Friday, September 4, 2009

Tuscan Holiday

Published in Vogue, February 2008

We met on the wide sidewalk of the Via Cavour where it intersects the Piazza del Duomo. Marco was a friend of a friend. I’d just arrived in Florence. As I reached out to shake his hand, a voice in my head, low and calm, said, You’re going to date him, but you’re not going to marry him. I’d never heard voices before, and I couldn’t imagine a reason for such an admonition on a weightless Italian afternoon. I was 24. He was good-looking in jeans and a blue collared shirt with a button undone, tan and a little gray at the temples. He was slim, and he spoke clear English warmed by an Italian lilt—perhaps I would date him, I thought—and he smiled, and his warm brown eyes sparkled, and we shook.
I had arrived on a one-way ticket with savings from the banking job I’d quit a month before. A man I knew, a jet-setter, had introduced me to two kind and well-connected Italian women before I arrived. I planned to stay and learn the language. I’d dreamed of going to Italy and living there and most of all of belonging. When I was in elementary school, I watched Cinema Paradiso 22 times and memorized the dialogue. In the movie, everyone had a place, even the bum who thought he owned the piazza. Eccentricities were celebrated, and no one was isolated. There was tradition and camaraderie, and all of it seemed more fulfilling than what I’d had growing up in Palo Alto, California. Italy was where the soul went to find calm and love, and I wanted to hold the best of it in the palm of my hand.

Soon after we met, Marco took me to summer dances in crumbling candlelit villas, and to a lopsided castle built on the cliffs over the Tyrrhenian Sea. He introduced me to his friends, many of whom belonged to families of old Florentine society whose children had been friends for centuries. They all ran family companies, were kind and chivalrous, knew how to sail, ski, and speak English and French, kissed the hands of married women, and had their initials embroidered on the lower right side of their collared shirts. I had never seen such abundance and luck all gathered together. Their lives seemed to follow a pattern, like rooms in old villas with wallpaper that matches the curtains that match the bedspreads.
We went to baptisms and art openings, to a Mozart concert in a small, candlelit church in Gstaad. We skied on the slopes of Cortina, where the rose-quartz mountains glow pink. We sat in the front row at a turn in the track at the Palio di Siena, where the spindle-legged horses passed full tilt in a furious, muddy cloud and I lost my breath. We went to parties. Men wore tailored suits, tight and loose in the right places, and flocks of women in gowns reflecting the warm light wore diamonds handed down from their mothers or grandmothers, old stones against new skin. The talk—varied, buoyant—flitted to the next subject just when it touched ground, like a half-filled helium balloon. In summer, lucciole sparked in olive groves. We ate with silver. Everyone did. What was the point of saving it? For what? If at first I worried that each party would be the last, the most exquisite, I soon understood that there was no scarcity of beauty; this was Marco’s life. I had landed inside Cinema Paradiso, but it was better, and it was real.
In California, my mother had raised me mostly alone. We didn’t have many things, but she is warm and we were happy. We moved a lot. We rented. My father was rich and renowned and later, as I got to know him, went on vacations with him, and then lived with him for a few years, I saw another, more glamorous world. The two sides didn’t mix, and I missed one when I had the other.
Marco was twelve years older than I was, charming and sincere. The boy was still inside the man, joyful and mischievous. His laugh filled up the room. His hands looked good on the steering wheel. I was petite, irreverent, and eager to please. We brainstormed about how to salvage his ailing family company, and I helped him try to mend his rocky relationship with his father. A few weeks after we met, we drove through Fiesole at dusk, and he parked off the road near a grassy hill and a few villas in the distance with lit windows. He said later that he had meant to park at a vista where the hillside fell away and Florence was spread out below, golden in a bowl of purple hills, but he had been too impatient to find the right spot. He dove across the seat to kiss me. I remember feeling as if he needed me, as if I were a kind of salvation, and I was confused. Wasn’t I the one being rescued?
In one scene in Cinema Paradiso, the main character, Toto, wishes he could skip ahead in time to a different season, as if his life were made of film: Fade out boring, lonely summer, cut to winter. I’d felt the same way: fade out California, cut to Italy. Toto had wished for it, but I’d done it. I was willing to stay forever, to cut my life above the root.
I found a job working for a small American company, writing research reports. It paid the bills and allowed me to stay. I took Italian lessons at a language school in the center of Florence named after Dante Alighieri.
One day I walked to the architect Brunelleschi’s Cappella dei Pazzi near Santa Croce. There was no one else in the vast, domed room. I sang a note. The inside of the dome was constructed to hold notes for a long time—as if by providence, not physics—and soon after the first note I sang another one, a third above the last, and the two notes joined above me and were sustained, locked together in a buzzing consonance. It was a metaphor, I thought: Here in Italy I was in harmony with myself.
I had always wanted a large, close-knit family, and the Italian families I met stuck together. Marco lived with his mother, Lucrezia (a tall princess of a respected line from Naples with thin, aristocratic ankles), his father, and two sisters, in his own part of a Medici hunting villa on a cypress-lined Tuscan hill. During my first dinner at the family villa, Marco’s father pointed to an old black-and-white print of a property he’d bought in the Veneto a few years earlier. The villa had been in Marco’s mother’s family since the Dark Ages, and then, 30 years ago, it was sold. Now, thanks to the father’s purchase, it was back. This was a family that recovered its possessions.
Lucrezia told me her childhood was like Luchino Visconti’s film Il Gattopardo. Before each trip to a magnificent weekend of festivities in Vienna or Brussels or Paris crowned by a white-tie ball, the maid would pack her bags by counting engagements and selecting outfits for each. Lucrezia had never met the cook or even seen the kitchen—the food just arrived.
When she fell in love with Marco’s father, a Florentine entrepreneur, her father didn’t speak to her for the rest of his life. She wasn’t supposed to marry a commoner. “For the rest of his life?” I asked. “Didn’t you feel sad and try to reconcile with him?” “No,” she said. “That was just the way things were. We respected each other’s choices.”
In the kitchen before dinner the cooks talked to one another in the soured whoosh of a Sicilian dialect. I’d heard about people who had cooks and servants, but I’d never seen them before, except in movies. Americans were known for effervescent, childish curiosity, but in this society naïveté had limited allure. In order to belong, I accepted the servants as if they were commonplace.
During that first dinner Lucrezia asked me when my parents had been divorced; my parents had never married, I corrected her. And then, in the salotto after dinner, when it had come out that I was a vegetarian and also not a Catholic—not even baptized?—and perhaps thinking she’d misheard the first time, or else forgetting, she asked me once more. I forged the date of a divorce; I could not bring myself to announce it again.
That was the catch: I could have my Italy, but only if I wasn’t quite myself. I wanted Italy so much, though, that I didn’t care what I’d have to trade. In fact, I wanted to trade. I wanted Italy to civilize me, to cover over the parts of me I didn’t like.
“They like you because you’re malleable,” my mother said on the phone. Learning manners and customs was the best way for an illegitimate American vegetarian to blend in, and so I embraced them. I lusted for the exact right way, the ballast of perfect etiquette. Such rules look easy because they are absorbed over many years. Though superficial, they flow from a deep pool of culture and belonging. That’s the reason they exist: to keep the classes fixed.
Before sitting down at a dinner table, I would hesitate, my fingertips on the back of the chair, watching the hostess out of the corner of my eye, waiting for her to sit. I was almost always the youngest woman; did that mean I should sit last? I asked Marco. I was not required to wait, he said, not even for the hostess: I could sit down just as soon as I knew my seat. The men waited for the women, and then they sat down, too. From then on I relaxed: I sat when I wanted to. But one evening the local priest made an unexpected visit for dinner, and when I sat down, Marco pulled me up again. He had neglected to explain this one exception. I should not have been seated before a man of God. I was mortified.
I learned to begin eating when served, not to stand when someone entered the room (unless they were very old), not to say piacere (“nice to meet you”), because it was vulgar. I learned to write the address below the midline of an envelope, and not to wear shoes that clacked at the heel, or shiny, sparkly things—anything that tried too hard, or too obviously, to please. I learned how guests were seated at a table, by complicated rules that involved status and rank. I learned that there was status and rank, and that people took these very seriously. I began to take them seriously, too. I never wore wrinkled linen. I filed my nails. For a wedding, I ordered a suit made in pewter silk, and a hat to match.
On the bus on the way to pick up the suit from the tailor, I was caught without a ticket. (I’d run for the bus; the ticket counter was closed.) I had to exit the bus to pay the fine, and when the officer noticed that the other side of the chilly street was bathed in sunshine, he suggested that we move and do the paperwork there. He had combined duty with pleasure, the way people did in Italy. I did the same, and my various obligations—the suit, the etiquette—were rimmed with joy.
I bought the pewter suit for the wedding of Marco’s sister Anna. The invitation meant our relationship was official. Marco seemed nervous. He wanted me to look right, almost as much as I did. My preparations were elaborate. It’s hard for me to understand the urgency behind such gestures now, as if I believed my world, a tight winter bud, would expand and blossom the moment I could get everything just right.
The felt hat was formed by two women who made it on half-oval wooden lasts in the back room of a shop. The rim was sewn around wire so it wouldn’t sag. Thick, noxious fumes filled the space—the very fumes that had driven the Mad Hatter mad, I thought. I worried about these women and their sanity. I don’t remember worrying about my own as I rushed from shop to shop.
The suit was made of a cangiante silk, the tailors said, which meant it fluctuated between light and dark shades, depending on the angle at which it was viewed. It wasn’t a common word, but it impressed people when I used it outside the atelier. My desire to impress was cangiante, too. It seemed innocent at first, but then it darkened to something needy, slavish. Why did I care so much what everyone thought of me? I brought the suit home wrapped in tissue in a brown paper bag. The jacket held its shape with a layer of organza between the silk and the lining. The wedding was a week away.
One day I stopped at a shop that Lucrezia had told me about, on the Via del Corso, where they made doughnuts she remembered from her youth. The doughnuts were fried upstairs, filled with fresh custard or chocolate, and then thrown with a holler down a metal slide to a fat man on the shop floor who caught them and handed them over, hot, inside a piece of white paper. The doughnuts were delicious, but how long would the fat man hold out? How long would the little shop be there, while tourists preferred the flashy and the new?
I became attached to the idea of a crumbling past that wasn’t mine. Florence was too beautiful to be torn apart and rebuilt, but in stasis it would surely die. Locals were moving out, tourists were moving in, and places like the doughnut shop didn’t stand a chance. Prato, a town outside Florence known for textiles, was beset with economic troubles since the manufacturing migration to Asia. China already had the weaves, and soon people said, when they got the hang of color, Prato would be over.
Marco took me to a stately crumbling villa on a hill outside Padua. The doorways were boarded up; the aviary birds had flown. Once it had belonged to a distant relative and bustled with butlers and champagne fountains. He had attended many parties there as a young man. He missed his childhood. And even though it wasn’t my family villa, and they weren’t my memories of dance parties and butlers and money that ran like water through the fingers of a great-aunt until it had all been flushed away, I felt the sadness, felt it age me, all that lovely decadence.
Years later I wondered why I had been welcomed into this society without the social pedigree that usually enables such border crossings. At the time I thought it was luck—but perhaps I was naive. Marco’s family knew that my father had money, and I wonder now if they assumed that I would one day inherit some of it from him, or if they were reassured by his cachet. Perhaps more than I understood at the time his name bought me admission to this Italy, as it would have in a story by Henry James. Their feelings for me were genuine, I knew, but maybe without this they would not have accepted me.
My mother came to Italy and met Marco’s family. She liked them, and they liked her. She liked the way Marco always guided the conversation up to joy and laughter. I had worried that next to them, my mother and I would seem flimsy, but we didn’t. She is a bright, sensitive, high-cheekboned artist, and she fit in. I was surprised, seeing us through their eyes: We were as much of a family as they were. She knew me, and near her I felt important, amplified. I was proud of my Italian life, and I thought that she would be, too—I’d found the beauty and ease we had dreamed of for so long. But she was not overwhelmed by the fairy tale. She thought I needed to find out who I was first, and that with Marco and his family I wouldn’t get the chance and it would be a huge loss.
An American friend who lived in the Tuscan hills told me about divorce in Italy one day as we walked together through the Piazza della Signoria. I had been thinking about marriage, even if I didn’t talk about it—marriage was one sure way not to lose Marco and Italy. “Divorce in Italy takes three years,” he said. “And with children, it’s worse, of course. They can’t leave the country unless both parents agree.” He had seen through me. “Lots of Americans come over here and marry,” he said. “They don’t know what they’re getting into. It’s perfect in the beginning.”
I met several American women who had married and stayed. Some seemed lost and displaced. In the initial flush of villas and balls and men who kissed hands and pulled out chairs, they must have felt that their old life was a good trade for this one. These women, like me, had never seen such grandeur in America. One of Marco’s distant cousins, an aristocratic architect, had married a woman from Orange County, California, and they had a son together. She wanted her husband to ask for a raise at the firm where he’d been designing buildings under someone else’s name for years on a pittance, but he wouldn’t, or couldn’t. It wasn’t in his blood to ask for such things, he said, even if he needed the money. It was hard for her, as an American, to understand how blood could have anything to do with a promotion. Blood had to do with other things, biological things, like children. The couple’s son couldn’t yet speak in sentences at three. At family gatherings, everyone wondered: Was the boy normal? He seemed slow, but maybe he was fine. An uncle, the father’s brother, rattled about in one of the family castles, sweet, but not entirely all there. Thin blood, they called it. They hoped her robust American blood had overcome any potential problems. Marco’s blood was fine (from a different branch of the family tree), but I was fascinated and haunted by the idea of a stream that coursed through generations and had to be protected and thickened.
Anna’s wedding took place on a sunny autumn morning in a medieval church full of Italians in colorful hats. The officiant was the same priest who had come to dinner the night I had sat down first. Marco was seated with his family in the front of the church; I sat toward the middle beside a couple I knew. Anna was radiant, slim and elegant in a long silk dress. Nothing about the ceremony was studied or stilted—it was as if these people had been born in these clothes for this day. Afterward the guests convened at the family villa for a meal in the golden afternoon light.
A few weeks later, Marco took me on a pheasant hunt in the Umbrian countryside. Dogs frightened birds out of dry bushes, and they clucked and pumped their wings through the crisp air until shots cracked and they fell cruciform. I was startled by the way life left the body in an instant and the birds fell like rag dolls. If it hadn’t been my first hunt, laced with novelty, I would have hated it. But for now the hate was poised and quiet beside delight and curiosity. When that faded, I understood, this sport, like so many activities, would lose its allure. Marco told me a story about a great-uncle who had loved animals and disliked hunting. The uncle drove one of the first cars in Italy, and one day he accidentally ran over a farmer’s sheep. Of course, the farmer was upset, and the uncle got out of his car and asked the price of the sheep, and when the farmer told him, he said he was sorry but—not to worry—he would pay four times the value. After that, all of the local farmers started to push their sheep into the road in front of his uncle’s car.
And so it was with me: The more I molded myself to the contours of my Italian life, the more I was rewarded with misaligned gifts—gifts disconnected from who I was, like the uncle’s roadkill and the hunt. For Christmas, Lucrezia gave me a large white plastic terrier that plugged in and lit up with a switch. Marco gave me a necklace of large freshwater pearls that would have looked right on an older, more conservative woman. I started to see Marco differently, too. In the beginning I thought of him as the epicenter of an ideal world, but now that I spoke his language and knew him, I saw that his family and tradition gave to him abundantly, but also stifled him. In college he could not choose his degree or, later, his job, and now he could not skip family weddings or baptisms. His charm seemed thinner than it had before. The compensations were hand-pressed shirts, houses, cooks, adoration, love, but he could never veer from the prescribed path; he had a life, ready-made, but he’d missed the chance to see what it might have been, if it had been up to him. 
Italian children are taught, “L’erba voglia non cresce nemmeno nel giardino del re,” which means, “The plant I want doesn’t even grow in the garden of the king.” It’s meant to teach children not to say, “I want this” or “I want that.” I think it’s also meant to encourage something beyond speech—a gracious acceptance of what is and what is not one’s own.
I thought that Marco loved me for whom I could become, how much I could assimilate. But he probably understood that I could never really fit, and that was part of what he’d loved about me. He couldn’t leave Italy—he was attached, inexorably, to this world—but being with me provided a small escape. He probably saw me all along just as I was.
Marco had not proposed marriage, but I had a sense that he would. He planned a trip for us to Portugal. Friends intimated. His father, suggesting that I might be pregnant someday with a grandchild, made a gesture with his hands, rounding an invisible bump over his abdomen and smiling. I felt uncomfortable, as if he’d implied that it would also be his child. I understood that if I were to carry on the line, I would have to carry on everything that attended it, even though it wasn’t really mine.
During the stagnant hot summer of 2003, I thought of how envious all of the white-shoed tourists would be if they knew that I’d turned their little holiday into a life. And I was confused, every time, when they went back to the places they had come from—even though they might have said yes if I’d asked, they didn’t want to stay. The voice had said: You’re going to date him, but you’re not going to marry him. I held on to the insight like a rope on a steep mountain path while I hoisted myself back to myself.
I moved to New York. I felt the way friends might have felt all along: It was my singular adventure, without precedent or rules; rough, maybe, and lonely, too—but mine. I missed Italy, but I wouldn’t have traded my new freedom for anything.
When I left Marco he gave me a gift: a small glass snail. He didn’t explain. He was choked up. I think it meant that regardless of how I’d longed to find shelter within their old stone houses, to be rooted, protected, roofed, I’d had my home all along: Snails carry their home with them wherever they go.
A few years later I visited Florence, and I saw Lucrezia at a wedding reception at the Palazzo Corsini overlooking the Arno. She sat smoking on a low chintz couch on the balcony, flanked by two petite friends. The night was hot, and inside the Baroque palace’s massive rooms hung huge, serious oil paintings. Most of the guests stood outside in groups, waiting for the dessert to arrive, talking. I walked over to her and said, “Buona sera, Lucrezia.” She took a long drag on her cigarette, glanced at me, and then turned to speak with the friend on the right. The friends didn’t look up. I stood there for a second before I understood, and then I walked back into a knot of people I knew, standing a few steps back.


  1. Dear Lisa,

    Remembering a strange connection once made between my Syrian friends the Jandalis and your own lineage, I searched for and found 'Driving Jane' on your blog. Reading through all your works was a pleasure in more ways than one. The Lisa I was acquainted with in high school is not quite present - for the years have cultured young talent into delicate elegance - but nostalgia manages yet to find its way through the lines. Wonderful and captivating experiences - I look forward to reading more, and after many a Middle Eastern stint, I entertain a curiosity over an LBJ voyage to Syria to taste lost history. (Fareeha Syed)

  2. Lisa,

    I was in Florence one month ago. I was visiting the shop of two young women who make wonderful creations. Pupazzi, bambole di stoffa e feltro. Impossible creatures. A smell of burnt felt pervades their minuscule space, I guess much like the one whiffing around the shop where your felt hat was made.

    Italy is a monolith subsisting on its own deference. A place where identity is a pre-informed notion, a surrendering act. It is the country, my country, I left for Canada some twelve years ago. Your account on its idiosyncrasies is argute, profound, graceful in some melancholic way. Like the country itself.

    Your writing was today's best encounter. Do it beautifully.

    Paolo Marcazzan

  3. Your article is very interesting & enlightening. I would NOT trade my experiences of international living for anything. Thanks to them I see the world through a different lens than my fellow Americans. Your relationship with this Italian gentleman clearly demonstrates 'Old World' vs. 'New World.' He probably thought you were refreshing with your unique adventures and easy going personality.

  4. Lisa,

    Proverb says love can happen with eyes, and I have seen people talking ‘bout their love tale will surely include eyes. However am yet to understand how to read ‘em. But I think u a master in dat science.

    Cyrus Caprio

  5. Dear Lisa,

    Hai scritto davvero un bell'articolo.
    Molto lungo ma piacevole da leggere.
    Spero che vorrai scriverne ancora, in futuro. Firenze è una città molto bella, ma è profondamente immersa nelle sue radici medievali, ma è proprio questo il suo fascino, che però non riesco ad apprezzare.
    Dovresti provare a visitare altre cittá, ad esempio Milano.
    Sorry, i wrote in Italian because if you lived in Italy you know The lenguage and if i write this comment in english i make a lot of errors.

    Your new Italian fan,Paolo.
    (i live in Brescia,next Milan)

  6. I admire you took the path of independence over a life in Italy. Just from reading this article I can almost feel the pull of a life unlike ones own. You saw what you were looking for and what was real and decided to choose your own path rather than follow one that seemed too good to be true in the beginning yet slowly coalesced into something not as rosy as first thought. All in all a good read!

  7. A wonderful and heart rendering piece. I too, am a " foreigner" -albeit took the other fork on the road, and stayed. I met my Italian husband whilst we were both living in London (already a sign, as he was one of those who "broke away") and we decided to move "home" when our children were born- thinking we should give them a better sense of identity. After ten years of living in Italy, I still feel as a "straniera" - a foreigner as I did the day we arrived. The strange thing is, my husband - with family roots deep in Florentine soil- feels just as much as a foreigner as I do. Your lovely essay caught me at a crossroad. I am at a point where I (should) decide if I should stay-and never really belong, or go. To another place where I would be able to feel I am free, that I am true to myself.

    I love the idea of the snail. And hope perhaps, to leave this legacy to my children. That perhaps it is not where we are that matters, but who we are with. That we 'bring' our 'home' with us, wherever we go.

    Keep on writing!

  8. reminiscing and melancholy but not regretful :)

    do u have any thing more recent? where can i find it?

  9. Today I surfed onto your blog because. . . Thank you for the beautiful writing. I will return for more. Jane, Stuttgart Germany

  10. I skipped my yoga class to finish your article! I couldn't tear myself away from your story. When I was younger, I also longed to relocate to Italy, learn its language, and be a part of the magic. You really have a way with words; keep writing, please.

  11. I wonder if the outcome would have been different if the circumstances of your socioeconomic background had been different? Even though after returning a few years later and Lucretia had indeed treated you as a commoner, yet, I wonder as with so many other women if they would have chose differently knowing they had no hopes of a lavish lifestyle to return to.

    It took courage to live that adventure - but it took even more courage to pen the allure and fantasy; to be totally transparent in all of it. And 3 years later we're still commenting on it.

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  13. "Italy was where the soul went to find calm and love, and I wanted to hold the best of it in the palm of my hand. Esatto!, but I prefer. Italy IS the place where the soul GOES to find calm and love... Love your words... keep writing...

    Lost in Abruzzo, but not looking to be found...

  14. Well, First Daughter... in the Tribe of Job, your presence is proof your father LIVES! The beauty and gift of his death is that millions upon millions of us finally get to talk about what he did FOR US, rather than TO US. Now I understand the song, "Oh, Death, where is Thy sting!" Because of his death, Steve Jobs has become another word for JOY! He blessed the world with his often scizophrenic behavior and genius synergy of art with technology. Thanks to him and you... we get to see the magnificence of LOVE. Keep on writing and investigating your thoughts. Gratefully yours, glo
    "The greatest loss you've ever experienced is the greatest gift you can have." -Byron Katie

  15. this is one of the most wonderful pieces i've read in many months, maybe years. thank you.

  16. Your beautiful story, while most likely a fairytale compared to what I'm likely to experience next year, is a great help to me as I look to move to Italy.

    As a dear old British professor (who lives in Italy) once told me, Italy is a place to visit, for a bit or awhile, but not a place to move to. Combined with your account of your story and what else I've heard, I will be extra cautious not to be swept up in the "dream" that is a short stay in this romantic country.
    I really enjoyed this article. Thank you! :)

  17. Loved it!

    How many times have we been in this magical place of bliss, swept away by love, and feeling that all things are possible, and all conflict seems so easy to solve?

    Mother knew best. I wonder if your adventurous soul would have allowed you to stay in Italy forever if things would've turned out different.

    I didn't particularly understand Lucrezia's attitude at the end.
    Had she forgotten you? Or did her attitude explain how she truly felt about you? Can you or someone else explain?

    1. Go and read Proust and you will understand why an old aristocrathic lady wouldn't recognize a young American girl that has dared to leave her beloved son.

  18. I literally stumbled on this Article and was drawn to read it. Rather than pass it by, like so many sites I stayed and read every last word including comments..
    The writing was superb, and the story was beautiful.
    What a gift you have been given
    Thank you
    Write on

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  20. This is not only a fine piece of writing because of the delicate care with which it was done, but because of its honesty and insightful observations on several aspects of the human nature. I found it to be humble and sublime at once, a rare kind of achievement for a short story.
    Congratulations and please, keep on writing.

  21. I have read your story Tuscan Holiday, with great pleasure. Just like your father, you are using your eyes as a reverse set of binoculars. Images become clear, luminous, small, distant, and in proper perspective. Yourself now behind the set recording, and like the biblical eye, missing nothing. You're writing honesty, implacable and intact while weaving the magic and the mythical in the loom. All of the markings of a gifted writer, just like Mona, your aunt. All in the genes! Keep going.

  22. Please pray to God. Steve Jobs murdered your soul, as you said it. may God save you, an abused woman. please rebell against Apple and create the anti-mac. -david lowenstein

  23. Linus Torvalds also abused his children. please ask God.

    the post-apple computer company will use the taligent gui.

  24. Dear Lisa,

    We are very impressed by your literary genius. We work in the Silicon Valley and are deeply in awe of your father. As a tribute to him, we have composed a song for him. The lyrics are in Hindi but there is a full English translation below ghe utube video.
    I hope you enjoy it and share it with your family

  25. *Lisa I find your great story in "Vogue"in "American Corner"-Novi Sad.When I just finished my studi of Comparative literature.Now,I want to translate your story on Serbian.I contact one Publisher house and American Embassy- Belgrade.Was so sincerely from you,to read your e-mail and contact me about publisher rights!Thank you!Your translator!

  26. Thank you Lisa.
    I ready this story in print some years ago and today stumbled onto it again online.. I am an american/Italian who lives in Florence and I instantly related to your story so beautifully written with all of the bittersweet details of this experience that I always found impossible to put into words.. I love the snail.

  27. Go and read Proust, and you will understand why an old aristocrathic lady would pretend not to recognize the youn American girl who has dared to leave her beloved son!Lisa, haven't you met a moreasygoing group of people

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  29. I'll gladly marry you as an American Lisa Nicole Brennan. I'm 31 and from Gadsden, Alabama. I love your family. With Love.

  30. questo è stato molto interessante leggere il tuo post, non so se si è cristiano o credi in Dio, ma anche una voce che mi ha insegnato che io sposerei una certa signorina, mi obedesco quella voce è la voce di Dio, Egli è Colui che gli ordini nostro cammino, Gesù Cristo è la vita offre eterne, voglio andare in Italia a predicare il Vangelo a chi è venuto sulla terra e ha dato in cambio il suo sangue per espiare i tanti peccati nustros

  31. entertaining .. and to some extent romantic view of Italy .. if/when you hear the VOICE, follow your vocation.

  32. What a beautifully written story. The country where I landed in a similar fashion was Germany and the lovely city of Munich. There I met the gorgeous dark haired blue eyed German man that is now my husband. It has been a whirlwind romance that has lasted now almost 15 years and I am still mesmerized by his richly accented English. I watch in a mix of angst and empathy as many other American friends married to German husbands marriages fall apart. A bi-cultural marriage, as well as leaving your own homeland for his bring a very unique set of challenges to the already many complexities of a marriage. It isn't always easy, but then again it is never boring! Who knows how it would have turned out with Marco...I bet he thinks of you too.

  33. I have just posted you're story to my FB page as my first grandchild is due on the capricorn/aquarian cusp in 2014. I have a premonition it will be a girl! This story speaks so well of family, individuality, and finding ones way in the world. Especially for females. It was a beautiful treat to read. Thank-you for sharing youre gift and craft with me, a fellow writer and now fan!
    Blue Noel

  34. I love the views of Italy! I'm planning my own vacation there in a few months and I've been looking into things to do while over there. I am a huge history fan, so I would love to visit all of the areas of historical significance, as well as experience the culture of the country. I've also heard about the luxury villas in Tuscany, and would love to go look at them. What was your favorite thing about your vacation? do you have any suggestions for things to do for me?

  35. I loved this...I meant to stop by for just a sample and ended up devouring the entire memoir. I watched 'Jobs' tonite with my in-laws - never meant to watch the movie but chose it because they are elderly and love real stories. It was a terrible waste of time but the fact that it led me to you Is at least a redeeming quality. I will anticipate enjoyment from your writing in the future...have you published a book?

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  38. Wonderful memoir. Thank you Lisa. Deep sensitivity and great insight. I am sure your father was very proud of you. And your mother taught by example. You would have discovered other faces, amongst the infinite faces of Italy, if you hadn't been caught by that family and allowed yourself to travel alone, even then, in the maxi-micro-cosm of Italy. But yours is a tale of growing up, of discovery and revelation. After that, after the Florence you knew, you became yourself.

  39. Dreamy, but a bit cliché, If I may say so. You just stumbled into one of those close knit circles can be found all over. Luckily, both beauty and "open" Italians exist outside those circles.

  40. Loved your beautiful story of a gorgeous but flawed family that you came to know so deeply, and yet all your sensativities told you that they were not as real as you obvoiusly are. Sometimes fairytales should be left in books.

  41. great words from great people are the world looking for. am also a writer but realy Lisa you beat me.

  42. Hi Lisa

    I was wondering where one would go to get permission to share some of your dad's wisdoms. I have a couple quotes that I would like to include in my eBook

  43. Hi Lisa,
    I love that you 'heard' the voice in your head. I took an intercellular communication course which enables me to 'link' in with sentient beings who wish to connect. The heart I linked in with showed me a raven, which I was 'told' was symbolic. I happen to know ravens represent 'shape shifting', then the voice said 'code word shape shifting, she will know its me'. This 'heart' I linked in with said to post here......he said you come here often:)
    The rest of the message from this 'heart' to you is personal. Feel free to email me if you would like me to send on to you, it is short but 'heartfelt'. There is no charge/fee as I chose to link in with his heart❤️ for guidance for myself.
    Annie Laird

    "We are all worms. But I do believe that I am a glow worm."
    -Winston Churchill-

  44. nice story i m impressed.
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  45. Thanks Lisa for sharing your story. I really enjoyed reading about it. I however, personally like ' A Pure Formality" by Tornatore a lot more than Cinema Paradiso. I think Gérard Depardieu did a brilliant job along with Roman Polanski. All the best.

  46. How funny is that, I came here by chance and guess what, I lived the same story as you. I'm French and felt in love with Florence more than three years ago. I meet a man there. I felt in love twice. I haven't heard a voice but seen a picture of us and I "knew". Ahah, is it the Italian magic effect?
    Well, it was nice reading you. There are so many American people in Florence fascinating by this old city. Baci

  47. Hi LISA,

    My name is PHILIP. I died in a car accident on April 5th this year. I was gone for quite awhile and since coming out of a three week long coma and having gone through some other things, I wanted to say first that you are one of top people I pray for daily. I highly respect your mind and heart, as well as your family. Lastly, I wanted you to know that your Dad is still working away tirelessly at his project in another dimension. I have much to say but at the risk of, I will just say that I love your Dad and He is Truly doing a Great Work. Anyway, if you find it within to say a prayer for me please do. I am from Parker, CO and have also been working on somethings. GOD SPEED LISA


  48. This is a beautifully written article. Thanks for sharing.

  49. Hi Lisa,
    What a wonderful writer you are!
    I went to grad school with Garry. We remained very close friends all these years. It was a great shock to me when he passed away.
    I would like you to know that he thought the world of you. He often said "you have to meet Lisa, you will love her."
    So, just to let you know.

  50. Loved the article. Loved the writing style. Thank you for sharing this part of your life. Beautifully insightful. Personal, yet universal. I am touched.