Do you ever get that feeling that something special is going to happen? You’re going somewhere new or different and you just know that someone or something is out there waiting for you. There’s a pervasive feeling of anticipation. It inhabits your pores. Your nerve endings are on high alert and you’re paying close attention so as not to miss it. (Whatever it happens to be.)
That was exactly the feeling I had in Italy last year. Logically, I knew that I would experience lots of new things: Eating – that’s a given. Praying – well everyone knows God lives in Italy; just look at the real estate. Finally – love. It was the anticipation of falling in love – if only temporarily – that had me juiced from the get go.
Would it really happen? Who would it be with? Where would I meet him? What would we do? Where would we go?
Someone once told me that, in Italy, falling in love is a national pastime, much like soccer. And over the years I had discovered that to be true.
Italian men and women use terms of endearment with abandon. I’d experienced the same thing myself via harmless little social encounters that made me feel that much more desirable even when I was in a relationship.
Ciao Caro! (Hello my dear)
Grazie Tesora (Thank you treasure)
Salve Bellezza (Hello Beauty)
These expressions and many others just like them awaited me on daily basis at the butcher’s, the newsstand, and the local coffee bar. When I’d drop by for a cappu in b, which is short for cappuccino in bicchiere, or cappuccino in a glass, the owner would greet me with his customary, “Ciò che un bel fiore.” (What a beautiful flower!) Like many Italian men, he was so hot you could use him to boil water. I ask you, how could you not fall in love?
And then there are those other times when I came across someone so totally unexpected I would wonder if my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me.
That was the case one evening after taking a dance class a local studio. I had just spent an hour and half learning how to do the Mambo Triestino – a sort of local version of salsa – when students in the class invited me out to dinner at the local pizzeria.
Fearless as ever, I went along and ended up making conversation in a mixture of English, Italian, French and a bunch of words I must have just made up for the occasion because I had my little party in stitches. By eleven o’clock, I was done and started my walk back to the hotel. To do so, I had to cross one of the most beautiful squares in Italy: the Piazza dell’Unita d’Italia, or the Piazza Unita for short.
The bars along the square were crowded with locals talking and socializing. Partygoers spilled out from the bars and onto the street. They milled about small cocktail tables enjoying their smokes in the crisp night air. The energy of the place made me smile to myself. And that smile didn’t go unnoticed.
I looked up in time to see a young man in his 20s dressed as a Franciscan monk approaching me. A brown robe hung on his thin frame; the white, knotted belt was there merely for decoration. He had a mass of brown curls that framed his face like a halo, and he was swaying slightly. Too much altar wine?
He reminded me of a slightly drunken cherub, who, after celebrating too much, had fallen off of a cloud and landed right in the center of the square. But my cherub was no angel. He had one of those drinking mechanisms that you see at major sporting events strapped to his back with a long tube like straw tucked neatly under his belt. Ah, so the belt did serve a purpose.
Behind him I saw a group of his friends encouraging him. “Vai, Vai!” they said. And so he approached me with a beatific smile. I thought it was all some Italian version of a bachelor party, so I waited to see what he wanted. He started to explain something very sweetly, in Italian, and I didn’t understand what he was saying.
“Ah darlin’,” I said, “I’m afraid you got the wrong girl tonight. “Parlo un po d’Italiano ma non molto bene.” (I had run out of words – well at least the Italian ones – at the restaurant.) He quickly switched to English and began his speech again.
His name was Angelo (appropriate), and he was in the Piazza that night collecting kisses from beautiful women because he just passed his bar exam. He was studying law at the University of Trieste. And he wanted to know was if I would kiss him.
Kiss him? Kiss him?
“Certo caro,” I said. “How could I not kiss an angel?”
Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Fabian19