An old auntie and her secret connection with Australia

Finally, after one year and a half of living my dream in Australia, I decided it was time to go back home to see my family and friends, and to enjoy the Italian summer in my hometown Stigliano, Basilicata!

I bought the ticket two months in advance to spend sixweeks in my homeland.

On the 4th of July, my Aussie frienddropped me off at the airport snatching me a promise: "“make sure you come back,your adventure has not yet ended!". I gave her a hug and waved at her while Iwas walking through the main doors of departures.

I left Melbourne in winter with its dark grey skiesand was welcomed by the amazing hot sun in Rome, with 42 degrees... I wassweating carrying my two suitcases but happy walk on my home grounds.

As I imagined on my flight, my parents were at theairport waiting for me. I saw them immediately as I walked out of the customsgate. They welcomed me with the same happiness and joy as I am told they didwhen I was born. At home the whole family clan had gathered waiting for me: my nonna, nonno, cousins, zii and zie. It was a big reunion!

There she is, "“l'Australiana". This was the wayZia Caterina, an 82-year-old strong woman, started referring to me after I leftfor "“la terra dei canguri". "“We missed you so much... Have you met a handsome youngAustralian man?" she asked me when I met her at my parents' home. I looked ather with my eyes blurred by the jetlag and smiled. She took me aside as if shedid not want to be heard by the others. "“Let's have a chat. I want to knoweverything about your experiences. I heard that in Melbourne you can have fourseasons in one day".

"“Yes Zia, it is true" I told her adding that I havespent almost one and a half year traveling all around Australia. I lived in theMargaret River region for five months, a beautiful place, full of vineyards. Ithen moved to Mullumbimby, the most popular hippie little town in Australia,where I experienced what a hippie life is all about. I also travelled allaround the east coast from Byron Bay through to the Gold Coast heading up toBrisbane. Suddenly, in the end, I fell in love with the best city in the world,Melbourne.

I spoke to Zia for almost half an hour, answering herquestions and reminiscing all the beautiful experiences of the past year when Isaw her putting her hands in her pocket and pulling out something. It was anold photo of a young man. I didn't know what to say. I looked at her inpuzzlement and she whispered with a sight: "“He is Julian from Melbourne and heis the love of my life. I met him when I was 18 and I would have spent all ofmy life with him, but I couldn't, my parents didn't let me go to Australia."

I was always curious as to why she was so interested aboutAustralia and was dumbfounded in hearing her secret. She continued: "“He sent meso many letters but I was never able to see him again. Now my heart can rest inpeace because I know that all the stories he wrote to me are true and you haveexperienced them".

I had a great time in Italy but I looked forward toreturning to Australia and when I got back I felt like coming home. Whenever I meetan old Italian man, I wonder if he is the one who, as a young migrant, capturedthe heart of Zia Caterina. The day I left, she hugged me and murmured in myear: "“Follow your dreams!"