Soul-Searching And Surrender: Romantic Adventures In Italy

by Chris Marsala

Imagine someone were to tell you that you were to embark on the travel journey of a lifetime, and that there was so much opportunity and excitement for you to enjoy. You would be surrounded by strange new faces and the melodic flow of a new language. You would taste cuisine that you had only dreamed of tasting, and see vistas that could only be imagined and realized through direct experience. The only catch? Your life, as you know it, would be forever changed.

Would you still dive right in?

But my my MY, where are my manners? Allow me to introduce myself! I’m Chris, an aspiring singer/performer, writer, entrepreneur, and dreamer. I’m obsessed with human sexuality, Nutella, and hashtags (#ItsTheTruth). With regards to my native roots, I’m American and come from Connecticut, but I’ve never really experienced love or too much adventure outside of my small town. But now, I’m experiencing the thrill of a lifetime studying abroad at Florence University of the Arts, and I’m opening myself up to see what I can learn about life and love…in Italy.

Ah, Italia. Romantic country of love, art, passion, and carefree dolce far niente—which, literally translated means, “sweet doing nothing.” Honestly, my life in Florence so far has been more like “sweet doing everything.” From viewing the marvelous artistic masterpieces in The Uffizi and Academy Galleries to admiring the sunlight dappling the waters of the Arno River, there have already been many magnificent moments for me in my home country. (By the way, it’s true that David is a divine beauty with a rockin’ ass; I’ve seen it firsthand and have no complaints, Michelangelo.) The Italian cuisine, with all its gelato, pizza, pasta, cheeses, and breads have provided me with delicious gastronomical expansion. And don’t even get me started on the idyllic, magical Tuscan olive groves and beaches that enrich the natural beauty of il bel paese, the beautiful country that is, indeed, Italy.

There’s one dimension of my experience abroad that I am deeply passionate about fulfilling: falling in love and making a soulful cross-cultural connection. In the arena of amore, I have to admit that I’m young, inexperienced, and don’t have a clue on how to “search” for my dream boyfriend. If anything, I’ve felt that the more I actively search and pursue, it becomes less of an exciting chase and more of a stressful task. Not sexy in the slightest. But at the same time, doing nothing is a gigantic challenge for me, especially when it comes to finding a gay male partner. Personally, I become anxious if I’m not “doing” because it’s my modus operandi in not only the dating world, but my everyday life. And, if I’m being honest with myself, this is the first time that I’m truly opening up to the gay dating scene and taking risks on love.

"The truth is that one of the reasons it’s taken awhile for me to find love is a very complex yet simple core belief of mine: I’m afraid of men. "

Growing up, I learned so much from the gorgeous, loving women in my life, particularly my crazy, magical and heaven-sent mother. I intuitively possessed this ability to deeply feel my emotions and sensitivities to life, and it’s been a quality that I’ve cultivated in all my meaningful relationships…at least, with other women. Never before have I worked on engaging this empathic quality with other men, and it frightens me to think about inviting another man into my heart, let alone sharing the deepest parts of who I am with one. Men, after all, are those creatures who—according to many social dictates and norms—are not exactly crazy about “opening up” and sharing their heart. And yet, how ironic is it that the masculinity which I fear so much is the same one that I’m craving to connect with? Therein lies the Catch-22: a deep desire to merge with man, but an even deeper resistance to revealing myself and being vulnerable…even if he’s “The One.”

My friends and family, in their efforts to console me in my quest for love, tell me that when I’m least expecting it to occur, love will show up for me. Not gonna lie: I’ve gotten absolutely pissed over that advice at times. How do you know for sure that’s how love will turn out for ME? My belief has always been that the real work for achieving anything worthwhile in life is going after what you desire and making it happen yourself.

That is, until recently.

To better illustrate my loved ones’ advice—and also because I couldn’t resist throwing in a quote from the movie Under The Tuscan Sun—I am reminded of the vivacious and ever-so sagacious Katherine who manages to enchant every person she encounters throughout the movie. In one particular scene, she tells a story to the main character, Frances:

“Listen, when I was a little girl I used to spend hours looking for ladybugs. Finally, I'd just give up and fall asleep in the grass. When I woke up, they were crawling all over me.”

It’d be easy for me to read that quote and think that if I would just fall asleep in the grass, then Mr. Dream Dude would stroll along, wake me up, and kiss me on the lips. In a way, that could plausibly happen in the fields of Tuscany and I am totally open to that play-by-play. However, what’s so revelatory about Katherine’s quip is that once she released and surrendered her desire to find what she was looking for, THAT was the exact moment the ladybugs decided to show up in her life. You gotta love Katherine, right?

Surrendering to the Universe and allowing life to “flow” isn’t always one of my stronger points. So far, I’ve done my very best to experience gay nightlife in Florence and meet many new friends by widening my social circle. I even mustered up the courage to buy a drink for a guy named David at a local bar (talk about synchronicity, right?)! Even in my ambitious attempts to use a goal-oriented strategy to get Mr. Dream Dude to come walking up to me, I kept having a nagging feeling that I wasn’t quite in tune with my romantic search. I was right. Even though I don’t have a clue about the sequence of events that will shape my search for love—and rest assured, I’ve been an anxious bundle of nerves lately—I’m now open to consciously relaxing into the experience of love and trust that when it’s time for me to meet that special someone, it’s going to be divine timing. And, as young and restless as I can be, I’d rather meet a potential male lover when the stars are aligned and the moment is just right!

Before I sign off with hugs, kisses, and Cupid’s arrows, I will share that I believe I’ve encountered a “possibility.” I won’t say too much because I’d rather see what life has in store for me…but I will say that he’s fluent in Italian! Regardless of whether this is Mr. Dream Dude or a stepping stone along the way, I’m willing to see what influence this country and its people, internationally renowned for their amorous affairs, will have on my romantic experiences. Here’s to a dazzling adventure of the heart and soul.