I had dreamt of coming to Italy since I was thirteen. My middle-school journal has a list of dreams that include traveling the world, living in Italy and maybe even marrying an Italian guy (along with becoming a marine biologist, writing the next American novel and learning dozens of languages....).
Little did I know at thirteen that at least some of those dreams would actually come true.
At 19 I had done all the work: found a study-abroad program, got a loan and booked a flight – I was finally going to Italy!
I came to Italy a month before my study abroad experience started in Florence to travel. The plan was to tour around for two weeks with my mom and nonna, then stay for two weeks with distant Italian relatives who had stayed in touch. The girls I was in contact with were my age and I was excited for the chance to get to know them in person, work on my Italian and have a support system in Italy.
I did everything I could to not find a guy while I was there and, when I met Marco, I did everything I could to keep him at arm’s length. After all, he lived in Italy, I lived in America and still had nearly three years of school left. I already had the experience of long-distance breakups from going into college and didn’t want to repeat that. I was convinced that it didn’t make sense to get romantic.... but it turns out, Marco was my support system in Italy, and he didn’t give up on me.
You can read all the (rambling) details of our story here, but it involves a lot of traveling, a lot of talking and a full year of falling in love. I repeated the facts in my head like a mantra, “we live 4,000 miles apart, we live 4,000 miles apart,” but my heart wouldn’t behave.
Nothing about our relationship has followed normal relationship time limits. Instead of first dates, we traveled Europe together. Because of this we shared a hotel bathroom before we had ever even kissed. Instead of meeting his parents over an awkward dinner, I said hi then promptly lived at their house every other weekend. And instead of our parents meeting slowly before a big wedding, we got married before our parents had even met. And you know what? It all worked out.
We often wait for logical answers to questions like, “How the hell can I date someone from another country?!” But sometimes the answer isn’t logical. Because anyway, every love story involves a certain amount of “leaping in” and I’m so glad that I did.
Now I live in Italy with Marco and our fun, spunky, bilingual 2-year-old Italian-American daughter, Adeline.
Where are you from and where is your significant other from?
I’m from Columbus, Ohio in the United States and Marco, my husband, is from Sovico, Italy, a small town in the Monza Brianza province in Lombardy.
Where and when did you meet your significant other?
I met Marco in a town of maybe 50 permanent residents in the Bergamo Alps. His family has a vacation home there and I was staying with distant relatives in their vacation home next door. They grew up hanging out together during summers in the mountains. During the week I stayed with them my relatives, Marco and another friend and I hung out from morning to night. But to be honest, when I left the mountains to head to Florence I didn’t really think much of it.
Who made the first move?
Definitely Marco. I had come to study the culture, learn the language and travel. I had left everything behind in America – including boys. The last thing I had on my mind was finding a boyfriend! But once I was settled into my apartment in Florence, Marco reached out to me to ask how things were going. Eventually we planned a sort of reunion trip to Cinque Terre with the whole group from the summer and ended up seeing each other again.
What was your first impression of him?
The first time I ever saw Marco he had just finished a hike in the mountains. He had on a plaid flannel, shorts and, knee high socks with hiking boots. I thought he was handsome but those socks!! Still, it quickly became clear that he was kind, understanding and patient. He helped me with my language barrier more than anyone and did everything he could to make sure I was comfortable. He was the glue that held the group together, making everyone laugh and making plans. I was completely charmed, knee high socks and all. (Later, when I started hiking, I understood better the practicality of knee-high socks to protect your legs from tall grass, spurs and snakes...).
Dish on the first kiss!
Our first kiss wasn’t rom-com material, but we definitely did have our Hollywood moment, and it happened on my birthday. My time studying in Florence was nearly finished. My birthday is December 15th and the 17th I had a flight home. Marco and I had already said goodbye when I had last visited him in Milan, but it was hard knowing I was still in Italy. My roommates and I had plans to go out to dinner for my birthday but for some reason they kept dilly-dallying. I didn’t mind because I was chatting online with Marco which is where I preferred to be anyway (if seeing him wasn’t an option.) It was getting later and later though and we still hadn’t left for dinner and I was feeling more and more depressed about everything when Marco and I lost connection. Just then he called me and said “Wow, it’s cold in Florence.” I didn’t understand until my roommates burst into giggles. I ran downstairs in my socks and threw open the door... only to find no one was there! Marco hadn’t expected me to race to the street so fast and was still a few doors down. I saw him, ran down the street and jumped into his arms. It was snowing and my roommates were watching from the window above. I’ve never had another moment like that!
That snow actually didn’t stop, and it ended up delaying my flight by three days. I went back to Milan with Marco and we got to spend nearly five more days together!
Where do you live now?
Now we live in Monza Brianza in Marco’s hometown.
Have you learned each other's languages?
Yes, absolutely. I had originally come to Italy to learn the language, so that’s always been important to me. Marco, like most Italians, had studied English since elementary school but had never liked it. In high school he stopped taking English as soon as he was allowed because he wanted to be an engineer in Italy “and would never need English anyway”. Now he has an American wife, a bilingual daughter and does 90% of all his business in English. Good thing he learned!
Any advice for mixed/long-distance couples?
Ack this is a hard one. Long distance is really hard – especially at first when we had no plan for how it could work out in the future. I always joke that our relationship was the most expensive relationship ever with all those cross-Atlantic flights! Marco even moved to Ohio for six months and enrolled in college just to get a visa to stay with me. He learned English that way so it was helpful, but expensive!
Still, what made it work was the support. Even 4,000 miles away Marco was more supportive than any of the American guys I had met or been with. We talked multiple times per day through various technologies, we wrote long emails (21st-century and all) and then of course planned multiple trips to visit each other.
Cross-cultural relationships can be hard, even when you think your cultures are quite similar, there are plenty of differences to work through. I think if it all starts with a base of respect and a willingness to try to understand, you can work through anything.
We didn’t have a traditional proposal, it was just a long-term conversation that turned into a wedding!
What do you love most about being married?
Marco and I originally got married in a courthouse for visa reasons, with the pact that we would have our church wedding in two years' time. We weren’t entirely sure how to handle it (it all happened pretty fast) so we sort of settled on not “counting” the courthouse wedding in an attempt to not change anything but as soon as we were married, I felt married. I really didn’t expect that, but obviously the heart knows more than the mind. I tried to control everything mentally by not thinking about the courthouse wedding and only focusing on the “real” one but it turned out to be real from the start. I was married, I had a husband and it all felt exactly how it was supposed to be. After we had our church wedding in America and a second reception with a sort of renewal of our vows in Italy for those who weren’t able to make it to the US – so essentially, we got married three times!
Submitted by Gina.
Here's how you can connect with her:
Blog: From Italy, With Love
Facebook: Gina Mussio
A huge, heartfelt thanks to Gina and Marco for sharing this wonderful story. Vi auguro tante belle cose!
There are so many amazing stories to read so make sure you're all caught up. And should you want to share your own story or know of a couple who would, please get in touch. The majority of these stories have been brought to me through word-of-mouth, so let's keep spreading the love.
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LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Godberg and Gloria
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LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Sherry and Andre
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LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Alicha and Dennis
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LOVE STORIES by Questa Dolce Vita: Genia and Mattia
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