I have gotten into the habit of watching free Italian movies on YouTube, sometimes a nightly double feature. I’m not sure how they can legally show feature length films that are not in the public domain but I plan to keep enjoying them while they last. Some are not the greatest that Italian cinema has to offer but many are real gems worth watching more than once. I feel almost guilty enjoying a cultural treasure that few are aware of or are not able to enjoy because they haven’t yet learned Italian. I have gotten to know the great performers of Italian film, many of whom never became well known outside of Italy. I may be the lone member of Medford’s Renato Pozzetto fan club.
While it is a great way to improve one’s Italian comprehension, including some dialects, it is a marvelous way to share the culture of our friends in Italy. Some are in such heavy dialect that they require Italian subtitles to be understood by the average Italian. Watching films created for an Italian audience gives insight into the way Italians see themselves, their humor, their national pride and aspirations.
Watching these films has made me aware that our connection with Alba has been enriching in so many ways and that our Italian friends have so much to be proud of. Their culture is at the peak of many of the arts and sciences and has been so for centuries. Since my other acquired vices include Italian opera and Italian literature I have gained an appreciation of Italy’s unique place atop the creative world. As an architect, I see Italian design as the gold standard for historic and contemporary architecture. I now appreciate why I spent so much time in school learning about the Italian masters and their legacy.
There are many fields where Italian genius is the driving force, from high fashion to naval architecture, from automotive design to music. The food and wine pilgrims to Alba are not drawn by the great raw ingredients that go into their food and wine. They come to appreciate the genius of the chef and the wine maker that has been centuries in the making. Our friends not only know how to make wonderful food and wine but they know how to enjoy what they have created. My fondest memories of wonderful meals include the lively discourse that accompanied each plate brought to the table. In Italy, enjoyment itself is an art.
Is my love of all things Italian biased by five decades of contact with Italian culture? Would my experience have been the same had our sister city been in Ireland or Germany, the lands of my ancestors? I think I can objectively say that the Italian experience is unique. That is borne out by centuries of Italian achievement and a global enchantment with all that Italy has to offer the world. Italy remains the number one travel destination and for good reason. Italy has many scenic natural attractions but most come to enjoy the masterpiece created and perfected by the people of Italy. Every art and science has its golden age but in Italy they enjoy a timeless "golden place".
I have found that after a few days in Italy speaking only Italian, my entire personality changes. I see the world in a different way. Perhaps one advantage that the Italians have is the wonderful palette of words and phrases they have at their command. To me, the language of music is also the music of languages. Even the most indecipherable Italian dialects are rich with color and harmony.
Had Medford and my family not made this beautiful connection with Alba fifty-four years ago, I would never have had a reason to delve so deeply into Italian culture nor have had so many wonderful friends to share it with. I confess to be being an aspiring Italian but what’s wrong with that. We all have our dreams and mine are in Italian.