Periodically, a city will break my heart, like men do. It’s my fault. I tend to fall in love with places in the same passionate and physical way I would for a man, with abandon and with an all or nothing attitude that has characterized many a relationship. I can’t help succumb to the charms of an unexpected corner, a rainy day, a sliver of light that falls just right behind a bell tower, a pristine beach or just a personality that I know from the start is not suited to my needs, but will bring me to my knees anyway.
Each city I have loved has its peculiar smell, just like the pheromones we emit, otherwise known as “that smell at the nape of his neck”. I could be blindfolded and dropped at Heathrow and I would know right away, from the metallic and sooty smell, that I was on London’s doorstep. Exiting Los Angeles, it’s smog and salt that greet you while alighting from the train at Venice’s station it’s algae and mud.
London was my first love, the one I will always remember and the one I thought would last forever. So removed from the deep reds of my childhood, from the fat palazzos I grew up in, so absolutely un-Italian, it stole my heart and I ran away with it, in an exhilarating free fall that landed me in one of the most exciting adventures of my life. What are now the fashionable East End docks, were once derelict ports of entry in disuse, still reeking of wooden ships, sweaty sailors and cheap whisky. I used to love exploring what wasn’t there anymore if not in my imagination, centuries of docking and embarking, the water still crashing against the abandoned embankments, unperturbed.
Los Angeles is the friend who became a lover, a bit unsure at first if it would work out but willing to give it a go. And it has paid in kind my trust tenfold, slowly yielding to my advances and finally giving in. It’s the one I still live with, the one that has endured the longest against all odds, while Venice is the love that beckons, the one your mother has always warned you against, nothing good will come from it. But dreaming is cheap, if not easy, and fantasizing about “what if” leaves the door open to untold possibilities.
And then there is Cape Town, like the gorgeous hunk you are lying with and can’t quite believe has bestowed his favours on you. Aware it can’t last, you enjoy his charms for as long as the ride will let you.
As with most of my men, I betrayed them all. A next place, a next love, another broken heart and a few more suitcases each time. But, as with most of my men, I don’t regret a single one.