I was born in Italy in 1981, in the city of Sassari in Sardinia. I hold really beautiful memories of my childhood growing up on a beautiful island, spending the hot summers at the beach and the mild winters visiting family and relatives in what the Sardinians call “the main land”. My parents are both Italian but not from Sardinia. My mum is from the region of Emilia Romagna and my dad is from Trentino. So, I guess my experience as a child, growing up in land which we didn’t originally belong to (as nobody in my family had been born on the island), was already setting the terms of what my future would be. One of travelling and exploring new places.
My parents had to move around a lot for work reasons, so I was exposed to the diversity of cultures and languages from a very early stage. I didn’t really know it back then, but looking back, this has been an amazing opportunity. It has made me the person I am now and it has given me many treasures along the way, meeting great people and building strong friendships in many different countries.
I finally settled in London where I finished my studies at university and then got a job there. I felt very much at home in London. A true melting pot of cultures, colours and languages. And a very strong Italian community. Still, in between the melting pot of cultures and languages, I had a very strong feeling for my Italian identity. And I feel I have kept this sense with me throughout all these changes, places and years away from la Bella italia. No matter where I was. No matter what the context around me. I was, I felt, and very much am and feel, Italian.
My Arrival in Australia
I met my husband Simon in London. Originally from Adelaide, he was also there for work. Life must have really spotted us on the planet and placed us in the same place at the same time.
Simon loves Italy and had been many times before he met me. In fact, I think he has been to more places in Italy than I have. On the other hand, I knew very little of Australia. I remember as a little child my dad went to work in Sydney for a couple of months and I stayed behind with my mum. Once he came back, I was fascinated with his stories of a country that was so different and so far away from us. I was also very disappointed he didn’t bring me a real koala as a present. Little did I know one day I’d be living in this magical land of koalas and kangaroos (it still very much warms my heart every time I see one on the wild).
After a few years in London we moved to Sydney in 2011. For Simon, it was coming back after years of living and working abroad, for me, it was a real adventure. Everything new. Everything so big and so spacious. And in a way, so quiet. I suddenly realised how much I missed the loud traffic from back in Italy, the chaos, the screaming from one side of the road to the other simply to say a loud ciao to a friend. I felt the need to look out for some familiar people and places. I ended up meeting a few Italians through work in Sydney that introduced me to the” buonissime pasticcerie e salumerie” of Leichardt and Haberfield. It suddenly felt like home!
We then moved to Adelaide after a short stint in WA, and are now settled here with our 6 year-old son Federico. We went for an Italian name as it was important for me that he would also retain some of his Italian identity despite being born Aussie. At home I speak Italian to him and Simon speaks English so we always end up with a bit of a mix. Federico always prefers to be called Fede which is the short form of his name as it would be in Italian, not Freddy or Rico as it would be in English. He also tells people here that in Italy there are heaps of Federicos but here in Australia not many. 😊
We love our life here but as an Italian in a foreign land, I do miss my home country a lot. I was lucky enough to make the choice to leave. In a way that can be considered a luxury. I did decide to leave Italy to go and explore other places. No historical or political situations forced that upon me. I made the decision to build a life here in Australia. I feel incredibly lucky for all that I have been able to see here, the beauty of this country and its people. I always felt very welcomed. Simon’ s beautiful family has been my family since day one. They have been incredibly supportive and caring and I feel incredibly blessed.
However, I think there will always be a little bit of a conflict within me where I know that part of me is perfectly adjusted to our Aussie life here and yet, the other part still belongs to Italy.
Before COVID, we used to go back every year or alternatively, my parents would come out here to visit. The last 2 years have been incredibly hard both for us here and them there.
I am also usually the one that ” stalks” Italian mums around the playground. As soon as I hear a ” Luca vieni qui. ” or ” attento vai piano”, my head automatically turns around and in my heart I know I need to make contact. It’ s like a spontaneous reaction. I hear Italian, I hear my people and even if we now live miles and miles away, I still need to make that link. Some of my Italian friendships here in Adelaide started in playgrounds. Another one in a bakery. (of course there is always food involved somehow!)
I feel our generation of Italians still needs each other. We want to be recognised as part of a group, that is our group. Our cultural identity. We look at each other. We recognise each other and from a ciao, sometimes it feels like we have known each other forever.
We are very aware of how lucky we are to be here. Mostly by choice. I appreciate and treasure our life as a family here every day, very much. On the other hand, I also feel incredibly lucky and proud of my Italian self. It almost feels like a double identity at times, and a constant game of balancing both. We belong here but we also belong there. We live with a foot on the Australian sand and one still on the Italian beach. We want to explore and integrate in the Aussie culture but I think, ultimately, we always feel most comfortable sipping a macchiato sitting somewhere in a piazza under the (hopefully one day soon again) Tuscan sun.