Another Country…

I have just been watching Andrew Marr's brilliant programme Britain From the Air. One of the facts that struck me was how our concept of the British countryside is actually a false one – so much of it is man- made and the idyllic pastoral scenes we all cling to are figments of our imagination.

It made me think of how I view Britain from here in Italy. I've been living here 15 years now (16 in June), and I am guilty of romanticizing England as a land of cathedrals, cottages, cricket and choirs and turning a blind eye to the carbon copy High Streets, yellow lines and clogged up roads as well as the omnipresent cameras, Tesco Express and celebrity-obsessed population.

But Italy too is romanticized in people's minds – mine too when I am thinking of while back in the UK visiting. We dream of pantiled farmhouses, lines of cypresses, happy natives quaffing purple wine… when the reality for many Italians is a daily struggle to make ends meet while living in a condominio in a little sea of concrete.

So where do these dreamscapes come from? Are we all blind?

I think we need our fantasies, our distilled 'essence of Italy' or 'essence of Britain' and they are based on the soul of the place rather than anything that matches reality. I am happy in my imaginary England and I do see glimpses of it every day I'm there, just as my fantasy Italy glimmers through from time to time.

And there is always the hope that somewhere, someday you might find a real place that matches up to the vision.


  1. My husband is still living in fantasy “essence of America” even though we’ve physically lived here for 12 years. He left the States for Europe when a kid, and I’m sure it’s his romanticized Land of Freedom-apple pie-picket fence-Stars & Sripes vision that keeps him (and us) here in this land of stripmalls, bumper-to-bumper traffic and say-one-thing-do-another government.
    I, on the other hand, have distilled Europe into its own essence and dream of going back there. My fantasy includes a cottage by the sea (reality: villages composed of twee B&Bs and no shops) and a villa in the South of France (reality: burglars and German absentee owners). I KNOW my vision is skewed but I still want to live that dream. Now, if only I could afford the house prices…

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