Love Letter to Spoleto Part 2

2 Sep

If you haven’t read the first love letter, then you might not understand parts of this post!

2012-09-01 08.12.37
Happy People’s Street. Yes, I need more of those in my life.

This morning I woke up at 6:30 am to an email from the aupair who helps me with my three preschool-age kids (they’re with papa’ this weekend), in which she uncerimoniously tells me that she’s decided to leave and go back to the States in just two days. I felt it coming, and frankly it’s a relief. I don’t want anyone to feel stuck in a situation they’re not comfortable in, and she has clearly been feeling lonely and itching to get back to the States for some time now. And with what I’ve gone through in the past few years, I feel fairly equipped now to handle the unexpected jolt with a decent amount of grace and composure.

As is habit with my recovering type-A brain, I immediately start to evaluate my life at warp speed, like a file cabinet with drawers opening and closing at random, and manila folders and paper flying all over the room. Mentally going over all my obligations and responsibilities, now I’m strategizing how I’m going to face in the short term this big hole and inconvenience, and how to move forward in the smoothest way possible, with the least amount of fallout, and all this before breakfast.

It’s a beautiful morning in Spoleto. So quiet you could hear a pin drop from miles away. The streets are completely deserted. The air is fresh, the breeze is late-summer/early-morning cool, and I decide to check out of my accommodation and walk to breakfast, to see how the day will unfold.


My cappuccino has a lovely spontaneous design, and I have a great view of the silent piazza, the sun literally shining on the two angels hanging by their wings from the building in front of me. The barista has me sit out front on the patio and puts on music: Muddy Waters. I have never heard anyone play Muddy Waters in a bar in Italy in the 9 years I’ve lived here, and Muddy Waters is one of my all-time favorite musicians, and this makes my heart happy. Hoochie-coochie man and my cappuccino.


I look up times for the train. I have 2 full hours before the next Sunday train to Rome shows up.

I finish my breakfast, stare blankly for a while, pay for my cappuccino and cornetto. I compliment the barista for his choice of the blues. He smiles and says he puts it on in the morning because, “Mi rilassa,” – “It relaxes me.”

Now I wander to the bus stop. I see that the bus for the train station only passes once an hour on Sundays, meaning I have nearly a full hour to wait. Conveniently, there’s a park: a gorgeous, lush, sprawling green park, right next to the bus stop.

My heart is really heavy by now. I’m reflecting all of a sudden on so much. My journey in the past few months of hard-core physical training, and the results it has brought me, not only physical but mental. The fact that I had too much wine to drink at lunch yesterday and the resulting embarrassment over the fact that I sent an email love missive to a man I know, one who has no time for me and I know it. Beating myself up over why I don’t give up the fight, and why I insist on continuing the fruitless struggle of trying to find and then somehow force a guy to shower me with attention and affection and time and consideration, when clearly it’s not the cards for me right now. That snowballs into the stark realization that no matter which way I go about it, it’s always the wrong way, it seems.

My real struggle, coming to terms with the fact that I’m single for the first time in nearly 13 years,and that before that, I hadn’t ever really dated. The last time I was truly single was my senior year in college—1999. I had just turned 21. I remember doing the “bar thing” for like a grand total of six months. I literally danced on top of the bar at good ol’ San Felipe in Flagstaff (I wonder if they still let people do that?), tasting for the first time what it meant to be out, drinking, and trying to drown my insecurities in finding a boy who would “like” me.

All I know is that frankly I find it hard not to like a place that has a national academy of olive and oil.

It sounds so naïve and yet, here I find myself at 35 years old, raising three children now as a single mom in a country that’s not my own, and those old insecurities haven’t gone far. Only now the men are different, the circumstances are different, the life experience is different. And yet, I still haven’t even had time to get to know myself or what I want. I can finally admit that I have always looked for myself in others, in serving others, in trying to be what I think others want me to be, and in the process, I lost whoever the real me is, or was, time and time and time again.

So I sit in the park. There are a ton of benches, and it is sublime. I look up into the trees, the sun is literally coming through the leaves and that’s why the word “dappled” was invented, you know?


Tears come to my eyes. If there’s one thing to know about me, it is this: I cry all the time. If you know me in any way, even superficially, you might already know this. I can’t help it. Nervous, angry, sad, overjoyed: I cry when my soul speaks. When I have no words. Which is rare, given how talkative I am and how prolifically I write. But when you get down to it, down to real and raw, no words are left. Just tears. Big ones. Dropping on my damn book that’s supposed to teach me about how to not be so needy anymore. The one I’m using a highlighter on.

My heart really hurts. I feel happy for all my blessings, but I still feel trapped in this mad desire to “get” happiness. To “find” the perfect man who’s going to magically solve all my problems. You can know that logically that’s impossible, but emotionally it’s my heart’s way of saying that I’ve completely forgotten about how to take care of it. I finally admit it. I feel alone. Denial has been a great protective shield to get me through the initial stages of my crisis, but I can see it’s not going to work for me from here on out.

By now it’s quarter to ten, and my bus should be coming soon. I move back to the sidewalk and stand there, alone with my little red suitcase, waiting for the tiny bus to take me to the station, hoping this sign is right and the bus will actually show when it says it will.

Parking in downtown Spoleto: “Leave sufficient room for opening the shutters. Thank you.” We aren’t in Rome anymore, Toto.

Suddenly, out of nowhere on the deserted town street, this strange little white contraption pulls up. It looks like some kind of tourist vehicle, like a little modified “Ape” that some intrepid Spoletino businessman has dreamt up as a way to make a euro on the side. I look up and wonder if he’s approaching me to see if I need a tourist taxi or something.

Just then, the man looks me in the eyes and says in Italian, “Hey! Americana!”

He’s dressed kind of spiffy and I don’t recognize him at first. Then it hits me and I blurt out, half exclamation, half question: “I know you!!!!?!”

And it turns out it’s Filippo. The matto from my delightful lunch experience yesterday.

Are you kidding me? This is like that scene from that Woody Allen movie, where Owen Wilson is sitting on a Paris street and the car pulls up out of nowhere to take him back to the Belle Epoque.

He says, “Where ya goin’? Train station?”

Me, “Yep.”

Him, “Well hop in already! I’ll give you a ride!”

The car is white with a bright red logo emblazoned on one side proclaiming “Il Matarello,” which is like a double word play for the little crazy one and rolling pin.

I lug my little suitcase aboard and sit down in the back. I say to him, “So, Filippo, is this your preferred method of transport around Spoleto?”

Him, “Only for weddings, Shel. And today, I have a wedding. I do everything around here, you know!”

Me, “I’m starting to get that feeling. Well, fantastic! Look at me! Looks like I’m getting married today, Filippo!”

Him, laughing, “Ah, is that the case?” (of course I’d already told him half my life story the day before. Recall that he sat down at my table to eat with me and chat.)

Me, “Sure enough! Already been married once, then divorced, and here I am! In the wedding getaway vehicle, this time without the groom! Congratulations to me, Filippo! I’m getting married to myself! I found the last person around who I can actually trust!”

He and I both have a good laugh and I realize that all of a sudden all the heaviness and sadness and longing of just moments before has totally vanished into the air around this strange little car, loudly and merrily put-putting around the streets of Spoleto, this taxi of white marital bliss that seems to have come out of the heavens especially for me.

I realize it’s true. Filippo does have “crazy eyes” just like it said in all the articles he had me read about him and his osteria. I start to reflect on the new project he told me about yesterday: he plans to open a small artisanal brewery around the corner from his restaurant.

“What are you going to call the beer?” I asked him, as he sat across from me over a plate of strangozzi spoletini and Montefalco rosso in that standard-issue Italian short Lurex glass.

“Birra del Matto, of course!” he says. Crazy man’s beer. God bless him.

I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again: having faith in life, in your journey, in your experience, is not to be underestimated. Just when you think things are so bad they can’t get worse, the Matarello drives up and tells you to hop in.

I get to the station, and there’s the obligatory group of old men lingering around in front of the bar, that group that seems to travel from small town to small town on Sunday mornings, always there to observe life around them, since they’ve already lived it all themselves.

I pray that my crappy cell phone camera hasn’t got a dead battery, because I really need to get a shot of Filippo in his little car. But then, realizing how I have no control over virtually anything in my life, I tell myself: even if it’s dead, still—it happened, and I don’t need the photo to prove it. Whatever happens, happens, and truly, in the end, it’s all good. And I’m finally starting to believe it.

Amazingly, even though the battery icon is totally hollow and my phone should be shutting itself off, the camera loads and it’s ready to go. I take a shot of him. The crazy eyes are shining and proud.

2012-09-02 09.57.01

I pray I can get one more shot in. I’m awful at taking self-portraits with other people with my cell phone cam—and yet, miraculously, I manage not to cut off either of our faces.

2012-09-02 09.57.06

So there you go folks: the two crazies. One Italian man married to a woman from Thailand, one American woman divorced from a man from Rome.

Yesterday the Italian man who stopped in front of the restaurant with his wife, after chatting with me for some time at my little table out front, turns to me and says, “You know what?! You’re not American, you know that?”

Me: “Oh, is that so? Why is that?”

He says, “No! You’re crazy!”

I say, “Well, you’re certainly right on that one.”

He says, “So, that means you’re not really American. You’re Italian. Because only we Italians are crazy in a good way, like you.”

And I thank him for the compliment.

Crazy is good. Unexpected is better. And without sadness, there would be no way to appreciate the joy of when the matarello swings by to take you to the station for the next leg of your journey.


27 Responses to “Love Letter to Spoleto Part 2”

  1. Janet Tedesco September 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    Shelley, I’m a generation older than you, and I can tell you, if that man you have a crush on doesn’t appreciate you for your beauty inside and out, and your general fabulousness, he is not worthy! Hold out for a man who has a heart as big as yours and who knows how lucky he is to have found you. Hang in there and know there are so many people around the world wishing you well!

  2. Un'americana a Roma September 2, 2012 at 2:47 pm #

    Janet! What a lovely lovely comment. Thank you so much. My heart is smiling from your kind thoughts and words. And thank you for reading what I put out there. That’s the most gratifying part of all.

  3. Arlene Gibbs Décor September 2, 2012 at 3:53 pm #

    What a beautiful love letter!


    Your crazy friend. x

  4. Rose Santillano September 2, 2012 at 4:29 pm #

    Thank you for sharing your very personal thoughts and feelings. I happily rented an apartment from you in July ’07, so I am very much a “stranger,” but I am sending you a big virtual hug anyway. You are doing just fine.

    ~Crazy in the SF Bay Area (Rose)

  5. Brittany September 2, 2012 at 6:18 pm #

    Shelley! You’re amazing! Don’t worry about finding a man- he’ll come to you when you least expect it.

  6. Sara Rosso September 2, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Beautiful story, Shel. Lots of thoughts in there I want to chat with you about (not in the comments section!) 🙂

    I went to Spoleto years ago and there was definitely something about it, though I didn’t meet the people you did 🙂 Crazy eyes!

  7. Lulu September 2, 2012 at 7:00 pm #

    Shelley Good crazy is your gift….keep strong, I agree with Janet Tedesco, hold out for the big hearted one who will appreciate and love you for this gift. Such a funny/moving post you are one talented gal x…

  8. Janet Thomas September 2, 2012 at 10:19 pm #

    I also agree with the other Janet. Things always take much longer than we would want or expect, but that is how life is. You have been thru a lot, you need time to heal and process.

    2 yrs ago I married someone I had met in 1977. So I know about waiting. But I think we were an extreme case and I am sure u will not have to wait so long.

    You look incredible BTW

    Baci, Janavi

  9. Whitney September 3, 2012 at 2:15 am #

    That’s why I love you Shelley. I feel totally crazy, too. Not to mention neurotic and a whole host of other things we could pull from the
    DSM. So we are crazy together! Not to mention our ultra special twin mom bond. Thanks so much for sharing this.

  10. Catherine September 4, 2012 at 10:04 am #

    Dear Shelley. Lots of tears and lots of crazies. I too ended up divorced in Italy with four kids, stuck in the country, where insightful potential partners are few and far between. I’d like to say hold out, it will happen, but it is truly very hard to find a like-mind, especially as you get older. I also think it bears thinking about – how little we know ourselves when we spend a life serving others, designing ourselves to please others. You do forget who you are! It should always come first.

    Companionship, argh! such a tricky one.. You may have to accept someone different from your vision, learn the ropes again, play around. I think you have to see that new person as the cherry on the cake, you already have the cake!!

  11. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm #

    My friend likes to tell me that the partner has to be like the icing on the cake, so that if you don’t like the icing, you can always scrape it off and still have the fabulous cake underneath. Ha ha!

    Four kids? That’s one more than me! Wow. How’d you do it? I still have to get your book.

  12. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:17 pm #

    Oh God, honey. Miss you so much. The DSM! Haven’t heard that acronym in a while! So I’m sure you’re aware that the new version is coming out soon. Lots of new neurosis that we can self-diagnose with. Oh honey only twin moms can understand what we go through. I truly believe God chooses twin moms because he knows we’re the ones who can handle it. I have to keep telling myself, hey, life only dishes out what it knows you can handle, so even when I don’t think I can do it, or make it, I have to keep telling myself, look, you have up til now, so… keep going forward. Miss you. Miss our coffee runs. xoxoxoxo

  13. Catherine September 4, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    Yeah, lots of tears and crazies as if said. My shout when I pop down to Rome one of these days xx

  14. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:20 pm #

    Wow. From 1977? That makes my heart ache, just imagining the longing that you both must have gone through for so many years. At the same time, it reinforces my believe that when things are meant to be, they happen, across time, across distance, across and above all obstacles! I can’t help it, I’m a romantic at heart. That’s why I get myself wrapped up in so much drama and why I feel like I “fall in love” with a new man every week. Ha ha. Frankly I just love people in general. But I have to give myself the same time and attention that I give to others. Thank you for reading, and thank you for the compliment. I don’t feel like I look incredible but I appreciate you telling me that! I want to accept the beautiful compliment with grace! 🙂

  15. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm #

    Thank you so much! Yes, I love to think of “good crazy” as a gift. Honestly. Life is so unpredictable! We have to rejoice when we can be silly and take life as it comes, without being too serious. Of course see, I am serious as a heart attack and at the same time my heart just longs to be ridiculous all the time and above all, just gets so much joy in making people smile and laugh. I’m happy to be able to share!

  16. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:23 pm #

    Oh, dear friend, you and I don’t get as much time as we deserve. I look back on our days in 2006 and I feel like we’re so much older and wiser now… and with so little time to connect the way we used to. Oh well. “This too shall pass.” I think about you all the time, my dear. I need to come up and spend a weekend with you to recharge my batteries. I know I say it all the time but I mean it. Right now things are so chaotic I feel like I’m a hamster running in a wheel. Sigh.

  17. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Ha! Long time no hear! Lovely girl. I know that’s what always happens. That’s the problem, dontcha know? I have to have everything perfectly planned and tied up with a gorgeous, perfect bow, just the way I want it. Ha! That’s not compatible with “when you least expect it.” Oh, life, life, life! I could use a good dinner at that fun German restaurant right about now. Would LOVE to be back there right now with your mamma and your sis. Honey the kids are sooooo big now. The twins are TALKING and I potty trained them last week. !!!!

  18. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:26 pm #

    Rose I remember you like it was yesterday! I miss having that business. I really miss it. It was so gratifying and so lovely to meet tourists. Sigh. The only thing that’s sure in this life is change itself. I’m learning that if we can’t gracefully adapt to the constant change, we can’t live our lives with grace and patience. Would love to catch up with you over a coffee if/when you’re back in Rome. Hugs to a fellow crazy. We gotta stick together, you know!

  19. Un'americana a Roma September 4, 2012 at 12:27 pm #

    You, my dear, are my rock, my wisdom, my idol. SHAZAM how I love you.

  20. Carole DeSimone September 4, 2012 at 10:25 pm #

    Oh Shelley, I miss you! I still remember meeting you back in ’07 when we stayed in your apartments as if it was yesterday. You have accomplished so much and you’re still so young! Grazie for sharing your life.

  21. Samantha Cibelli (@samanthacibelli) September 5, 2012 at 12:10 am #

    Brava. Brava, brava, brava. E grazie tanto per aver condiviso queste emozioni. E’ apprezzato…

  22. Un'americana a Roma September 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

    Carole! Of course I remember you. What an honor that you still read what I put out there. Big hugs to you! When are you coming back to Rome?

  23. Un'americana a Roma September 11, 2012 at 4:56 pm #

    Grazie mille dal cuore. Non è sempre facile condividere le nostre vulnerabilità, ma mi rendo conto che sono quelle che ci rendono umani e perciò siamo tutti nella stessa bella barca!

  24. Carole DeSimone September 11, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

    I will come back only if I can rent an apartment from you again. My husband and I felt so welcome and comfortable in Trastevere. You made our stay very memorable!
    BTW, ho un figlio che ha 29 anni e abita ancora a casa con noi, lol. (hint, hint) Typical Italian boy.


  1. AcquaMadre Hammam in Rome « - September 22, 2012

    […] lately to learning how to be alone with myself but not lonely. That started in Spoleto (day 1 and day 2) but it’s a continual process that I’m working on. Two steps forward, one step […]

  2. Walking Barefoot in Rome « Un'americana a Roma - January 9, 2013

    […] Anyone remember my Love Letter to Spoleto? It was so gushy it required two parts. […]

  3. How to Bring More Synchronicity Into Your Life | Sparrow Tarot - August 2, 2013

    […] first occurred nearly one full year ago. The long and poetic version of the story can be found here. The short version is that I was taking a weekend away, all by myself, and as this tends to […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: