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  • Love, Italian Style
    Part 6: How to Keep in Touch with Your Long Distance Love
    Continued from part 5
    Our Paesani

    by Francesca Di Meglio

    About 4,500 miles lies between my boyfriend Antonio Gerenini and me. But that hasn't stopped us from seeing each other every night for the first year of our courtship. At 6 p.m., which is quitting time for me in New Jersey and midnight in Ischia, the Neapolitan island in Italy where Antonio lives, I scoot over from my company computer to my personal laptop. After logging onto an instant messenger service, I invite Antonio to virtually go on a date, a possibility thanks to our handy webcams. We talk about everything - from childhood memories to our dreams for the future. All the while, I can gaze into Antonio's glorious green eyes almost as if he were sitting right in front of me.

    I'm crazy in love. Thanks to technology - AOL, MSN, SMS - we've been able to sustain a relationship that might have been impossible just a few years ago.

    Our story began like any other. My cousin Fausto introduced me to Antonio while I was visiting my relatives in Ischia for Easter in 2004. One of the first things Antonio asked me was when we would become a couple. I thought he was a clown - but a handsome one at six-feet tall with his dark curly hair, mischievous smile and regal goatee. I was smitten but thought nothing of it because we live so far apart.

    Then, in the last week of my vacation, I suffered a terrible knee injury that put me in the hospital in Ischia and took me out of commission for the rest of the trip - and months at home in the United States. But that didn't scare off Antonio.

    With baba? desserts and holy water in hand, he invited himself to dinner at my cousin's house in Ischia, so he could get to know me while I was laid up in bed. My type-A traits had me full of doubt about entering into a long-distance relationship. But my man was persistent. After I returned home for the first of three knee surgeries, he sent virtual flowers and tender notes via email. Then, he stepped up his wooing and dialed in poetic text messages, a common way for modern couples in Europe to keep in touch.

    In many ways, ours is like an old-fashioned romance. Before the webcams, I wrote Antonio lengthy emails about my day and the moments that made me think of him. It was like we were lovers of a bygone era communicating solely through letters. A first-generation Italian American fluent in both country's languages, I encouraged Antonio to take his best shot at English. He still sends me silly, incomprehensible notes in his new language with attached photos of kissing swans or kittens curled up together. With his trusty computer and collection of Italian classics, he made and mailed me CDs of his favorite songs. He also used the Internet to send me a real bouquet of roses, in my favorite shade of light pink from a vendor in New Jersey, for the feast day of St. Francis Assisi, the saint for whom I was named. (These saint or name days are celebrated more often than birthdays in Italy, especially in the south.)

    Then, Antonio bought a ticket to America and came to visit me for Thanksgiving. That's when I finally completely gave in to him. Live and in person, he was irresistible regardless of how far away he lived. But even while we were one room apart in my parent's house, we still sent each other text messages and slipped notes under the door. With digital cameras, we took 900 photos in the first month that Antonio was here. When he went home, as a gift for me, he used the latest in photo editing technology to turn those photos into a DVD film, replete with music and special effects. Again, technology helped him express his feelings all the way from Italy.

    Don't get me wrong. We're not perfect. Like any young couple, we have our share of disagreements. The only downside to the webcams is that we can also argue as though we're sitting right next to each other. Let's face it: that's not always pretty. But we always work things out in the end. I can't predict the future, but I'm sure Antonio is the only one for me. Eventually, we'll have to pick a continent and stick with it.

    The price of long distance love is high - both figuratively and literally. Certainly, we've both lost a lot of sleep trying to keep up with the other despite the six-hour time difference. I, for one, have shed many tears whenever we have had to say good-bye. My cell phone bill is more than I'd like it to be. And so are the tickets to Europe that I've already had to purchase and use more than once, so we could share a few genuine lip locks as opposed to the S.W.A.K. sound effects that AOL provides. But it's all worth it. In the last year, Antonio has proven to be priceless - and frankly I can not afford to live without him.

    Part 1: Does Your Love Life Make You More Italian?
    Part 2: Old-Fashioned Romance Lives in Italy
    Part 3: 5 Ways to Win Over an Italian Man
    Part 4: What Italian Women Want In Their Men
    Part 5: Why I Fell in Love with an Italian Man

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