How Andrea Bocelli Helped Me Fall Back In Love

I don’t know if any of you picked up the vibe in some of my posts, but I wasn’t progressing very well with my Italian. Not through lack of effort, not through lack of knowledge but due to fear and nerves. People would speak to me, the words would float into and around my face but the forcefield of nerves surrounding it wouldn’t let anything penetrate. I heard words I knew in rapid succession – “stata, subito, sotto, fu, neanche, comunque, finche, cinquanta…” – and I wouldn’t, for the life of me, be able to piece together any meaning from what I was hearing nor translate the words quickly enough to then formulate responses. Beyond anyone’s wildest imaginings, I had been struck dumb. I found I was just watching people’s faces silently, hoping I could get away soon. I had turned into a right scaredy cat, often just burrowing down at home, madly trying to study and thinking that more knowledge was the key to success.

I liked the Italian language, I had moved to Italy to improve it so of course I knew I liked it. But I wanted to do so well that my frustrations at not being completely fluent yet had rendered me speechless and annoyed. I wasn’t allowing for the inbetween period, where you have to spend a fair amount of time trying, getting things wrong and learning.

Then, a few days before Christmas, I stumbled across a song called Perfect, by Ed Sheeran and Andrea Bocelli. Now I’m a bit of an Ed fan and hadn’t really paid attention to what was playing so I was singing along because I know the version with just Ed, when this beautiful, authoritative voice burst onto the scene, declaring that I was his woman.

“Sei la mia donna!”

If you haven’t already, go and listen to the song and brace yourself for the point, mid-song, when everything changes to Italian and Andrea Bocelli sings this first line. It is stirring. It makes me want to stand up and sing on a stage.

On he goes, “La forza delle onde del mare” – the strength of the waves of the sea.

“Cogli i miei sogni, i miei segreti, molto di piu” – take my dreams, my secrets and more.

I was in my room, getting ready to go somewhere and I just sat on the bed and let these beautiful words float over me. One of my favourite words in the Italian language was discovered in this moment – “sussurando” – which means, whispering. All plans went out of the window as I googled the lyrics and played the song over and over again, trying to learn the words. For the next 24 hours, I listened to it whenever I could. In the shower, in the morning, while walking somewhere, before bed and by the time two days had passed, I knew all the words, was obsessed with the song, was in love with Andrea Bocelli and was learning new Italian words.

I realised that this is how it had felt when I first holidayed in Italy and overheard Italians speaking. I loved the obsessive use of vowels, how 99% of words end in an ‘o’ or an ‘a’ or an ‘i’, I loved the musicality of the language, how it rose and fell, how some words were clipped, creating a sort of mid-word pause with the double letters, as in, ‘capello’ and some were no-nonsense and commanding, as in ‘cio’. I love the immediacy of the language, how two of the most common ways to greet another person are with ‘pronto’ on the phone, which literally means ‘ready’, and with ‘dimmi’ in a shop, which means ‘tell me’. I love how the ‘ci’ sound is like an English ‘ch’ and how it gives such character to a word when it makes an appearance – in ‘cucina’ (kitchen), for example, or ‘decidere’ (to decide). I love learning how to roll an ‘r’, such an alien concept for an English speaker and a bit of a tongue twister when faced with two, as in ‘correre’ (to run). I love how the ‘g’ sometimes takes centre stage, as in Caravaggio, but sometimes hides away, distorting other letters near it. When a ‘g’ comes before an ‘n’ or an ‘l’ it is silent, but it is not actually silent. It gives the other letter a sort of ‘y’ sound to it that I am yet to master. I’m always wandering around the house muttering the words ‘gli’ and ‘li’ to myself and trying to make them sound different.

I loved all of those things when I first listened dreamily to Italian speakers and I held onto it until I got here in November. Six weeks after arriving, however, after finally living out my dream, I was silent. I wasn’t speaking, I wasn’t practising, I was annoyed at myself.

Then Andrea Bocelli played and I remembered those things. I remembered how even the simplest ordinary word can have an inherent beauty to it (‘cetriolo’ is one of my favourite words to say and simply means, cucumber). I remembered how certain ideas expressed in Italian lose their magic when translated – ‘inside our music’ is a woefully inadequate way to communicate the loveliness of ‘dentro la nostra musica’.

In essence, I remembered why I had moved to Italy. Thanks, Andrea.

2 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Gary on January 25, 2018 at 23:25

    I love that you have favourite words in other languages…I have that too! My italian one is pipistrello!


  2. Glad you are back to finding your way. Just let go and remember that all is perfect and that you deserve and have everything you need. Enjoy life.


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