Here we go:
99 reasons to love Italy (in no particular order)
1. Coffee, from espresso to caffe latte. No other country does it better.
2. Ape, gorgeous little scooter-van-thingys, top of my wish list.
3. Vespas, in all their wonderful retro colours.
4. Opera under the stars on a balmy summer evening.
5. Perugino - our local hero.
7. Bruschetta - 101 delicious things you can do with a bit of stale bread.
8. Bar culture; the smell, the coffee paraphernalia, the old boys hanging out in the corner...
9. The Renaissance, an intoxicating mix of art and intrigue.
10. Florence. The glorious epicentre of the Rennaisance.
11. Aperitivo. Yes please and, although the Italians favour Campari, mine's an Aperol Spritz!
12. Sense of family; love, humour and pride bound together by blood, it’s a passionate combo.
13. Il Palio, the whole ‘contrade’ thing.
14. Olive oil, the peppery tang of the first pressing, grassy and green.
15. Sicily - beautiful and dangerous.
16. Markets - from bread to bras to broken chairs, everything under the sun.
17. Jovanotti, making beards look good.
18. Shoes and boots, not cheap, but oh so very lovely!
19. Passeggiata. Got the shoes, now walk the walk.
20. A Lagotto Romagnolo, more than just a dog...
21. The Medici, a bloody history of power, money, and art. These boys bank-rolled the Renaissance.
22. Parmigiano, the king of Italian cheese, intense and crumbling
23. Sex appeal, lets face it, most Italians have some.
24. Rome, home of Il Papa, the Colosseum and all-round shopping heaven.
25. Driving, face the fear!
26. Pasta, one of the world’s greatest carbohydrates.
27. The Crete Senese, a hauntingly beautiful landscape.
28. Wine, sniff it, sip it and swallow it. Italy gives great wine.
29. Mozzarella; drippingly fresh, clean and lactic. Lose your heart to this subtle cheese.
30. Sunflowers, a bit naff, but everyone loves them.
31. Siena, it’s all about Il Campo, which is perhaps the loveliest Italian piazza I have ever seen.
32. The porchetta van, you haven’t lived until you’ve eaten a porchetta panino. The savoury highlight of every market place. Just remember to wipe your chin...
33. Language, “Ciao bella!”, what’s not to love?
34. Roadside Madonnas, they're everywhere; forgiving and serene.
35. Venice; the Grand canal, St Marks Square, the faded, shabby splendour - unforgettable.
36. Salsicce, the Italians know how to make a mighty fine sausage.
37. Italian nonnas; slow moving and dressed in black, God bless them all.
38. Amici, great reality TV, Italian style.
39. Dylan Dog, he just gets sexier. (It’s a comic)
40. Umbrella pines
41. Arezzo. The antiques market, Casa Vasari, Piero della Francesca’s ‘Legend of the True Cross’ fresco cycle and a Cimabue cross, make this laid back town perfetto.
42. Baci, Perugia’s little chocolate and hazelnut kisses.
43. Buh! An expression that defies translation and yet somehow seems fitting for almost every occasion.
44. Fiat cinquecento, in all it’s wonderful retro colours, top of marito’s wish list.
45. Naples, the dark heart of Italy.
46. Befana. Will she bring you sweets or coal? You’ve gotta love the Christmas witch.
47. Rolling wheat fields, changing with the light, a magical part of the landscape.
48. Pizza, peasant food made good, one of Italy’s finest exports.
49. Niccolo Ammaniti’s ‘I’m not Scared’ a great read.
50. Olive trees.
51. More gelato.
52. Elena Ferrante ‘Days of Abandonment’ another good read.
53. Siesta, everything stops from 1pm to 4pm, why fight it?
54. Body language; the shrugs, the gestures, the facial expressions, my children use them all!
55. Free food, the funghi, the truffles (I wish!), the wild herbs and salads, it’s a foragers paradise.
56. Fashionista, they are out there somewhere, though maybe not in Chiusi.
57. Churches, dimly lit, smelling of candle wax and polish.
58. Ferragosto, everything stops for the whole month of August, why fight it?
59. Tans. After April, somehow, everyone has one.
60. Italian beach culture, the kiosks, the loungers, the tightly fitting speedos...
61. Risotto, the ultimate comfort food. Even the ritual of stirring and pouring can soothe a savage soul.
62. Northern Italy, Liguria and Piemonte, the coast, the mountains, the polenta.
63. White roads, often unmarked, dusty and rutted, seemingly leading nowhere.
64. Ciambelle, (doughnuts), let’s not go there.
65. The men in tights, the processions and pageantry, the painstakingly made Renaissance costumes.
66. The mists in the valleys and the hilltop towns of Tuscany and Umbria.
67. The seasons, each very different, defined and extreme.
68. Frescoes. Yes, all of them.
69. Acqua Frizzante
70. Panettone, the gaudily packaged traditional Christmas cake. Vanilla scented and sweetly risen, these cakes are highly addictive and all too often on special offer way into the New Year!
71. Carnevale, the masks, the streamers. Oh come on, it’s a holiday!
72. “Permesso?” No Italian would ever cross your threshold without first uttering this word.
73. Architecture, apart from a bleak post war period lasting well into the 1970’s, Italian architecture is pretty damn fine.
74. Pecorino, a great cheese made from sheep’s milk. Sold here in many guises from young and wet, like a sharp tasting mozzarella, to mature and granular rather like a parmesan. Delicious, eaten with pears or fresh figs.
75. Pigs, what the Italians can’t do with pork is not worth knowing, think proscuitto, pancetta, speck, salami, salsicce (I know, we’ve been there already!)
76. The smell of wood smoke in winter.
77. Roberto Saviano's ‘Gomorrah’ This book is both brilliant and terrifying in any language.
78. Sweet wine, Vin Santo, luscious and golden for dipping biscotti, and Marsala, the cook’s quick fix, for transforming pan-fried chicken or pork into something sublime.
79. The Equestrian Portrait of Guidoriccio da Fogliano, attributed by some to Simone Martini. This portrait of a knight setting forth from his battle camp to besiege a walled hill town is stunning, no matter who it’s by. It can be seen in the Palazzo Pubblico in Siena, and is one of my very favourite paintings.
80. An almost neverending 3 months off school for the summer holidays, according to my children it’s the very best thing about Italy, personally I’m not so sure.
81. Gennaro Gattuso, I just slipped him in for marito.
82. Pesto. Whoever first dreamt up this fragrant sauce was a culinary genius.
83. Gorgonzola, love it, love it, love it.
84. Ricotta, Mascarpone, Fontina, OK, OK, I just love cheese.
85. Taking the waters, a national pastime, those thermal spas are oh soooo good.
86. Riccardo Scamarcio, an Italian actor who is heartbreakingly gorgeous.
87. The tiny green lizards, I don’t know their proper name, but I love the way they smile and keep me company when I’m sitting on the steps.
88. Francesco Totti, making the beautiful game beautiful, apparently.
89. Piero della Francesca’s overwhelming fresco, the ‘Madonna del Parto’ located in the tiny village of Monterchi, near Arezzo. It is the only depiction of the pregnant Madonna in Renaissance art.
90. Cypress trees.
the 15th century mad monk of Florence, adversary to the Medici and
instigator of the purging frenzy that culminated in the colossal
‘Bonfire of the Vanities’. Some people just make great history.
92. Long lunches in a shady piazza.
93. The hot resinous smell of summer.
94. Tiziano Ferro, bellissimo.
95. Biscotti, dry and nutty Cantuccini for dipping, or sweet and squidgy Ricciarelli for pure indulgence, the Italians do make great biscotti.
96. Le Marche, Abruzzo, Calabria, all places I haven’t been to yet but have heard so much about that I just can’t wait to visit.
97. Regional food passion. In what other country would a group of grown men stand around naked in the football changing room discussing the merits of mozzarella? Thank you, marito, for that insight.
98. “Dai”, that a word so short can be so full of meaning, moaning and pleading is quite amazing.
99. Prosecco, fizzy and frivolous, the Italian answer to Champagne.
Phew! I think I need one!
I’m sure there are many, many more. After all, these are just my reasons based on the Italy that I know so, whether you agree or disagree, please feel free to add a few of your own in the comments. As for number 100 well, I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait…