I’ve joined the Blogging Piemonte group after being invited by Diana of The Entire Pizza and I’ve already met a small group of friendly bloggers who live in the Torino area and write about their experiences with the region and its food and drink. We’ll write on a common topic every month and the first topic is “authenticity”. I’m looking forward to seeing how we approached this topic in different ways. Links to the group’s posts are at the bottom of the page. Follow along with the hashtag #BlogPiemonte.
Authenticity. The truth is, I struggled when I heard this topic. Authenticity seems like a popular word people are throwing around these days, but what is authenticity anyway? And what am I supposed to say, something profound about “real” Italian life? What seems obvious to me is the question, isn’t everything authentic just because it exists?
When I started thinking about the topic of authenticty, the first thing that came to mind was, how can I live an authentic life in Italy? When I first came to Italy, I thought that in order to have an authentic expeirence here, I had to try to be as Italian as possible.
I worked hard on that. I studied Italian and insisted on speaking Italian with everyone I could, even if they knew English. I only read Italian books and tried to make the best of my immersion experience to learn about Italian culture. I came to Italy for fun, not for a reason like work or a relationship, and so I did this because it really interested me and I enjoyed it. At the same time, I hoped I wouldn’t stick out in Italy like a sore foreign thumb.
During my first year in Italy when I was traveling in the south, I had a short conversation with a man at a water fountain and he asked me if I was from up north. Yes! I thought. The ultimate compliment… passing for a native.
I’m now living a regular life here. I speak the language, I have Italian friends, I work and go about my daily business, and I’ve adjusted my schedule to the Italian way of doing things.
I like learning what makes Italian people tick, and I’ve naturally adopted many Italian habits and customs myself, which I think is crucial in order to have a good experience living in a foreign country. My ways of thinking and seeing the world have changed, and I have a more open mind.
I’m even Italian-American; my blood is 7/8th red, green and white and I have an Italian passport to prove it.
Despite that, I’ll never be a “real” Italian. My accent, for example, has definitely improved since I first started learning the language, but it’s also definitely still there. And I still do strange things that raise Italian people’s eyebrows. More importantly, nothing replaces being born and raised here.
Even though I have changed a lot since coming here, I still do many things differently from the general Italian way of doing things, and that’s because I grew up and lived somewhere else.
People will never forget that I’m a foreigner, but it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
I eventually came to a new place where I relaxed and embraced my origins more. Instead of only speaking and reading in Italian, I now like to speak and read in English too and have a chance to not think so much about it. I used to try to only spend time with Italian people to soak up as much as I can, but now I like to meet people from America and different countries, and I like the familiar feeling of talking to another American with whom I have experiences in common.
I don’t have to try to be Italian, which I think would be un-authentic anway. My individuality is what’s authentic about me.
I’ve found a personal meeting place between adopting new habits and keeping old ones, between embracing new things and remembering where I came from. That’s an authentic life in Italy to me. Just being me.
It would be boring if we were all the same. That leads me to another question: what is authentic in Italy anyway? There are so many different kinds of people in the country.
For one, Italy has attracted foreigners for a long time. My story is nothing new. And there are currently a whole lot of us here. I’m sure many Italians would not agree with me, and others would, that authentic Italy is a reality that contains may kinds of people, including foreigners.
Italians themselves are diverse and famous for not being unified as a country but being loyal to their region, city, or soccer team.
Authenticity is difficult to define. I gave up chasing an authentic Italian life, but I found an authentic life in Italy.
Read up on what the others have to say about authenticity (check later in the day if they’re not up yet):
Eptrad: “That’s an Authentic Start!”
Turin Epicurean Capital: “Living Turin style”
Turin Mamma: “Why I Draw the Line at Using the Word “Authentic””
The Entire Pizza: “Forced to Live Authentically in Piemonte”
Wine & Truffles: “Authentic Living in the Alta Langa”
Living in the Langhe: “How to Become Authentically Piemontese in 5 Easy Steps”
Texas Mom in Torino: “Authenticity: The evolution of this Texas mom to an Italian mamma”
Simply Italiana: “Finding Authenticity as a Foreigner in Italy”
ItaliAnna: “Piemonte = Authenticity”
Bailey Alexander: “Save Yourself by Saving the Planet: the real benefits of growing a garden”