Dolce Vita Bloggers: The Italian Connection

I’m so excited to be taking part in the Dolce Vita Bloggers Monthly Link Up hosted by Kelly of Italian At Heart, Jasmine of Questa Dolce Vita and Kristie of Mamma Prada.  This is a great opportunity for bloggers to share their thoughts on Italian culture and for readers (and bloggers) to meet other new and interesting people!

Dolce Vita Bloggers

This month, which happens to be the first, is about “Italian Connection”.  I look forward to doing many more and I suggest you check out the other writers who are also contributing to this great initiative! If you want to participate, click on the badge above!

Here we go….

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always had this pull to Italy that I could never quite put into words.

My father was born in a small town called Carpanzno in the province of Cosenza nestled 600 metres above the sea level in the Calabrian region of southern Italy.

carpanzano-village

Like many, he was in search of “the dream” and spent most of his teenage years dreaming of the day he would leave Carpanzano and move to a new life in Canada.  When he was 17, his dream became a reality.

But, even though he moved to the other side of the world, he always kept his traditions and pride for his birthplace close to him.

So, as you can see, my connection to Italy is, without a doubt, my dad’s origins. But, to me, a connection is so much more than just associating a person with a place. A connection is also a feeling, a pull, an inexplicable force that becomes a part of who you are.

When I was 18 months old, my parents and I went to Carpanzano. It was my first time in Italy and would be the first and only time I would meet my nonno.

Carpanzano, Italy – September 1980

He was very ill and he passed the following year. I don’t remember much from that trip but I remember the stories – stories about how I, the child who couldn’t be with anyone but my mom, was perfectly happy just sitting on my nonno’s lap.

Or how I would run down the steep street in front of my father’s childhood home, giving everyone a big scare, worried that I’d trip over my little legs and go rolling down the hill.

I truly believe that it was that trip that left its imprint on me. That moment in my life would have the biggest impact on my future – and I had no idea at the time just how important it would actually be.

As I grew up, my connection to my Italian heritage flourished through so many aspects of my life – from our family traditions to our home in a predominantly Italian neighbourhood.

In the early years of my life, I grew up hearing the dialect of my father’s town and although I didn’t understand it or speak it, it was normal to me, it was the sound of my home!

And I remember getting excited when my dad called our family in Italy. I would sit curled up next to him and hear the voices of the loved ones who were still in Carpanzano. I still didn’t know enough to understand my family, but my father would translate and help me communicate with them.

Then tragedy struck our family, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and just over a year later he passed away. I went to Italy with my aunt and uncle the following summer. It was strange being there without my father, but at the same time I felt a calm, a peace. I began seeing my dad everywhere and the stories that people shared helped me to cope with the loss.

When I returned from my trip, I began thinking about moving to Italy. I was at a point in my life where I could make a decision like moving abroad – I didn’t own property, I was self-employed, I wasn’t married or had kids. It was now or never.

So I began working on obtaining my Italian citizenship and about a year later I had my Italian passport in hand – I was finally a Italian citizen!

In June 2010, I got on a plane. And, the only thing I was sure about was its destination. I moved with no expectations. I had no job lined-up, my Italian was scarce but I was going to go with the flow – something that is very out of character for me.  As challenging as it was,  I still believe it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Living in Italy has done so much for me.  I was fortunate to find a job and settle in the city of Cosenza.  Over the past 7 years has truly become home to me. I’m near my father’s town and visit quite often which has allowed me to only strengthen the bond that I have with my family here.

Being able to have conversations with them and experience life’s good and bad together has been a blessing. I know my father would be proud of me and I can take pride in the fact that the connection that sparked a light in me many years ago, is still burning strong.

People ask me if I will ever move back to Canada. I honestly can’t answer that question. What I do know, in this moment, is that I am where I belong, and I feel that this is where I’m meant to be.

Do you have a connection to Italy? Are you Italian? Is your significant other Italian? Or do you just love the country? I’d love to hear your story, share it in the comments!

34 Comments

  1. Sartenada

    December 19, 2017 at 11:41 am

    I cannot speak Italian, but I have visited there few times, like in Rome. Sorrento, Milan, Vesuvius, Capri for example. Our favorite Christmas food is Zuppa Italiano. 🙂

  2. Britta

    December 15, 2017 at 8:53 pm

    You have a beautiful connection to Italy! It’s incredible that you made the leap to move back to your roots and are able to maintain a relationship with your Italian relatives, that’s something really special. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 11:01 am

      I agree! I’m really lucky that I was able to settle in a city close to my family here. I love Italy, but my heart is without a doubt in the south, in Calabria!

  3. Alison

    December 15, 2017 at 10:42 am

    What a beautiful story! It’s wonderful that you have a way to stay connected with your father like this.

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:55 am

      Thanks, I am blessed to have the opportunity to spend time with my family here and strengthen my relationship with them.

  4. Sarah

    December 14, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    This is such a beautiful story, I was trying not to cry! I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m glad you have finally found yourself and reconnected with family in Italy. You’re incredibly brave to have taken that journey alone, but it sounds like its paid off! Look forward to reading about your Italian adventures.

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:54 am

      Thank you so much for your sweet words! Many of our relatives, in my case my dad, did basically the same thing. It was definitely harder for them, leaving their homes in search of a better life. I’m so grateful that my dad moved to Toronto. It allowed me to be raised in an amazing country while at the same time embracing my heritage. My Zia always says, it was meant for me to be in Italy – Calabria runs deep in my blood and it wanted to come home! 🙂

  5. sivylla

    December 11, 2017 at 11:16 am

    I am sooo jealous of you! I wish i could be leaving in Italy as well! I love Italy and visit twice every year!
    Would love reading your thoughts on my latest blog post here: http://thisissivylla.com/2017/12/christmas-hair-make-guide/

    Love,
    Sivylla

  6. Elena

    December 11, 2017 at 9:37 am

    Your story is so touching and inspiring. It’s amazing to read how you took such a big decision and moved to the other side of the world to settle in your dad’s hometown. I’m sure it took some courage, and I’m glad to read it was worth it and you have a happy life there. Thank you for sharing such a personal story of your connection to Italy with us!

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:44 am

      Grazie mille! I was out of my mind scared and nervous. I’ve always been the type that likes things planned out and usually contemplates every single possible outcome. Italy was a huge question mark and I struggled with it a lot. I came to Italy in June and then my mom came in August to help me settle and bring over some winter clothes and she saw how stressed I was. She told me not to worry and that if things didn’t work out, I could always go home! Leave it to my mom to say the right thing – it really changed my outlook and made me realize that I need to enjoy the experience instead of stress about it.

  7. Rebecca

    December 11, 2017 at 8:12 am

    What a beautiful article, I’m so sorry to hear about your Dad, but I’m glad that you’ve moved to Italy and feel like you still have him around you. I like the bit about the dialect, how are you with it now?! I really REALLY want to visit Calabria so I’m so happy I’ve found your blog and can read much more about it 🙂

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:38 am

      Thank you! It’s incredible how much I’ve changed and grown here. As for the dialect, it’s still a work in progress! I do understand a lot of it and sometimes I will throw in a dialect word into my Italian. There are also times I’m not sure if a word is Italian or dialect! The hardest thing with dialect is the town my dad is from and the town that I live and work in full-time have different dialects, even though they are only a half hour from each other. My brain works overtime juggling English, Italian, Cosentino and Carpanzanese! No wonder I’m a little nuts! HaHa

  8. Angela

    December 11, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Soooo I’m fighting back tears after reading this… “I began seeing my dad everywhere and the stories that people shared helped me to cope with the loss.”

    I love that you went back and are happy in such a beautiful country! 🖤

    Angela

    http://www.angela-williams.org

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Awww, that’s so sweet! It’s so difficult to be able to put into words everything I felt when I visited Italy after my dad passed. It was a calm and a comfort that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I really do feel like my dad guided me here!

  9. Jasmine Crystal Mah

    December 9, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    A lovely heartfelt post about your Italy connection. I have to ask you whereabouts your family lived in Canada as we’ve just come back from visiting my husband’s family in Ontario and they also live in a very Italian neighborhood, maybe you’ve heard of “Tony Creek”? And there were tons of first and second gen kids with relatives from your nonno’s town. I’m happy this initiative has brought us together and excited to get to know you more what with our Canadian bond and unfortunately my father also passed away of cancer this year. Sending you a big hug from all the way up in Bergamo!!

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:23 am

      I’m so happy to have connected with you through this link up! My family is in Woodbridge, which is a predominantly Italian neighbourhood just north of Toronto. I’ve never heard of Tony Creek but there is a Stoney Creek, but I’m not sure if it’s an Italian area or not. Sending love from all the way down in Calabria! 🙂

  10. Fkasara

    December 8, 2017 at 10:05 pm

    I cannot put into words how much this entry moved me. I’m very sorry for your loss and I’m glad if in some way Italy helped you to cope with your father’s passing. It’s incredible how reconnecting with one’s roots helps in these instances.

    Is the picture of your father that your nonno kept on the cupboard? Your family pictures are amazing <3

    1. LuLu

      December 16, 2017 at 10:18 am

      Thank you so much! I was doubtful when I moved to Italy that I would be able to settle near my dad’s hometown but I guess destiny had other plans for me. It still amazes me and my family here how smoothly I was able to find work and get settled. I definitely had some moments where I was ready to give up but I pushed through and I’m really happy here!

      And yes, that is a picture of my dad on the cupboard. That cupboard and the picture are still in my father’s family home!

  11. Lucy and Kelly

    December 8, 2017 at 7:50 pm

    Wow. You are amazing and we are so happy that you are near where your Dad was born. We’re very sorry to hear about his passing and your Nonno’s. Those pictures of you as a little girl with him are priceless. ❤ You have a beautiful story and a very special connection to Italy! Thank you for sharing! ❤
    Lucy and Kelly
    http://www.theblossomtwins.com

    1. LuLu

      December 9, 2017 at 9:54 am

      Thank you so much Lucy and Kelly. The pictures I have of my time in Italy are so precious to me. I’m so thankful to connect with you and I look forward to getting to know you all better! 😍

  12. Image Earth Travel

    December 8, 2017 at 11:37 am

    Beautiful post of your life on how you came to live in Italy.
    I’m so glad you’re thinking of staying in Cosenza for a while so we can explore this cool city together – I do love living here. And besides, I have to keep you entertained with my next Citizenship saga! 🙂

    1. LuLu

      December 9, 2017 at 9:50 am

      It’s a pleasure getting to experience this city with you. I look forward to many more adventures.

  13. Lorelle

    December 8, 2017 at 11:11 am

    This is such a beautiful story and connection to Italy. I loved this personal post Lulu, your Dad would be very proud of you. Great to connect with you and look forward to reading more of your posts, ciao, Lorelle 🙂

    1. LuLu

      December 9, 2017 at 9:49 am

      Thank you so much Lorelle! It was a pleasure thinking about my connection and putting it into words. I’m glad you liked it. This link up has opened up a whole new community which I look forward to getting to know better. 😄

  14. Kristie - Mammaprada

    December 8, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Oh Lulu thank you for sharing this! What a gorgeous story of how you’ve ended up where you’re meant to be. It’s funny how some places just call to you more than others. I love the picture of you and your Nonno! So great to have that picture. Thank you for joining and can’t wait to read more of your posts in the future. Kristie xx #DolceVitaBloggers

    1. LuLu

      December 9, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Thank you so much and congrats on making this idea a reality. I’m enjoying reading all the posts and can’t wait for next month 😍

  15. Ishita

    December 8, 2017 at 6:59 am

    It is so lovely to know the stories of so many fellow Italophilies through DolceVitaBloggers! I am particularly amazed and found so many wonderful blogs to follow. Nice to know you are settled and a fully Italian citizen in Cosenza. It must have been so hard especially after your dad’s passing. baci da India!

    1. LuLu

      December 8, 2017 at 8:55 am

      Yes, it’s definitely a great idea. I wish it lots of success. Losing my dad was really hard, he was a big part of what I felt was my identity (being Italian). Getting my citizenship and moving here was an experience that literally changed my life. He has always been the guiding force in my connection to Italy.

  16. Kelly

    December 8, 2017 at 12:32 am

    Oh Lulu, this is just beautiful! Thank you for sharing your Italian story with us. I know exactly that “feeling” you describe. I have always been drawn to Italy even though I unfortunately didn’t get to meet any of my Italian relatives. Your father’s little village looks beautiful and I bet it is a comfort to have memories of him all around. And that photo of you and your nonno is so adorable!

    1. LuLu

      December 8, 2017 at 9:00 am

      Thank you for this great opportunity! It was great to really reflect on my connection. It made me rethink my journey that led me here and how grateful I am because of it. I wish more than anything my dad were here, but I know he would be so proud. I was the one who identified more with the Italian culture than my sister and brother, so I know he would be very happy to see me doing well here. Deep down, I know he’s helping me along!

  17. Sonia

    December 8, 2017 at 12:09 am

    What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. Looking forward to future posts!

    1. LuLu

      December 8, 2017 at 9:01 am

      Grazie, Sonia! I’m so excited to discover and read new blogs. This is a great way to unite the community!! A presto!

  18. KareninCalabria

    December 7, 2017 at 5:52 pm

    Sorry you lost your father so young. It would seem that the closer your connection with all things Italian, the closer you feel to him, which is wonderful. I love the pictures of you as a child.

    1. LuLu

      December 8, 2017 at 8:57 am

      Thank you Karen! You are so right, being here and exploring this side of who I am and where I come from has definitely allowed me to feel closer to him.

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