Dream of Italy

Kathy McCabe, for so many years, had wanted to publish a crowd-sourced issue of “Dream of Italy” where she asked her readers to share their favorite people, places and experiences in Italy. Of course this was a great opportunity for us to enter, and with so many wonderful places we could talk about, we chose my husband’s home town, Udine. She chose two dozen in this special issue including my husband’s article: “An Understated Jewel: Udine and its Piazza Della Libertà”

My husband, Manlio, was born and raised in Udine, in the region of Friuli-Venezia Giulia. This is also where I met him for the first time, while visiting a friend, on my way to Spain for my vacation, in 1997.

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Manlio with our dog Matix/Photo Audrey De Monte

Here is the article:

It will always be home. As I slowly walk up Via Manin, crossing under the historic arched gate, the industrious and quaint store-fronts secretly witnessing my eagerness to feel, breathe and love this city, one more time, escort me towards the heart of town, il “Cuore di Udine” as it’s commonly referred to by those, like me, who were born and raised here.

The cadence of my steps bounces back to me, as the quiet cobblestones reflect the heat of a hot summer Sunday. I take it all in, because this is all I’ve got, a handful of precious moments before I fly back to California, my other home.

As I move towards the intersection of Via Vittorio Veneto, I can hear the clanking sounds of coffee cups and saucers coming from the “Bar Cotterli”, one of the iconic locals in my hometown, and the discreet chattering of a smartly dressed older couple; they meet my approach with a peculiar gaze, almost to gauge my very right to be there. As I say “Buongiorno” to them, they immediately retort with a courteous bowing of their head, reminiscent of Teutonic stern, yet noble, ways.

My town is like that: perhaps chilly on the surface, somewhat old-fashioned but unquestionably elegant, it still demands and commands etiquette. To some, this may and will have the uneasy glimpse of pride, yet it does hide the strong and resolute fibers of a city as fruitful and productive as it can be cold and severe.

Two young lovers sit on the steps besides the gleaming water splashes from the round, Renaissance-built, “Fontana del Carrara”. They appear totally oblivious, almost jaded, their romance framed in what is arguably, one of the most beautiful piazzas in the whole of Italy, a distinct corner of Venice away from the now eerily silent canals.

Piazza Della Libertà, once known among the locals also as “Piazza Vittorio”, in deference to the “Padre della Patria”, King Vittorio Emanuele the Second, curiously the…first Sovereign of a united Italy. His imposing monument, once a proud centerpiece of this magnificent square, is now tucked away in the nearby, verdant, Giardini Ricasoli, itself a victim of the post-world war two restoration, determined to do away with everything even remotely tied to the Monarchy that built, and united, this Country.

I climb the steps to the main cobblestone “terrapieno”, almost a ritual. My heart pounds as my mind goes back to when a young boy, hand in hand with his parents, marveled at the site of the beautiful clock tower. My father, telling me about the imposing statues of Ercole and Caco, better known to us, Friulani, as “Florean and Venturin” hinted to a past that, to me, seemed ages away. Yet, not long ago, this very Piazza had witnessed Napoleonic decrees, disastrous defeats and joyful times of resurgence. It is and always will be, my very personal Piazza. I look up, one more time, beyond the clock tower. Up there, flying proud, the black and white heraldic banner of the city, my city, reminding me forever where home is.

Manlio De Monte

Most beautiful piazzas in Italy

Piazza Della Libertà in Udine/Photo Audrey De Monte

We’re all dreaming of the day we can return to Italy but in the meantime, get the next best thing – a membership to DREAM OF ITALY – the award-winning travel publication that inspired the PBS series hosted by Kathy McCabe.

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Audrey De Monte

About Audrey De Monte

Born in New York City, raised in Western Africa, I have studied, lived and worked on three continents (Africa, Europe and North America), and have traveled extensively throughout the world. Travel has shaped my life, who I am, how I look at the world and continues to be my biggest teacher. Together with my native Italian husband, we speak 5 languages. Western Europe is my backyard, in particular Spain, France, Germany, and Italy—countries where I have spent my life, since early childhood, visiting family, friends, studying, living and working.