Chasing La Dolce Vita
Then the fairytale began to unravel. I discovered that the world of fashion, the basis of most of my work, excited me about as much as a roll of toilet paper. My pay packet had never been so full, but I?d never felt so hollow. Restless, the seed of discontent in my belly was sprouting into a strangling vine.
Then, in a heartbeat, the relationship I had convinced myself was a winner collapsed like Phar Lap. With a string of failed relationships in my wake, my love life was starting to resemble that of Elizabeth Taylor. Minus the wedding rings.
I cried myself a pathetic river before I sat down and had a serious talk with myself. Here I was, staring 30 in the face, and my life was not remotely in the sort of balanced state I imagined it might be at this point in my life. Unhappy, indecisive and increasingly paranoid, I?d lost passion for everything.
I had long been obsessed with the idea of living in Italy, where I?d holidayed in previous years. Through my Piscean-tinted glasses, the Italian lifestyle seemed far less chaotic and dog-eat-dog compared to the one to which I was accustomed. There was only one way to find out if my romantic notions were valid.
There and then, I decided no bloke or job would ever again come between me and la dolce vita I had fantasised about. Within days I had given notice in my job and booked an Italian language course in Perugia, capital of the Umbria region. I liked the idea of learning a bit of Italian in a pretty little country town before heading to Italian capital to try my fortune.
On the long plane ride to Italy I fought waves of panic. What the hell did I think I was doing? Ciao and grazie formed the extent of my language skills, I didn?t know a soul, I didn?t have a home and there was no cushy executive job waiting for me. I calmed myself with the thought that if my fanciful impressions of Italy were unfounded and I would come home to face the music. For the moment I wanted to be free to work out what I wanted to do with my life without feeling the usual societal pressure to succeed at all costs.
In Perugia, my Italian course turned out to be a disappointment – with too many students in the class it was nigh impossible to learn. But my decision to stay there for three months gave me enough time to realise that I had made the right decision. Wagging class I fell in love with the Italy I had built in my dreams: standing in a bar and leaning on the counter to be served espresso, wining and dining in quaint trattorias flanking cobble stoned piazzas and visiting postcard pretty villages in Umbria and nearby Tuscany.
Finally I arrived in Rome, where I found a room to rent for a month in an apartment with views of the Colosseum. Unwittingly, I had chosen the worst time to find my feet in the Eternal City ? in scorching August, Rome becomes a ghost town as the locals head in droves to the sea of cooler mountain climes. I was busting to try and speak Italian and create friendships, but my flatmates were already on holidays. Disappointed, I decided to prattle to anyone, including myself, for the sake of language progress. I lost count of how many times I said buongiorno to my newsagent, who had no idea how rejected I felt when he made no effort to humour my pidgin Italian.