I traveled to Italy and fell in love. It took me quite by surprise, actually. My love was not at all what I had dreamed of – the tall, dark and debonair prince with a smooth voice and wild imagination. In fact, I fell in love with something with so much grandeur that I couldn’t bring it entirely back with me. I begged, but the Eternal City refused to board the plane with me. Though I pleaded, the Tuscan countryside just wouldn’t budge from its perfectly placed position within Europe’s beautiful little boot. So what I returned home with are the unforgettable memories and cherished photographs from the past five months that I spent in the mesmerizing presence of this country. I would like to share some of them with you. You might catch a glimpse of just how wonderful it is to fall in love with Italia. “Chiaroscuro” is an Italian term, used for describing the interplay of light (chiaro) and dark (oscuro) on a surface as it arranges itself to create the harmonious effects which meet the eye. Though it is primarily used in describing artistic technique, the effects of chiaroscuro enhance the natural splendors of Italy’s timeless landscapes. The radiant sun setting behind Saint Peter’s majestic dome kisses each spire and arch and casts an enchanting glow with its glorious light on everything within the walls of the Vatican City. The sparkling shore of “Cinque Terre” dance in chiaroscuro as the water sighs heavily in final exhale and leaps towards the beach, crashing and tumbling in one last airborne performance. So do the vibrantly colored houses – red, blue, yellow, green – each row perched atop the other so closely that they appear to be chasing each other down the steeply slanted mountainside. Each place I traveled to lives and breathes abundant life. I especially love the Tuscan countryside. Maybe it is the verdant hills, dotted with bright red poppies, opening wide its path towards the exalted churches in the center of each charming village. Perhaps it is the fresh open air, fragrant with floral aromas mingled with the sweet scent of the Tuscan grapes, drifting from the plentiful fields of vineyards lining the fertile earth. Quite possibly, it is the narrow cobblestone streets that twist and bend around the little shops and small homes, flower boxes in almost every window with freshly washed linens hanging beside them, blowing slightly in the breeze. Maybe it is the enticement of the senses, the smell of the delicate pastries and cakes floating from the local “forno” (bakery), the scent of melted cheese and freshly baked bread mingling with the aroma of wood-burning ovens coming from the pizzeria down the road. Every part of it is a grand feast for the eyes, refreshingly purifying for the mind and passionately stirring to the soul. Around every turn there is a new adventure, every structure has an ancient story to tell and every Italian along the way wants nothing more than to talk, laugh and love while dancing to the music of life. And the Italian language truly is a language of love, emitting both beauty and mystery, as each tongue hosts a splendid tale that is richly adorned with history from its ancient days. So, as you can see, the eyes, the mind and the soul can never have their fill of this quintessential land of life and love. My heart ached at the thought of leaving this small piece of heaven on earth. Yet, at the end of my short time in Italy’s embrace, I am satisfied. For though I had to leave behind every breathtaking view and say goodbye to all of the enchanting Italians, what I have taken with me is far greater.I have learned to be content in my present circumstances. Italy has taught me to relax and revel in the peaceful moments of each day. I have learned to enjoy the little things and to find humor in the daily mishaps. I have developed a greater joy for the here and now and am prompted to look ahead in hopeful expectation towards what is to come. In this way, the memories that I have of Italy will continue to encourage me to look at life from the light-hearted perspective that is exemplified so perfectly in Italian life. I now know what characterizes la dolce vita of Italy. The sweet life ignites spontaneity, acknowledging the good in all circumstances. It is confidence in knowing that life’s light and dark places are necessary to create the enthralling chiaroscuro in the end. It is by embracing this sweet life that frees the soul to love with much more abandon, live with greater joy and rest in deeper peace, inevitably bringing forth a celebration of life itself.Erbland can be reached at jerbland@campustimes.org.

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