Updated: Sep 3, 2020
It’s a funny thing, that greener grass on the other side…
When I met Marco at a language exchange Meetup event in Florence, I was so intrigued by his immense passion for the colonial Northeastern US that I asked to interview him. In our initial conversations that would later blossom into a friendship, I discovered that Marco feels about the US the same way I feel about Italy. I wanted to understand and explore this paradox that we could be so equally in love with each other’s homes instead of our own. Along the way, I learned a lot about Marco- a genuine, heartfelt, and forever-young Italian (seriously, he goes to concerts every week and I often call it a night before he does!). Read on to learn more about my friend, Marco!
Ciao Marco! Tell us about yourself (age, where you’re from, job, etc).
I was born 55 years ago in Florence and grew up half a mile from the Ponte Vecchio. I started working when I was 21 because, although university in Italy is almost free, my family wasn’t able to continue paying for my living expenses.
Marco as a young boy in Italy.
My father had found jobs for me in different parts of Italy, but I so strongly did not want to leave Florence (would you?) for anything in the world (famous last words), so I eventually found a job at home for an import/export company.
Two years later, this company asked me to start a branch in Washington, DC. Let’s not forget that we are talking about the mid ‘80s…no internet, no cell phones, and the fax machine was a novelty. Further, I was just 22 years old and did not know English. Yet, I felt I couldn’t say no. So in March 1987, I flew to DC.
Marco and Sierra in Florence’s cultural hotspot hangout, Todo Modo.
Tell us about your travels in the US. Where did you go and why?
In the first few years, I traveled a lot but just for work, so I didn’t really experience much. I would work a lot then go out with friends in DC, but the truth is I was completely unaware of all the DC surroundings and the nearby states that would become my passion years later.
In Italy it’s common to know US history only for what Hollywood has brought here: the far West, the gold search, the gunfighters, the pioneers heading West on their wagons, and the “bad” Indian against the “good” white settler or US army.
The truth came out much later and always through TV and movies such as Dances with Wolves or books like Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.
I left the US for good in 1994 and for 10 years I did not go back as I honestly felt I hadn’t left anything undiscovered behind. Years later when I suddenly had enough airline points to take a big trip, I realized that there was so much I didn’t know about the US.
I then wrote to US tourism offices and asked them to ship me their travel guides which were full of cities, small towns, parks, historical sites and activities to attract American tourists who already knew the major cities.
In 2003, I started traveling to these off-the-beaten-path places that no Italians even knew existed and took over 7 trips back, each time exploring deeper. (Click here for a full list of Marco’s adventures in the US- how many have you actually been to?).