have to make a trip there, purely for research purposes, of course.

Cynthia said...

I certainly sympathize. These Chicago winters can wear one down. On the positive side, however, it's good to remember that cold weather slows the aging process, so we'll look good longer than if we lived in the tropics. Also, winter is why we don't have four-inch cockroaches, as they do in Florida.

That said, Italy would be a lovely alternative to the bleakness of winter. In fact, of my four trips to Italy, three have been in December, and it's a great time to visit as there are so few tourists -- and while one still needs a coat, it is warmer than Chicago. I wouldn't half mind missing January in the snow -- and maybe February.

Ciao, bambina.