The breathtaking landscapes and seascapes, the picturesque mountains and the shorelines that embrace Italy like a shawl made my growing up in Italy very magical. Italy, the land of soccer games, biking, romance and fine food highlighted the explorations teenagers undertake on their way to adulthood.
During spring, summer, and fall we played soccer on the beach, got into fights, some verbal and others physical; then to cool off, we went for a swim as friends. As the goalie facing the opposite team members, I had to be tough on the field, and later I knew how to be tough in life. Even if nobody taught us, but life itself, we learned team spirit and team play, the basic qualities to become responsible grown-ups.
The Italian school system promoted more than just knowledge. There were no multiple choice and true/false tests, only oral presentations and essays on every subject except for mathematics where we had to write and explain problems on the blackboard or on the test. This kind of training set us to be good business people one day, to talk and to write well and without any fear.
Finally, romance came into my life! It happened just after Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet came out in the movie theaters. Anna Maria looked just like Olivia Hussey; I didn’t look anywhere near Leonard Whiting. I do believe I was much more romantic than he. Anna Maria and I attended school functions, church affairs, and family gatherings. We went to lots of house parties where refreshments and dancing on the terrace made socializing easier for all of us high school students. Anna Maria and I did what any teenagers in love do, and we had fun.
Growing up in Italy was one of the best and greatest experiences of my life. After completing high school, owning only a pocketful of dreams, I left Italy on the Leonardo da Vinci cruise liner. I arrived in New York City nine days later to do my very own discovery of America. God has been benevolent and patient with me: the dreams turned into accomplishments over a period of time.
After all these years, I have not been able to go back to Italy, not even on a short vacation. Anna Maria grew up into a fine lady, married a former schoolmate of ours, and has five kids. I grew up, too, got married to a Polish princess, and have three kids.
Destiny unfolded while surprising us all. As time passes, we cherish the wonderful memories we made, and look forward making new beautiful ones.
Joseph Mangraviti, author of the heartfelt poem book Hooked on You, was born in Genoa, Italy. After completing high school in Messina, Italy, with only a pocketful of dreams, he came to the States where he received a college education. The dreams became accomplishments in time. Mr. Mangraviti has had a successful career in Information Technologies and lives in New Jersey with his wife and kids. He has always enjoyed reading and writing poetry and, most of all, sharing it with family, friends and the public.