Piazza Carlo Alberto, Turin

Arrivederci, Italia

There are several ways to say goodbye in Italian: “A presto,” see you soon; “Ciao,” bye (also hi!); “Addio,” a final farewell; and “Arrivederci,” see you again. I’m saying arrivederci to Italy, because this time next month, I’ll be on a plane back to America, but it doesn’t mean my story with Italy is over.

It’s funny, the reaction I get from people when I tell them I’m leaving Italy. “You’re leaving?” they ask, with the same incredulity as people who, not long ago (and often the same people), asked, “Are you going to stay in Italy forever?” One thing you learn growing up, I suppose, is to make your own decisions based on what you want and need, even when many others don’t understand. Because it’s unsettling, let me tell you, to get that incredulous response from people when such a momentous decision hangs in the air. Makes you doubt yourself.

Of course, most people have been completely supportive, and it’s good to know that I’ll be welcome back home as well as missed in Italy.

Piazza San Carlo in the evening, Turin

In the side bar on my blog, I wrote, “Once upon a time I traveled to Italy…and did everything I could to come back!” And sometimes, it felt like bending over backwards in aiming to stay here. It’s not easy or simple trying to live in Italy for lots of reasons, starting with the infamous permesso. Sometimes, when I wanted to stay in Italy so badly, I felt like I put on a hardhat and barreled ahead, determined to get that study permit transferred into a work one and renewed for two years at all costs (about €200, in that case). I did everything I could to stay here, and the number of impossibilities that I’ve accomplished makes me feel like now, I can do anything. Brava!

But there were also times when I got melancholy thinking about living in Italy forever. Not that Italy, in itself, made me melancholy. Italy makes you fall in love with it, hard, and by nature I look on the positive side. So, even when living abroad got tough—as it will, no matter where you choose to live abroad—I wasn’t ever discouraged, really, not for more than a moment. And yet, that melancholy came.

Melancholy for America? That was always confusing to me, because I’ve never been Miss Stars and Stripes, though several people I’ve met say I remind them of an “all-American girl.” Huh. Not sure how to take that; once, it would’ve bothered me, because I wanted to be worldly. I guess more than anything it makes me want to ask, “But what do you mean by all-American?” Because many more people have told me that I’m the least-American American they know, usually after I say I don’t like hot dogs, French fries, potato chips, or fried food and instead wax rhapsodic about a good spaghettata.

Tajarin, classic Piedmontese pasta - Umberto, CC
Who could possibly choose a hot dog over this? Tajarin, classic Piedmontese pasta – Umberto, CC

I didn’t want this post to be about my identity, but in some ways, it has to be. Why am I leaving Italy, after living here for six years, becoming fluent in Italian, forging a career against all economic odds, even getting a license? I love the people, the food, the language, the culture—insomma, the country. Why leave, and who will that make me when I return?

There comes a point in a person’s life to change. This point comes in cycles, I think, and mine has been almost exactly six years to the day. They are cycles of evolution and growth, and the next chapter of my life is in the USA.

I can’t wait. I am as excited to be back as I was excited to imagine Living In Italy, once upon a time! I’m also sad and not a little apprehensive about leaving a major piece of my identity behind, as I once felt about leaving America. It’s the same experience, held up to a mirror. Believe me, I deliberated a lot over this decision. It was made with my head, and lots of lists and long talks with friends and family, imagining the path I wanted my life and career to take. But it was also made with my gut and my heart. Once upon a time, I was so happy picturing myself living in Italy; and, faithful to that mirror, I am so happy anticipating my return. Sometimes, you feel what the right decision is, and you have to find the courage to take it no matter how incredulous people are.

I wouldn’t change a thing. I’d 100% encourage anyone looking to move abroad to do it. If I had never lived abroad, 20 to 30 years down the road I’d still be thinking, “But what if I’d moved to Italy?” Now, I can think, “I did move to Italy, and look how much I learned and lived and loved that I would’ve never experienced, otherwise. Now, what’s next?”

Walking down Via Pietro Micca, Turin

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18 thoughts on “Arrivederci, Italia

    1. Thank you. I do plan on keeping up my blog, but the overarching theme remains to be seen. I might still have tons to write about Italy, at least for a while; or I might be writing about my new adventures. Either way, I’ll have to change the name of my blog…but that’s a concern for further down the road!

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  1. Wow, you really captured the experience in this beautifully written post. Congratulations on all your accomplishments. When I was trying to figure out how to get that elusive permesso di lavoro, after a couple years of hitting my head against a wall, I realized the only 2 options were being a badante or going to school, as you did, which is impressive in itself. But I just felt as though I already had enough degrees and didn’t want to go that route, so I stayed 4 years and then returned to the US, but I return frequently as I’m sure you will. As a matter of fact, I’m writing this from Reggio Calabria! So, all the best on your next adventure!

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    1. Teaching English also seems to be a popular choice! But yes, people who have fallen for Italy cannot seem to stay away, so I imagine I’ll be returning often (hmm, should think about frequent flyer miles).
      And thanks!

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  2. Diana, as someone who also relocated (from Italy to Canada, in my case), I can relate to what you’re saying. I too had to face hard questions (from people and my own), like – “Are you going to stay there forever?”, “Do you miss your homeland?” And as you say the answer very much has to do with one’s identity. I don’t know if I will ever go back, or if I will relocate again somewhere else, but I know for sure that, like you, I wouldn’t change a thing because relocating played a big part in making me what I am. As we say in Italy: Buona fine e miglior principio!

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    1. Thank you!
      And at the risk of sounding dramatic, once you’re an expat you can never go back. It becomes such a big part of you that even if you physically move back, everything is different. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

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  3. I can totally relate to this post. When I first arrived in Italy 2 years ago, it was such a wonderful, yet frustrating experience since I had to understand how a whole other country works. Being away has made me so aware of the things that make me American. Sometimes I’d feel so homesick missing some of the American conveniences. But overall, being here in Italy beats it all. I’ll be returning back to Florida in December, and as much as I’m trying to focus on the adventures I have left to experience here in Italia, the idea of “going back to reality” in the states makes me so sad. In the meantime, I’ll be enjoying all the pasta, caffe’ and Italian beauty along the way.

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    1. Best of luck on your return! I know it can be very bittersweet, so enjoy all the gelato, pasta, caffè, pizza that you can. (and bring back a moka — I packed mine on my carry-on because I wanted to make sure I had it at all times :D)

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