The bells of the nearby church ring at 7:30 am on the dot, every morning. No need to set the alarm clock. The blinds fly open and I am greeted by the same fog that graces my Californian home often, more like low clouds that will lift as the day wears on. It’s so thick that the island of Giudecca, usually just across the canal, a mere couple of minutes by boat, is completely hidden behind the veil, apparently inexistent.
Because I have serious o.c.d., I spend my last hour in my Venice apartment cleaning, even though the maid will be here today to get everything ready for the next set of guests. For the first time since I left, the gremlin of a thought about moving to Italy keeps coming back – after 20 years of absence I am seriously taken aback.
Maybe I have come full circle, maybe it’s true that Italians are more apt at living with the same madness that has enveloped the US in the last 8 years and they just ignore it and go about their merry business.
So much has changed in my absence and I feel a tourist in my home country. Yes, I speak the language, I pass for a native and I am quicker to understand how things work than your average American on his first visit, still I don’t belong. I am not conversant anymore in any of the political subjects du jour – if I look at a magazine I don’t recognize 90% of the people photographed, if one of my travelling companions questions on whether the train we are about to board is the right one, I double check the board instead of shrugging my shoulders and reminding them I have been travelling the boot by train for decades. And I don’t recognize any of the tv programmes, radio dj’s or even literary authors.
Of course everything would come rushing back if I moved here – it would only take a few months but I wonder if all the reasons why I left in the first place are still valid. How easy would it be to get a job without the necessary hook ups? Would I have to fit in in a particular set to have a decent social life? Would I find everything that never changes impossible to tolerate?
When I left Italy a whole world opened up. Not so much the travelling that I could have done from anywhere but the way I look at things, the mental opening that is one of the advantages of not fully belonging and that comes from the need to fit in, to try to understand, to not ever being in a position to judge.
It must middle age that makes me feel so unsettled. Maybe right now, in the middle of my vacation, the Scarlet O’Hara attitude is the only one to take.