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Italy

  • I like every single part of Italy, unlike Italians, who only like their part and hate all the rest. They say things like, 'You're going to ... Rome?'

  • The Italians are the most civilized people. And they're very warm. Basically, they're Jews with great architecture.

  • If you read a lot, nothing is as great as you've imagined. Venice is — Venice is better.

  • ... there are two types of the male species of Homo sapiens: men, and Italian men.

  • Who can ever be alone for a moment in Italy? Every stone has a voice, every grain of dust seems instinct with spirit from the Past, every step recalls some line, some legend of long-neglected lore.

  • It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Venice: A City of Love and Death," The New York Times Magazine ()
  • Each artist or writer who works in Venice comes to believe that the city yields its most special secret to him or her alone.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "Venice: A City of Love and Death," The New York Times Magazine ()
  • ... Venice is ever the fragile labyrinth at the edge of the sea and it reminds us how brief and perilous the journeys of our lives are; perhaps that is why we love it so. City of plagues and brief liaisons, city of lingering deaths and incendiary loves, city of chimeras, nightmares, pigeons, bells. You are the only city in the world whose dialect has a word for the shimmer of canal water reflected on the ceiling of a room.

  • It is not surprising that Venice is known above all for mirrors and glass since Venice is the most narcissistic city in the world, the city that celebrates self-mirroring.

  • Perhaps it is because Venice is both liquid and solid, both air and stone, that it somehow combines all the elements crucial to make our imaginations ignite and turn fantasies into realities.

  • Venice, that capital city of dream and intrigue, that double city (one above and seemingly solid, one below, wavering and reflected in the waters), which never disappoints ...

  • From Roman times to the present, Italy has been a country to fall in love with — a tribute to all that is enduring, crazy, pagan, joyous, melancholy, at once banal and divine, in the human spirit.

  • Whenever I go anywhere but Italy for a vacation, I always feel vaguely disappointed, as if I have made a mistake.

    • Erica Jong,
    • "My Italy," What Do Women Want? ()
  • There is no phase of the Italian mind that has not found expression in its music.

  • Rome is an astonishment!

  • Italians do not regard food as merely fuel. They regard it as medicine for the soul, one of life's abiding pleasures.

  • In memory Venice is always magic.

  • Italians' relationship to food is loving, informal, and gay ...

  • Italy offers one the most priceless of all one's possessions — one's own soul.

  • Rome is all things high and low. It is like God, it accommodates so much.

  • If there is one lesson Rome teaches, it is that matter is good; in Rome the holy and the homely rise and converge.

  • One can be tired of Rome after three weeks and feel one has exhausted it; after three months one feels that one has not even scratched the surface of Rome; and after six months one wishes never to leave it.

  • ... the islands of Italy combine all the elements — fire, water, earth, and air — and that is irresistible.

  • I do like Italian graves; they look so much more lived in.

  • Knowledge of Rome must be physical, sweated into the system, worked up into the brain through the thinning shoe-leather. ... When it comes to knowing, the senses are more honest than the intelligence. Nothing is more real than the first wall you lean up against sobbing with exhaustion. Rome no more than beheld (that is, taken in through the eyes only) could still be a masterpiece in cardboard — the eye I suppose being of all the organs the most easily infatuated and then jaded and so tricked. Seeing is pleasure, but not knowledge.

  • History is not a book, arbitrarily divided into chapters, or a drama chopped into separate acts; it has flowed forward. Rome is a continuity, called 'eternal.' What has accumulated in this place acts on everyone, day and night, like an extra climate.

  • Curiosity in Rome is a form of courtesy.

  • To the sun Rome owes its underlying glow, and its air called golden — to me, more the yellow of white wine; like wine it raises agreeability to poetry.

  • ... whenever possible I avoid talking. Reprieve from talking is my idea of a holiday. At risk of seeming unsociable, which I am, I admit I love to be left in a beatific trance, when I am in one. Friendly Romans recognize that wish.

  • No stones are so trite as those of Venice, that is, precisely, so well worn. It has been part museum, part amusement park, living off the entrance fees of tourists, ever since the early eighteenth century, when its former sources of revenue ran dry. ... And there is no use pretending that the tourist Venice is not the real Venice, which is possible with other cities — Rome or Florence or Naples. The tourist Venice is Venice: the gondolas, the sunsets, the changing light, Florian's, Quadri's, Torcello, Harry's Bar, Murano, Burano, the pigeons, the glass beads, the vaporetto. Venice is a folding picture postcard of itself.

  • Venice, as a city, was a foundling, floating upon the waters like Moses in his basket among the bulrushes.

  • ... this is the spirit of the enchantment under which Venice lies, pearly and roseate, like the Sleeping Beauty, changeless throughout the centuries, arrested, while the concrete forest of the modern world grows up around her.

  • Venice is the world's unconscious: a miser's glittering hoard, guarded by a Beast whose eyes are made of white agate, and by a saint who is really a prince who has just slain a dragon.

  • Capri is like a beautiful mother. The water holds you up like a float and is so clear. Capri is the mother we never had, young, beautiful, exotic, accepting and loving arms.

    • Anne Sexton,
    • 1966, in Linda Gray Sexton and Lois Ames, eds., Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters ()
  • Royalty is as common here as ravioli ... Everybody has some title.

  • [On Italy:] ... the country where kindness to strangers is a religion, you can't turn your head without seeing something beautiful, and you can't get a bad meal if you try.

  • Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There's no looking at a building here after seeing Italy.

  • When someone is born, wed or buried, there food will be, giving sustenance, making one feel secure. Food is the vehicle of love that is passed on in an Italian family, generation after generation. It is tradition.

  • Venice astonishes more than it pleases at first sight ...

  • ... in Italy, almost at every step, history and poetry add to the graces of nature, sweeten the memory of the past, and seem to preserve it in eternal youth.

  • [On Italian:] One may almost call it a language that talks of itself, and always seems more witty than its speakers.

  • If one hour's work is enough to govern France, four minutes is all that is needed for Italy. There is no nation more easily frightened; even its poetic imagination predisposes it to fear, and they look upon power as on an image that fills them with terror.

    • Madame de Staël,
    • 1805, in J. Christopher Herold, Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staëâ�° ()
  • City of rest! — as it seems to our modern senses, — how is it possible that so busy, so pitiless and covetous a life as history shows us, should have gone to the making and the fashioning of Venice!

  • [On Italian men:] They feel they're the only men whose pants fit properly.

  • Trieste has the atmosphere of being nowhere more than any place I know.

  • Not all Italian men are handsome, but the percentage is alarmingly high, and their tailors cooperate with nature.

  • ... I was shocked numb to discover that Rome is full of Italians. The Rome I had had in mind was a solemn museum, maintained by just enough native personnel to keep it functioning for the tourist trade.

  • Italians love sun, sin, and spaghetti.

  • I suppose that Italy must always lie like some lovely sunken island at the bottom of all passionate dreams, from which at the flood it may arise; the air of it is charged with subtle essences of romance. One supposes Italy must be organized for the need of lovers.

  • ... the more I see of Italy and her treasures, the more I see paganism in Christianity ...

    • Henrietta Szold,
    • in Ellen M. Umansky and Dianne Ashton, eds., Four Centuries of Jewish Women's Spirituality ()
  • Eating in Italy is essentially a family art, practiced for and by the family. The finest accomplishments of the home cook are not reserved like the good silver and china for special occasions or for impressing guests, but are offered daily for the pleasure and happiness of the family group.

  • Not everyone in Italy may know how to cook, but nearly everyone knows how to eat. Eating in Italy is one more manifestation of the Italian's age-old gift of making art out of life.

  • Nothing significant exists under Italy's sun that is not touched by art. Its food is twice blessed because it is the product of two arts, the art of cooking and the art of eating. While each nourishes the other, they are in no way identical accomplishments. The art of cooking produces the dishes, but it is the art of eating that transforms them into a meal. Through the art of eating, an Italian meal becomes a precisely orchestrated event, when the products of the season, the traditions of place, the intuitions of the cook, and the knowledgeable joy of the participants are combined into one of the most satisfying experiences of which our senses are capable ...

  • ... Italians are never punctual; the café, the convenient place to wait, absolves them from that. There is no question of hanging about, no looking lost and unwanted or even disreputable, as there is in hotel lobbies or the foyers of restaurants. One just sits and enjoys the scene, and waits.

  • Any woman who marries an Italian must accept the undeniable fact that she has also married his mother.

  • I can honestly say that if I was told at this moment that I was dying, not my first, not my second, but certainly my third thought would be that I should never see Italy again.

  • Italy ... has not only more interesting people than almost or perhaps altogether any other country. It has also fewer bores.

  • Italy is a country which is willing to submit itself to the worst governments. It is, as we know, a country ruled by disorder, cynicism, incompetence and confusion. Nevertheless we are aware of intelligence circulating in the streets like a vivid bloodstream.

  • I can never understand how one can get accustomed to Italy. For me it is always a fresh surprise, which catches at my heart.

    • Elsa Dallolio,
    • in Iris Origo, Images and Shadows: Part of a Life ()
  • The interactions of business and culture, one upon the other, form one of the least explored phases of history. For such a study, no city would appear better fixed than Florence, so richly dowered with both economic and spiritual vitality.

  • Whoever said you can't go home again wasn't Italian.

  • More and more, I am beginning to understand why every one who has ever accomplished anything really great and truly beautiful in the past has come to Italy — have lived here and stayed here until some of its imprint has enriched their souls.

  • The more I see of Italy, the more I adore the Italians. They have so much heart, so much cheerfulness and gaiety, so much good humor. And the way they sing! Every now and then, when a silence falls in the streets, it is broken by some sudden singing voice, with a mellowness and a sweetness that makes you thrill.

  • Nobody with a dream should come to Italy. No matter how dead and buried the dream is thought to be, in Italy it will rise and walk again.

  • Rome's riches are in too immediate juxtaposition. Under the lid of awful August heat, one moves dizzily from church to palace to fountain to ruin, a single fly at a banquet, not knowing where to light.

  • How is the newcomer to deal with Rome? What is one to make of this marble rubble, this milk of wolves, this blood of Caesars, this sunrise of Renaissance, this baroquery of blown stone, this warm hive of Italians, this antipasto of civilization?

  • Organised brigandage has ceased to exist, but murder and highway robbery are still far too common in the less frequented districts. Travellers rarely suffer to-day, however. It is the wealthy inhabitants who run risks at the hand of the mafia, or lawless Sicilian.

  • In days of yore there were kings of 'the two Sicilies.' In these days there are still two Sicilies, but they are the Sicily of Comfort, and the Sicily of Discomfort.

  • No Southern people ever seem to possess the energy of their Northern brothers, and in Sicily a dolce far niente life is much enjoyed. Time is no object. According to Pliny, Aristhomacus watched the life of the bee carefully for fifty-eight years, which is just the sort of work a Sicilian of to-day would like.

  • The undulent landscape looks serene in every direction. Honey-colored farmhouses, gently placed in hollows, rise like thick loaves of bread set out to cool.

  • Home of the arts!

    • Felicia Hemans,
    • "The Restoration of the Works of Art to Italy," The Poetical Works of Felicia Dorothea Hemans ()
  • To live opposite Etna, the highest, most active volcano in Europe is indeed a privilege. A queen and a spitfire, I feel she is essentially feminine. The exquisite, snow-covered mountain rising out of the clouds, seemingly so remote and unearthly, can suddenly be transformed into a menacing monster, hurling fire and rocks thousands of metres into the sky, followed by a great river of molten, flaming lava, kilometres long, slashing the mountain in two.

  • ... Florence — the city of tranquillity made manifest ...