The complexities of language were from the beginning integral to my connection to Italy. Initially, the consolations were fundamentally aural, directly linked to the compelling companionship of a linguistically skilled consort who made the study of the new language a “many splendored thing.” Alberto only ever spoke Italian to me. It was the actual sound of his voice– rich, liquid, rhythmic–that taught me grammar at the cellular level. Before I could speak a sentence of my own, the symphony of his vowels opened the gates of Italic meanings. I remember thinking how strange it was that I never didn’t understand what he was saying, multi-syllabic as he was.
Alberto was classically educated and must have been born with a resonant voice, made a fine instrument by his years in the theater. For me, bookish from the womb, I could only marvel that I had by chance fallen directly into patterns of letters and sounds that immediately soothed my rummaged heart. Is it possible that timbre and phonics could be such powerful stimulants? Yes, I can say.
Language is culture, and nowhere more so than in Italy. Stretching from the Alps to Africa, having conquered and been conquered by nearly everyone, not having achieved nationhood until the 1860’s, the Bel Paese is many hued and multi-voiced. Though I suppose I was lucky to be first imprinted with classically-spoken Italian, I was, over-time, to hear and participate in the multiple dialects of a country made up, to this day, of separate city-states.