Life is always a challenge for an expat living in Italy. There is a constant struggle with the language, continually being reminded you are an outsider by snide remarks and condescending quips about your accent. Yet expats keep up with everything so we can soak up the beauty, way of life, history, art, architecture, orgasmic cuisine, fashion and the flamboyant nature of Italians. As a writer, I am perpetually mesmerised by the stories around me, and the Italian language is always surprising me with its depth of expression and nuances.
Despite Italy’s corruption, crumbling infrastructure, high taxes, nepotism, cronyism, a convoluted legal system and positively archaic bureaucracy which has known to make grown men weep the country remains one of the most intoxicating places in the world. Italy is idealised, loved and made fun of in equal doses, often I have to pinch myself to remind myself that this place is real, there are so many contradictions and extremes that at times I feel as if I live on another planet.
Italians miraculously manage to make Italy one of the most ‘liveable’ countries in the world. Italians are the most resilient people, they are warm, generous, vibrant and despite any problems, they manage to live their lives with a passion, vibrancy, colour and panache’ which is commendable.
My son is growing up in Italy and knows very little about life in Australia apart from short visits to his grandparents. He’s growing up with soccer cards and players names swirling around in his head, he listens to Italian rappers and at the age of 8 already slicks his hair back with gel, he will grow up with the same friends from kindergarten to middle school and sometimes even through high school. He will think it is reasonable to see people of the same ethnicity, speak the same language (perhaps he will be teased for speaking English?)
Despite having an Australian mother, he is becoming typically Italian. It’s a beautiful thing to witness as at this point he is literally brimming with personality and being taken care of by an extended small-town community of teachers, students, bus drivers and locals who have seen him grow up before their eyes. He is still too young to understand the more severe problems or be disillusioned by them.
Ordinary Italians are beautiful people honest, down to earth, funny and flirtatious. Italy’s celebrities, on the other hand, are on another planet. They are like characters from a convoluted sitcom or Spanish telenovelas which have become adopted by the average population.
For example, in Italy, an electoral campaign is always more of a popularity contest, rather than a political debate on various points of views and opinions. As a trained journalist I am surprised at the lack of journalistic training and traditions, there are no schools or organised cadetships, most newspaper journalists are academics which makes the newspapers convoluted and complicated to read and the t.v news filled with amateurs.
The television news is presented as gossip, the press is regularly tricked by fake news, scandal and is dominated by public witch hunts. Often high profile crimes are trailed by the media and associated lobby groups. (These concerns could be a general world trend, but it has always been like this in Italy)
Italy’s flamboyance is all around me, and it is a genuinely fascinating circus to behold. I often have to pinch myself to make sure it’s all real. Italians are continually reinventing themselves shifting and changing according to the situation a characteristic which is reflected in the popular culture.
As someone who has been living in amongst and with Italians for nearly 20 years, I am persistently mesmerised by Italian celebrity culture.
Unfortunately, some famous Italians don’t easily translate outside of Italy, so I’d love to share some with you in a series of portraits dedicated to the many flamboyant Italians I’ve come across in my time living in Sicily.
I’d like to think a little of their energy has rubbed off on me too. As an Italian’s mad passion for life and living in the moment might be the secret to living a happy, long life.
(Be sure to check back here for my Flamboyant Italian profiles)