YOUR TURN FOR la Dolce Vita; (1) THE GREAT ESCAPE PART THREE: ITALY (2) History on Every Street Corner, Sublime Food, Superb Wine and People as Warm as the Climate ... in Part Three of Our Inspiring Series on Moving Abroad We Explain How Your Family Could Find a New Life in Italy

By Cade, Jack | Daily Mail (London), January 22, 2003 | Go to article overview

YOUR TURN FOR la Dolce Vita; (1) THE GREAT ESCAPE PART THREE: ITALY (2) History on Every Street Corner, Sublime Food, Superb Wine and People as Warm as the Climate ... in Part Three of Our Inspiring Series on Moving Abroad We Explain How Your Family Could Find a New Life in Italy


Cade, Jack, Daily Mail (London)


Byline: JOHN MORTIMER

John Mortimer has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with Italy; he spends his summers in Tuscany and set one of his novels, Summer's Lease, there. Here, he describes the sheer pleasure of Italian life THE rain falls ceaselessly on sodden fields; Trafalgar Square was closed to New Year's celebrations and our Prime Minister, from his holiday hotel, sends out the message that it's all terribly depressing and, quite honestly, we've never had it so bad.

All we can do is wait until the sun shines . . . and long for Italy.

The British love affair with Italy goes back a long way. In the 19th century, English visitors were so numerous that all foreigners were called 'Inglese'. A hotel owner in Siena was heard to say: 'We've got ten Inglese in tonight: five of them are French, four German and one Russian.' English writers found their inspiration in Italy.

Byron discovered his last great love; Shelley drowned in the Gulf of Spezia; Keats is buried in Rome; Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett escaped from her gloomy, fatherdominated home in Wimpole Street to sunshine beside the Arno.

European geniuses such as Wagner and Ibsen deserted their dank, dark northern climates and fled to the Amalfi coast - the steep cliffs, sunshine and blue water between Naples and Sorrento. There, you can still find a small hotel called the Poncio Ibsen.

Italy is the land which will never be conquered by some Euro or American conformity. It's the country that knows you can't take politicians seriously - so people get on with their lives without taking much notice of them.

It's a country where they're actually delighted to welcome children into restaurants and make a fuss of them.

UNLIKE Tony Blair, the people always want to bring you good news, even in the most disastrous circumstances. And the old are not shovelled into sheltered accommodation but are kept with the family - and put out to enjoy the sunshine in front of a cafe.

Italy is where life goes on in the streets, in the city squares, in front of the cathedral, or shouted from windows on opposite sides of the street far into the night. It's the land of perpetual theatre.

In so many of our towns, our history has been obliterated. The heart has been torn out of them to make way for soulless pedestrian precincts, multi-storey car parks and yet another branch of Next or Toys R Us. In Italy, history is still alive to grab you by the arm and demand your attention.

Every Italian city has its own history, its own masterpiece in the cathedral, its own food, its own wine, and often its own language.

The Neapolitan dialect is incomprehensible to the pure-speaking Florentine.

You wouldn't expect to eat spaghetti with clams in Bologna, or wild boar patE in Naples.

These cities were once independent states - quite often at war with each other (although, with Italian common sense, they usually hired mercenaries to do the fighting for them).

If you want a town where the present and past are still vividly alive, go to Siena. The town is divided into parishes, which compete in an extraordinary horse race around the shell- shaped piazza twice a year.

The Pallio, as it is called, which celebrates a victory over France, takes just a few minutes to run. But the preparations and the processions are unforgettable.

HORSES spend the night before the race in the local churches, to which they are led by men singing. If they manure the marble floors, it's a sign of good luck.

Before the race, a long procession slowly unwinds, with men and boys in medieval costume twirling flags and throwing them high into the air - as high as the houses.

Knights in armour with their visors down ride by to celebrate the parishes which no longer exist.

Finally, at the Pallio itself, a huge silver dish is driven round on a cart drawn by white oxen. …

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YOUR TURN FOR la Dolce Vita; (1) THE GREAT ESCAPE PART THREE: ITALY (2) History on Every Street Corner, Sublime Food, Superb Wine and People as Warm as the Climate ... in Part Three of Our Inspiring Series on Moving Abroad We Explain How Your Family Could Find a New Life in Italy
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