How Heartbreak Reconnected Me to My Roots
I live more than five thousand miles away from home. Amongst the countless hardships that that entails, I never imagined that going through heartbreak was going to be made harder by the distance. My parents and most of my closest friends all live in Italy, while I’m studying somewhere in the American Pacific Northwest. Being away from the people that love me the most in the world is never easy, but I discovered that when a romantic relationship comes to an end, being so far away becomes especially hard.
This is more or less how my heart was broken: I was seeing a boy, I really liked the boy, I slept with the boy, the boy didn’t want to see me anymore. I initially belittled my emotions, embracing my feminist knowledge that romantic love is used as a tool to manipulate girls. In fact, growing up with the notion that romantic love was the ultimate life-goal led me to believe that no matter how accomplished and successful I was in life, without romantic love I was destined to be pitied and considered inferior to happily coupled peers around me. I’m very aware of my constant need to be validated through some sort of romantic relationship, and yet I couldn’t help but feel all these negative and heart-shattering emotions.
I missed him, and I missed the arms of my mom and dad, holding me through the pain of this love that was gone. So I ran to music to heal my soul. My usually English-filled playlist wasn’t doing the trick, so my nostalgia guided me to old Italian songs that reminded me of my childhood and the genuine love I experienced in my country.
Amongst the sad songs, I found myself especially comforted by the powerful voices of some of Italy’s greatest singing divas. While my heart was still broken and urging me to cry at every thought of him, playing these songs sung by incredible women empowered me: my “intense” “obsessive” and “crazy” emotions were totally valid. Through these songs and the voices of these women from my native country, I found pride in my roots and consequently strength in the person I am and all the feelings I experience. Hearing my emotions verbalized by these powerful performers mended my loneliness and my aching for love, while also re-connecting me to my roots.
Although some of these songs were originally written by male writers — men were (and are) dominating and controlling the music industry in Italy, because of patriarchy and all that — it’s the passionate and heart-and soul-wrenching interpretation of these female artists that makes these songs so epically perfect for shouting out your emotions for a lost love.
This is a playlist of Italian songs all about women sharing the same pain, fighting through heartbreak, and remaining unashamed for the intensity of their emotions.
The first song on the playlist follows Mia Martini as she recounts the agony of an indecisive lover, one that you know you should leave, one that you know you’d be better off without, but one that your body can’t resist. The person you’ll always say yes to. The one you’d say “I’m yours” a thousand times. In a crescendo of desperation, Mia is angry but knows she’s helpless in her loneliness and yearning for this lover who’s bad for her. She’s aware that she’ll keep on begging for love from this person she has no future with. She’s not afraid to admit it. She is flawed, but her feelings matter.
As acceptance makes its way into your heart, some bitterness for yet another disappointment arises. Mia Martini (again, she’s a personal favorite) reflects on the never-changing nature of men, thinking back of her struggles when loving men, from her father to the first adolescent love. Men “speak of love and then leave you all alone.” She says that men “kill you,” then laugh about you with their friends. Harsh, but wholly encompassing the defeating sensation of getting hurt by a man once again, a man that won’t think twice about your feelings, and never change their ways, a man that will always find a way to hurt you. Mia is mad and she wants you and all men (yes, all men) to know it.
Sometimes you try to move on from the person that broke you, but you can’t, it’s foolish and you know it. You’re seeing new people, but no matter who you kiss, you’re wishing you were kissing the person that left you. Patty Pravo reminds you that this is a “crazy idea,” that trying to find the same love with someone else while still fantasizing and yearning for your ex-lover’s presence is foolish. Patty sings about her madness smiling, laughing at her own foolishness, knowing that what she’s doing isn’t what’s best for her, but in attempt to mend her broken heart she’s allowed to be imperfect, and do silly things.
Acceptance is hard, but closure can help. Mina reminisces on a love that lasted too little, and wishes to call the lover back, just to say goodbye, just to know that they will both be fine. The slow-paced articulation of every letter in the chorus suggests the dragging desperation of realizing the end of a newborn sweet love. Mina is the ultimate Italian diva, one of the most revered and talented of all times. She holds her head high in her pain, urging you to do the same.
After a song about men, this is a song all about women. It’s an iconic anthem, Fiorella Mannoia unabashedly sings that yes, women are emotionally complex, women will have bad days, and will break down in pain, but their resilience is unparalleled. Your heart might be broken, but you are the way you are, complicated, delicate, and everything in between.
Dalida says goodbye to love, but she is not hurt anymore. She is ready to move on, travel to new places, start a new life. She’s still confused and her head hurts, but she’s noticing all the open fields around her, all the airplanes she can take. She’s not perfectly happy, but she’s ready to look ahead and explore new lightless roads. She cries out “goodbye love, goodbye love, goodbye,” as if waving goodbye to all the pain, and the love as well. Almost like an Italian, highly dramatic version of Ariana Grande’s thank u, next.
This is the happy song of the playlist. This instrumentally busy song is sung by one of the most sexually liberated Italian divas, Raffaella Carrà. The drum in the chorus, rigorously accompanied by Raffaella’s iconic quick half-backbend, urges you to scroll heartbreak off your shoulders, and rise from the pain in a celebration of new love and sexual possibilities. The song is an ode to Italy, mentioning the glory of making love in every city, starting from the northern Trieste all the way down to the South of Italy (and beyond, because why not?). This is a carefree and joyous expression of female sexuality, reminding you that if a love is over, one that’s more fun and better-looking is awaiting.
On that note, if you are finding yourself dealing with unanswered texts, a lack of closure, painful memories of tender moments, and the aching loneliness of walking through the remaining Valentine’s Day reds and pink heart-shaped everythings, allow yourself to suffer and cry as dramatically and as passionately as you need to, following the fashion of the Italian women that comforted me in my heartbreak. Don’t forget that you are not alone, women all over the world for centuries have felt your anger, your sadness, your melancholia and your longing. Remind yourself that you will certainly find someone better-looking, who will make you feel sparkling and who will love you for who you are. But most importantly, never forget that the one true lover who can get you through all this pain and who will always have your side through your hardest time is your own beautiful self.