I spent the first two decades of my life patiently waiting for some sort of “total emancipation”; I always thought that freedom needed to be earned with age, and that once it happened I would finally find myself living the life I wanted. In the end, I believe only a few things are as pleasurable and powerful in life as being able to make decisions for yourself.
I found true freedom on the day I met my wife, Debi, about 13 years ago. I decided to follow her to Los Angeles, clearly inspired and motivated to build a family and grow old with her by my side. Always an incredible romantic, I made that decision impulsively. There were no questions or doubts in my mind, and it took me less than a month to leave everything behind and move to the U.S. It was a very happy decision: “I have finally found THE LOVE! I can feel it in each and every fiber of my body. THIS IS THE ONE!” I told myself, and my mom and the rest of my family, and all my friends.
I never imagined (or maybe I subconsciously tried not to think of) the subtle, hideous, lingering nostalgia that I would have to carry with me every day from that moment on: how much I miss my land, my family and my friends. Now that I have built my very own family here in America, these feelings come and go, but they never abandon me. It’s like talking about weather when you live on the East Coast; you just do it, daily!
That is why every time I go back home with my girls, I always try to do something special for my Nonna Lola, who cared for me and inspired me throughout my youth … because I miss her terribly and I constantly try not to think how life will be the day she will pass (not a good thought, just naturally human!). This year she has turned 91 years old, and she is still sharp enough to engage in great conversations and still cooks herself each meal of the day. As usual, this year I skipped her birthday, as my girls were in school and we could not travel, but as we always do when we arrive home in Fiesole, we made sure to celebrate and make up for the lost time, obviously with good peasant food and farmer’s wine.
Tonight’s episode is about love and nostalgia. It is dedicated to anyone who lives away from home. This episode, I hope, will make you grab your phone and tell everybody you love that, in fact, you do love them … and that you wish you were there with them, sitting around the dinner table, sharing a simple meal.
Tune in to Extra Virgin tonight at 8pm ET to watch Debi and Gabriele thrown Nonna a birthday she’ll never forget.