I studied French and German. I’m based in La Jolla, California, which is part of San Diego, border city to Mexico, so now have an ear for Spanish. My husband is Italian, so I also know ‘un poco’ Italian. What I marvel at is people, like my husband, for whom it seems effortless to switch between languages. These people think fluently, not often in one, but several languages. I am fortunate that I love languages and don’t find them intimidating, but oh, I wish was truly multi-lingual.
One aspect I find fascinating about language is how so many places in the world exist where two or three languages co-exist simultaneously. So many people I know in San Diego float between Spanish and English on a daily basis.
Recently, when my husband and I were visiting his mother in northern Italy, we took a day trip about an hour north of Trento toward Austria. Our day was spent on a scenic drive into the Dolomites. We ended our afternoon in Bolzano or Bozen. My husband might be Italian for all practical purposes, but he and his family are really Tirolian. They are from a region of Italy that is a cross between the Germanic culture and the Italian one.
It is fascinating to see all signage in both Italian and German. Food in many restaurants similar to the fare you would find in an Austrian or southern German bierhaus. Clothing, linens, and hand crafts with a distinct alpen (alpine) flair.
There is a storybook feel to this part of Italy. Sweeping vistas with the snow-capped Alps as a backdrop. Quaint town centers with alpine influenced architecture. Crisp air that invites outdoor activities whether it is skiing, hiking, mountain climbing, or boating on the glacier fed lakes of the region.
The first time I visited Italy, it was to this region. Specifically, the city of Trento. My husband and I strolled through the downtown, passing the remnants of the medieval wall, visiting the castle of Trento and strolling in the Piazza del Duomo surrounded by buildings adorned with frescos from a different century.
Even here you feel the influence and convergence that makes this region part of Tirol. As I strolled the streets with my husband as he was sharing stories of his childhood, all that kept running through my mind was Kate (Meg Ryan) in French Kiss, when she walked down a street in a small town in France, saying to Luc (Kevin Klein)…. Oh! Beautiful…wish you were here…. And, then followed by…. Poor you. You had to grow up here.
Now having visited Trento several times throughout our marriage, each time there is a new surprise, a new vista, a new village to visit, but each time I embrace and respect the residents who have managed to blend two distinct cultures creating a distinct and magical region atypical of what most people think when they picture Italy, and most importantly, masterfully flow between different languages daily.