Irish-born Maria McHugh has always had ‘Italy envy’ as she puts it.
Her passion for the ‘bel paese’ began about 25 years ago when she met and befriended a wonderful lady from Rome – Maurizia. And through Maurizia, Maria began to visit Rome regularly.
‘I began to feel the palpable love of life’, says Maria, ‘ I remember everything was a party, enjoying afternoon visits to the beach, laughing and drinking a coffee and a glass of wine together as the sun was setting. Or it was just about being together at someone’s house. And of course, there were the glamorous parties too, like the one at the Bulgari’s house’, she laughs, reminiscing.
Somehow or other she and Maurizia were constantly gate-crashing these glittery events. Through this revelation and love of life Maria began to unleash her love of Renaissance art.
‘Through the lens of art, I became more interested in the period, and wanted to educate myself about it. Going to Florence and Rome in particular, I wanted a share of that wealth of art and history’.
Maria still sees her great friend Maurizia, who last time she visited suddenly announced:
‘Tonight we dine in a 15th century palazzo on the Spanish Steps’ laughs Maria, imitating her friend’s accent. ‘And it was all in my honour on a beautiful balcony overlooking Rome. Those little opportunities with her have given me a real insider view of what life can be like.’
Maria now decided she needed to learn the language so she took a sabbatical and went to Florence and then travelled about the country.
‘I still do my lessons every Saturday’, she says, ‘It’s my passport to the culture and a deeper level of understanding… being able to talk means you are welcomed in a different way. I love the gestures and the hand talking as much as the language and I’m really glad I made the effort.’