It was summer and I was on a pre-honeymoon honeymoon with the man I would marry in the fall.
My southern parents did not approve of this jaunt, and insisted that I live while in Rome with an Italian journalist they somehow discovered, who was willing to take as a paying guest a 21-year-old American girl who didn’t speak a word of Italian. Since the journalist, a rather disapproving middle-aged woman, spoke no English our communication was sparse, usually limited to her upbraiding when I came in after the curfew she had established and woke her up. I tried not to…
During the day, I discovered most of the sites of Rome with my fiancé, traveling around in his canary yellow convertible. Now and then I had to negotiate the city in a bus, which proved difficult, or walk—even more daunting, as the famous image, “American Girl in Italy,” amply illustrates. The Italian men were not staged, this is the way they behaved. It was not frightening so much as peculiar—the erotic dismemberment I would also witness on Manhattan streets a few years later.
In spite of that, I felt a quiver of nostalgia (rare for me) when yesterday I heard the song of that summer, played with feeling on a guitar:
Volare, oh oh
Cantare, oh oh oh oh
Oh yes, to fly away: rather unlikely in the atmosphere I was living in, or enduring. The only real freedom I witnessed that summer came in the person of a young American student who was hitch-hiking around Italy. He rode for a while in the canary-colored convertible, frolicked in the Aegean, spent the night in a village guesthouse, and seemed prepared to deal with whatever came his way until a rat in the wastebasket at the guesthouse woke him up with its frantic scrambling and he was for the first time undone.
What was his name? It doesn’t really matter. He was Volare for me.
That marvelous writer, Elizabeth Spencer, captured some of the atmosphere of that summer in The Light in the Piazza although the 2005 Broadway musical, based on the novel, seemed to me to have candied the story of a somewhat disabled girl and her mother in Italy and the suitor the mother feels she must warn off.
What do we do with the remnants of romance when we have long outgrown it?
I’m satisfied to limit my enjoyment to the strains of Volare, floating out across the New Mexico desert.