The back of my house rests on Vico Fiore, loosely Flower Street, and so all the houses have (informally) been given flowery names. Mine is “Casa delle Violette,” or the House of Violets.
I’ve always loved violets and my favorite color is purple, but that’s certainly not what sold me on the house and living in Italy. Didn’t hurt though either.
I’m a believer in fate and destiny and all that stuff, and although I’m not one to wait for Signs From Above before I make a big decision, I do keep my eyes open for little clues that tell me I’m on the right (or wrong) track.
Looking back, it seems my path to Italy was, and is, paved in violets.
I came to Italy for the first time in the summer of 2002, eight months after the death of my Italian- American grandmother. Born in America to Italian immigrants, she had never even visited, and at that time, I was reaching deeper into our family’s history than anyone ever had.
And so, when I stumbled upon a falling down mess optimistically called the House of Violets in my family’s ancestral village, I was obliged to take a second look.
Anyone who knew her knew that my grandmother’s favorite color had been purple, which dotted her house even though the rest of the color scheme was firmly 1970s browns and rusts. I even wore a deep purple suit to her funeral because it had been her favorite of all my dreary lawyer-wear.
I had developed quite a fondness for the color over the years myself, going from my favorite pink as a little girl to blue as a young adult and now settling on a color that combined them–purple is as calming, solid, and safe as blue but mixes in pink’s playfulness and innocence.
After seeing the house the first time, I went back to where I was staying to record the day’s events in the journal my friend had given me before the trip. I laughed to myself as I saw what graced the textured lavender cover: a lone violet protected by a clear plastic, raised box.
So as the trip went on, I started to imagine what life might be like in a southern Italian village. I didn’t have very much time there on that trip, so I knew I’d have to return. And I did a few times before making the big move, which, to be clear, was not so big in my mind at the time–I was planning on a couple years tops.
But through all the thinking and evaluating, another incident stuck in mind. Upon returning from that first trip, I lugged my bags upstairs to my bedroom in my Philadelphia apartment. While I was gone, a friend took care of my cat and plants–yes, I’m anal enough that I drew a map of all the plants and a chart of watering frequency (thanks Sue!). All still alive downstairs (including Kudzu kitty), the last plant left for me to check up on was the one on my nightstand–my prized collection of African violets.
Well, to be honest, it was a collection of African violet leaves. Three Easters before, my Mom had gotten me three of them planted together in a flat, white basket. There were lots of pink and purple flowers when I got them, and although I had kept the leaves green and furry for years, I hadn’t seen a flower again after I snapped off the last dying one from its original bloom.
But there, upon returning from my first trip to Italy, with thoughts of transferring my life overseas floating around my mind, wouldn’t you know it? Three deep purple violets had bloomed in my absence.
The House of Violets.
Three rooms. Three flowers. Alrighty then. So here I am, probably pushed by violets (better than pushing *up* violets, eh?). And after living here for about a year and a half, I met P.
And just in case I was beginning to wonder whether life in Calabria is for me, whether I should be trying to talk P into moving to the States, a few months ago, P’s mom gave me…yeah, this is getting weird isn’t it? I saw the furry leaves one day at her house, and she told me that although the plant had flowers originally, it hadn’t bloomed since. So she passed it to me. I think the violets are happy here.
And for those who can’t get enough of this: the African violet is of the genus Saintpaulia. My grandmother’s name was Paulina. And a clever reader might take a stab on what follows the P in P’s name.