Once upon a time I came on holiday to Italy and fell, like you, madly in love with everything. I thought to myself, this is where I belong; this is where I’m at my best; this is where I don’t have to apologise for being theatrical or dreamy or wearing heels every day or spending everything I earn on D.O.C extra virgin olive oil, books by Calvino and Ferragamo, for craving drama and aesthetic beauty in all things. And I stood at the train station sobbing as I contemplated returning to my stimulating yet stressful role as magazine editor in Australia. I remember that afternoon my train was late, and so I had time to concoct a plan. I decided in that moment that I would leave my job, my boyfriend and my country and create a veritable ‘dolce vita’, no matter what it took.
The ‘dolce vita’ part I took very seriously. I didn’t just want to move to Italy, I wouldn’t be sated by merely a 12-month stint – I wanted a magnificent life that had me pinching myself so frequently my arms would be covered in welts; a way of living that didn’t necessitate money yet had pleasure as its core imperative.
It’s 1am as I write this. I now live in Italy, speak fluent Italian, and tonight I’m in a luxury villa built in the 1500s, having eating out under the stars in a designer evening gown surrounded by people I love. And today is the first day of filming my new TV program set in Italy, of which I’m the producer, writer and host. This was exactly the dream I envisioned the years ago. It didn’t all happen easily. I kept hearing that you can’t find work in Italy, that it’s impossible to ever conquer the Italian subjunctive, that Italian men are unfaithful, that having a dream in the industry of television is setting yourself up for disappointment, that finding an apartment cheap enough to live alone in the historic centre is impossible, and that attempting to integrate into the rigid social circles of local Italians in Rome can leave you with a ‘vita’ that is decidedly bitter. Indeed, they were right – I’ve shed countless tears via Skype to my family back home over every one of these expat dilemmas. But for some reason Italy perpetually nourishes my quixotic nature and makes me dream bigger and more vividly.
So this summer, whether you’re lying on a 10-euro lettino at the beach and daydreaming about meeting a stranger here and falling deeply in love, or sipping a Prosecco at the myriad aperitivi and chatting with friends about your dream job – don’t forget to dream grande, because if you were ever going to have ridiculous, stratospheric dreams come true, THIS is where it’s most likely to happen.