I love this word. Thank you!!!

I have always had this dis-ease. Less now than in earlier years, but still. It’s funny how small we think the world is when we’re young and overcome with “fernweh.” We learn when we’re older what an immense thing it is, how complex and intricate, how lovely, intoxicating and scary.

Here’s the thing about fernweh. We might have ideas about where we long to go, but when we GET there the places are always three dimensional. I think there are as many wandering styles as there are people. I’ve been lucky to have had a Swiss/Italian family of my own for a while. It’s a long probably fascinating story how that happened, but what a wonder and gift it was, has been to me. It was during that time of my life that I learned that I like BEING in a place long enough or often enough that it becomes more than a dot on a map to me. I think, in a way, I haven’t traveled around; I’ve traveled into.

The other evening I was talking to a friend about the opera. I was rhapsodizing about attending the opera in the Arena in Verona back in 2004. The Arena is a Roman amphitheater and as I talked to my friend I heard myself yearning to BE there.

We talked about the difference between opera in Italy and in the United States. I’d told him that I’d thought of going to the Santa Fe Opera (2 hours away!) which is a world class opera, but when I priced out everything it was almost the same as traveling to Verona to go to the opera.

“You know why? Because here the opera is only for fancy, snotty rich people. In Italy it’s part of life.”

I agreed. I cherish the image of sitting on the sun-warmed marble seats of the Arena waiting for Madame Butterfly to begin. Everyone around us was talking laughing, some had brought a picnic supper. It was the most wonderful atmosphere. And those magical seats were only something like $6.

It was the second opera I’d attended in the Arena. The first was Aida which Verdi first performed in the Arena. I bought fancy close-in seats with backs and arms. It was OK, but NOTHING compared to those marble seats that had held Roman asses. At the end of the Madame Butterfly, a storm came up and we had to leave. Part of the experience was hurrying down the stone steps in the dark, tunnel-like stairwells down which Romans had poured in their time.

Since then, they’ve built a cover for the Arena so people aren’t chased out by rain. Personally, I think that’s a pity.

Once outside, having said “Ciao!” to my schoolmates (it was my last night in Verona and this had been kind of a party), I turned toward home, an apartment on the other side of the Adige. I walked up the hill to the bridge. the river was lined with Linden trees all in bloom. I stood on the bridge watching the river, immersed in the fragrance of the trees, knowing that I would always remember being chased out of the Arena by rain and ending up alone watching rain hit the Adige.

No tourist guide anywhere mentions anything like that.


11 thoughts on “Fernweh!!!

  1. Wow! Fabulous experience….fernweh, not about travel notches in the belt, but about the experience, not always knowing, but experiencing some pleasant surprises along the way….

  2. I saw Madame Butterfly in Caracalla in Rome. It is an open air theatre and an experience never to forget. It is the famous opera place where the three tenors sang.However I must say Madame Butterfly is not my favourite, too many high pitched voices, I am more a Verdi fan. I never got to Verona, but I am sure it was an experience never to forget.

  3. Well, this was a new word to me. You have illustrated its meaning in so many layers – what a precious memory. Love the photo too :). I have never been to the opera and it sounds like I missed a really cool experience. The outside theater – with its history – wow!

    • Opera is great. But my friend is right; it’s not exactly “fun” in the United States. But really they’re just very simple stories, totally popular literature. I like opera very much.

  4. “In Italy it’s part of life.”

    That’s why I love shopping for wine with friends in France and Italy. You look for good wines at the lowest prices that you can because you would want to drink it again and again, with family, with friends …

    • I get that! I came back from Verona with a taste for Valpolicello (sp). My time there was strange because I was studying Italian and my schoolmates didn’t like me (at first) because my Italian was so bad. BUT that didn’t stop me. I’d been in Italy before, and “belonged” to an Italian family in Zurich so it was kind of like, “Finally I get to experience this and see what Goethe saw.” I had a few solitary meals with prosciutto e melon, pizza and wine and it was fantastic. Then a British woman decided I was OK and that made things a lot more fun. So that wine is not just really good on its own but it’s the Piazza Erbe, my first site of the Arena (at a restaurant named Martino e Michele — coincidentally the main characters in my first novel), but friendship.

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