I'm a bit cynical about Valentine's Day and the way it is often used as a marketing tool. But I must admit that when I think about traveling to Italy, or what it might be like to have a home there, I do feel all soft and sentimental inside. I get a silly little smile on my face and dream about my next visit to my true love, bella Italia.
Like any shy lover, I feel a bit tongue-tied when people ask me why I love Italy so much; why I return time and again. And sometimes it's hard to articulate exactly what the attraction is! Certainly beauty is an important factor. That might sound a bit shallow and its certainly very subjective -- beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. Yet I would argue that the beauty of the art, the architecture, the fountains and churches is undeniable, even to the most cynical eye.
Shared values is perhaps another factor -- Italy and I seem to each put a very strong emphasis on great food, good wine, and leisure time. Oh, and we value the best coffee! Also important are lovely clothes and general presentation (especially rich leather handbags, gloves and soft, silky scarves) A love of music, especially opera, is also shared -- although I love Mozart more than any other composer; I'm not sure Italy would always agree with me on that.
Perhaps, as in any romance, what it all comes down to is how Italy makes me feel. Enraptured, infatuated, fascinated, ensnared. I feel as if I'm a better person for loving Italy, more well-rounded, more sensitive, more interesting. Time feels different when we're together; I feel very connected to the past in Italy, because the past is part of the present and the future all at once, as I see in towns and cities where store fronts and street corners, piazzas and fountains can be hundreds upon hundreds of years old yet are still a vibrant part of daily life.
I also feel a like a larger person, emotionally, and that I'm part of a more beautiful world, where great art matters and is protected and valued, and not treated simply as a ridiculous indulgence unworthy of any public or financial support by a soulless government that values nothing but slashing taxes to buy votes and to minimize the role of the collective in society.
Despite my headlong infatuation with Italy, I do realize it has many flaws and that daily life with my beloved would be quite different from the brief moments of joy snatched on all-too-short vacation visits. But this is a valentine, dammit, and so within the conventions of a valentine I believe it's okay for me to gush sans objectivity!