I am pleased to feature Marilyn Ricci of “Take Me Home Italy” on the Dreaming Sophia Blog site! Marilyn is the first to share a dream she is turning into reality! If you would like to share your dream to write Melissa at: Melissa@DreamingSophiaBook.com
Here is Marilyn’s story:
Tanti anni fa, many years ago, in 1971, my life changed forever. And dreaming of Italy became a force in my very existence.
My name is Marilyn Ricci, and, you guessed it, I am Italian, Italian-American. I was born in the early 1950s into a 100% Italian-American family. My mother’s side is from the border of Lazio and Abruzzo and my father’s side is from Campania, near Benevento.
I always knew I was Italian. I heard the musical language when my Nonna e Bisnonna, my grandmother and great-grandmother, would argue in front of us. I loved the words I heard and tried to understand them. And I loved when Ofilia, my great-grandmother, spoke with her Italian accent. These two women were so deeply embedded into my psyche that, even today, I can hear their voices talking to me. I miss them and cherish the opportunity I had to know these true Italians as well as those on my father’s side, Nonna and Grandpa Ricci.
As I attended school, I strove to learn more about where these people, my people, came from. I read all about the Romans, their gods and goddesses, their music, their science, and their art. It was the beginning of my love affair with Italy. I did two extensive reports in secondary school, one on Michelangelo and one on DaVinci. I fantasized about meeting them, learning from them, thinking like them. DaVinci became my life hero and I wanted to know more.
My generation grew up in the protesting, Free Love, changing times of the ’60s and early ’70s. Many of us took off for an exploration of Europe. In 1971, I had a round trip ticket to Luxembourg on Hippie Airlines (Icelandic Air) and $200 in my purse and I stayed in Europe for nearly a Year. When my cousin Maureen and her husband asked me to meet them in Rome and meet the family (Mom’s side), I was elated. I had been working in West Berlin. I left the job and the city and began the train trek to Rome.
First, we explored the city. Next, I met the first of many cousins in Rome, Rosa Pinna and her son, Gianni. Their home was near the Colosseum and all the food she prepared reminded me of my great-grandmother’s cooking. Also, we met the family of Vincenzo and Celeste Buzzelli and it went on from there.
Everywhere we went in Rome, then Naples and Pompeii, a piece of my heart remained behind. Italy was stealing it. My family was stealing it. When we arrived in Paterno di Avezzano, our town of origin, I left nearly my entire heart in that basin surrounded by the mountains.
Maureen had visited Paterno before. Everyone was excited to see her. But this was my first experience in Paterno. And, lo and behold, through my Ruscitti grandfather that I never knew, I was related to nearly every single person in Paterno. I was treated like the Prodigal Son in the Bible. They slaughtered an ox and had a town-sized barbeque. I met everyone.
Over and over in my mind, I asked myself, why would my family have ever left this paradise? I had no deep understanding of the early 1900s in Italy and the desperate poverty that the south experienced. All I could see was what they had left behind. And I never wanted to leave.
But I did leave, carrying pieces of their hearts with me, stories of my great-grandmother and the grandparents and their families. The children remained deep in my soul. I wanted to see them again.
When I returned to my so-called normal life, I felt the loss of the European life, especially the Italian Life. And I began to have a particular dream. I saw myself living in Italy in a coastal town, walking along the beach and the water often lapped over my bare feet. All my senses were involved. I caught the scent of the salt in the air, the wind tossing my hair and attire, the warmth of the sun on my skin, and the colors of a sunset on the water. It was so real. And, funny, I had never even been to the sea in Italy.
The dream became a part of my daydreams too. It was always there, with me. Life in the USA changed things. I got married, had a child, moved, and divorced. I had two very demanding careers and a beautiful daughter to raise. My dream collected dust and sat on a shelf in the back of my mind. But, occasionally, it would pop into my consciousness and I would feel the pull.
Finally, after my daughter had her own life, and her own child, things began to change. Italy became more intoxicating to me, and not just for a visit but for a home. To have a dream come true, usually there is some work and planning involved. That was my next move.
As I dusted off the dream and kept it fresh in my mind I began the process of becoming a doppia cittadinanza, a dual citizen of the US and Italy. It took work, and 2 years of patience, a thing I have in short supply. Finally, in January of 2014, my daughter, granddaughter, and I became citizens of both countries. Now we can choose to live and work in Italy.
But where would I live and work? I thought of all the places I had been and I knew I needed to look further. I loved Florence above all places. But in the summer the tourists overrun the place and it gets very HOT. And where is the sea of my dreams? I needed to go on a hunt for my home.
I visited 3 times more, searching. I spent time with my dad’s family and I adore them. But they are also in the mountains. I love the Amalfi Coast but it is difficult to travel to and from there without a car—I don’t want a car. And it is expensive. I checked out the east coast of Abruzzo and northern Puglia. It had the sea but it did not really work for me.
Finally, I had a writing assignment in Sestri Levante last June 2016. Frankly, I had never heard of it. But when I saw its location along the Mediterranean Sea, I was intrigued. I planned a sea hunt trip.
- It began in Santa Marinella, near Rome. It was my second visit and, logically, I thought it would work well. But my heart did not buy it.
- Next I traveled by train along the west coast of Italy. Orbetello had train service but not my place, La Spezia, no.
- But from La Spezia I traveled to Tellaro and fell in love with this little town. Unfortunately, it is too small, has no train service and almost no one lives there in the winter.
- Next I visited Portovenere and never wanted to leave. Again, it is difficult to travel there by train and few people live there year-round.
- Finally, I went to Sestri Levante via Cinque Terre. Wow, what a coastline! The sea and the towns of Cinque Terre are incredible. There is train service but nowhere to live for me. And the tourists overwhelm these Five lLands from Spring until the end of Fall. That won’t work.
- Sestri Levante is a lovely coastal town. I could live there, I thought. And at least half the people are there year-round. It has all the things one needs to live in a town, shopping, hospital, movie theatre, arts, music. It was there. In the summer, you can take ferries to Portovenere, Cinque Terre, and Portofino, another gorgeous town but one I could not afford. Maybe this was the place for me.
- My host suggested Chiavari, the next town on the train and a quieter place with less tourists than Sestri Levante. I decided to have a look. I only spent an hour or so there and yet, my gut feelings told me “This is IT!”
After going home, I did more research into the costs of living in Chiavari, who lives there, what is there, and why it would be a good place. And I made my plan.
I needed to divest myself of most of my earthly goods, including my car and furniture. I needed to try to save a little cash to feel comfortable and I needed to find a 1 year rental near the sea in Chiavari.
Today, 22 March 2017, I have lived in Chiavari 18 days so far and I am in love. My one bedroom furnished apartment is a 2-minute walk to la passagiata, the promenade, along the beach and I go there every day. Centro storico, the center, is less than one kilometer’s walk and I do that several times per week. On market days, I have gotten fresh veggies, fruit and purchased my sheets and towels.
Nearly every single day, I visit the bar/restaurants on the promenade. The natives are getting used to me and the owners of the Gelateria, Renato, and Mario, have become my goodwill ambassadors to the area.
I am beginning to make friends and people recognize me when I return. Tiziano, the owner of the local market, tells everyone my story when I arrive. And he even started carrying Gluten-Free Cookies for me. I was so surprised.
I have realized my dream. It was not easy. I had to do my work and I had to leave the people behind in Seattle and Minnesota who mean the most to me. I paid my dues to get here. It was worth every cent and drop of perspiration.
You can accomplish your dreams too. Hold it in your soul always. Make a plan. Do research. Give yourself permission to do it and then JUMP!
Buona fortuna! Good luck!
Grazie Marilyn. You are an inspiration. What a fantastic adventure you are on! Follow Marilyn as she makes a new life for herself in Italy. You can find Marilyn on her website: Take Me Home Italy.