Love letter to Italy. Written by a great actress, who boasts a little: “I am a quarter of an Italian, my mother's mother was born in Venice”. Our great beauty narrated by her
This article is part of a series of love letters to Italy, written by great actors and directors. It was published in the special issue 20 / 21 of Vanity Fair directed by Paolo Sorrentino, on newsstands until June 2 2020
My father George was born in Budapest in 1929 . He moved to England when he was ten. For most of my life I have known him as a Hungarian emigrant to London, a strong, intense person. He was a very intelligent man, rather thoughtful, passionate but also controversial.
It was difficult for him not to be restless or anxious.
Every year we went on vacation in Italy . Sometimes we exchanged houses, our garden house in Hampstead Garden Suburb in exchange for an apartment (it looked like a palace) on a canal in Venice . The deal always seemed rather unfair to the Italian family. What they got was just a boring place in London. Other times we went to Pietrasanta, to Paestum, to Cortina d'Ampezzo . There, for two weeks, every summer, I could see my father reach the peak of his happiness, speak in Italian, he was quite good at the language (he was in four different languages) and he could get along very well.
He let himself go a little.
As a young man, after the war, in the 1940s, he told me that he had hitchhiked, backpacking, around Italy with his older sister. Once, they had sat in the middle of the countryside near Florence. «One day», he had said to her, «I will live there, on the hills».
When he was 70 years old, he found a medieval farm on top of a hill very steep in a small village not far from Lucca.
It was as if I had a completely new father.
«Became» Italian .
People called him Georgino . He had some olive trees and a small row of vines, he produced olive oil and some cases of Casa San Georgio red wine.
He was a different man. As if he had waited for the Italian culture and language to be himself completely, to express himself . As if he had found his language. He was kind, funny, sensitive and, above all, happy.
I don't want to idealize an entire nation, but really I have the feeling that Italians know something about being alive, a certain sense of humor, mixed with a passionate humanity, which many other cultures have forgotten or have never learned .
I want to go and live in Rome or perhaps in Naples , when my son has finished high school. This is my dream, to find my Italian identity.
I conclude by bragging: I am Italian for a quarter , my mother's mother was born in Venice. Her name was Anna Bassi.
Photo: Erik Tanner / Countour by Getty Images