The Angel of Freedom (or why I’m now living in Italy)

It’s Sunday lunchtime in Bra, a small town in Piemonte, northern Italy, and all the shutters are drawn in the apartment buildings around me.Closed shutters BraClosed shutters all along via Vittorio Emanuelle, Bra, Sunday afternoon
A car rushes by, church bells chime on the hour (also a little after the hour – well, this is Italy), and there is the occasional sound of women’s voices, but apart from that it is very quiet.  Almost hushed.
Are they eating lunch? (there aren’t any cooking smells). Visiting family? Napping? Watching TV? Doing the washing?
In the apartment block on the other side of my apartment, torn jeans, sweaters and sheets are hanging on lines suspended from balconies. An old woman has just opened a door onto her balcony and returned inside with a dustpan and brush.
Earlier I noticed a young handicapped man emerge from a door and hobble onto his balcony to retrieve what looked like some long white onions from a makeshift shed. UNISGOne of my reasons for coming to Italy, apart from doing the Master’s degree this year at the Universita delle Scienze Gastronomiche, was to expand my world.
Back in Sydney, I’d reached a stage where career opportunities had all but closed for me, due not only to the shrinkage of newspapers and magazines, but also to ageism.  Trying to find work as a food writer and stylist had become increasingly difficult over the past 5 – 10 years, a field now monopolized by food bloggers and food porn.
I hoped/hope that through moving to the other side of the world out of my comfort zone – and attempting a Master’s degree – might open a door or two for me and point me in a new direction, though many people here are surprised I’m a studentessa, and not a professoressa (ageism again?)

Mt ParamountMonte Viso (which inspired the Paramount logo) which can be seen from Bra

As much as I love this little town, I fear that the closed shutters might signify closed minds. Provincialism. Or perhaps it’s because they value their privacy?
Seduced as we are in Australia by images of Italian food, fashion, design, art and culture, how many of us ever penetrate beneath the surface? It’s something I hope to do this year, as well as improve my Italian – oh, and finish the degree.
I muse on this because I’m sitting with the kitchen door wide open and the sun streaming in as I write.  Perhaps this is just very Australian, or a habit I picked up from my father who sits outside in the sun every afternoon when he’s finished work.
Mind you, I’m lucky to have a balcony on the second floor of a small new apartment block which faces south-west, important when you live in the northern hemisphere. Maybe the Italians living in the opposite block have already nicknamed me the “crazy Australiana”.Boh!
There were very few of them this morning at the swimming pool when I was doing laps – and the sun was streaming in through the windows there too.
On the day of my departure, my daughter gave me a precious gift  – a small beige and cream-coloured Angel of Freedom, with the words “allowing dreams to soar” written underneath.Angel of Freedom
I packed her in my hand luggage as her wings are made of  wire, and in her hands she holds a small butterfly, also made of wire.
“You gave me wings to fly,” said my daughter. “And now it’s your turn. Finally the roles are completely reversed.” But when I unpacked her the other day, the butterfly was missing. I gasped and felt carefully all around the bottom of the bag.
Phew! there it was –  so very fragile. I carefully placed the butterfly back in her hands, and hope it continues to remind me of how much lighter I felt on the day I departed – and how lucky I am to be here.

10 Responses to The Angel of Freedom (or why I’m now living in Italy)

  1. warren nutt

    All best wishes with your studies Sheridan.
    As a young lad stood at the Awaba/Moruben bus stop awaiting bus to Musgrave St Wharf. Your father drove the girls to school and often one was late and needed to run across the road to get into Bob’s car already underway!
    My Parents were very friendly with the Kandel family who sold their beautiful and unique “Birthday Cake” style home to your parents.
    Don’y miss the Truffle Festival in Alba!
    Happy studying
    Hoo Roo!
    Warren

  2. Sheridan

    Thanks Warren, I think you must be referring to my two younger sister, Justy and Skye?
    I didn’t grow up in Mosman, but in Seaforth…

  3. Mike reed

    Sorry to tell you to suck eggs but frequent each day. Cafe and taverna so the locals get to smell you

  4. David Sidd

    Sheridan, all the best for your year in Italy! As luck would have it, I’m back in Cammeray (for work), but the Sidds will follow your blog with interest!

  5. Sue Dodd

    Wow Sheridan, what an adventure you have taken on. I hope that the shutters and the minds of the locals open up to you and they embrace you into their community and kitchens. Enjoy your time away. I look forward to reading your posts and making a recipe or two that you are sure to share with us all.
    Ciao for now. Sue

  6. @ChristineSalins

    Good on you, Sheridan, for making such a big move. I’ll be following closely how it all goes. I’d love to hear all about the Masters degree you are doing, including all the nitty gritty – how much it costs, what pre-requisites there are, do you have to be able to speak Italian, was it easy/difficult to find accommodation etc. Enjoy your time there.

  7. Sheridan

    Thanks Christine – it’s not cheap, but not as much as the Gastronomy course at Adelaide Uni.
    Second class this week was Molecular Gastronomy/Chemistry – carbon, hydrogen, oxygen atoms – Yikes!
    The Master’s degree is in English( a shame because I want to improve my Italian).
    cheers,
    Sheridan

  8. Sheridan

    Thanks Sue – no recipes yet – need time to settle in and meet a few local cooks.
    cheers,
    Sheridan

  9. Sheridan

    Thank you David – and good luck to you with your new venture in Cammeray.
    Sheridan

  10. Sheridan

    Not quite sure what you mean, Mike – but let me tell you, it’s deathly quiet here on Sundays.
    Sheridan

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *