How I Came To Realize That "La Vita e Bella"


This post was contributed by Malak Alawy.

One of my absolute favorite movies is Roberto Benigni’s “La Vita e Bella” or “Life is beautiful.” In spite of its sad yet powerful message, the humorous and genuine elements are what got to me at the core. The same way writing, specifically travel writing, did. 

La Vita e Bella went back to Italy from the 1999 Academy awards with four golden Oscars. Introduced by the beautiful Sophia Lorren, Roberto Begini’s speech is what I’m here to write about. As first the crowd, and later Sophia, announced “Roberto!”, Benigni made his way to the stage by literally jumping through the seats. In his speech he’s overwhelmed with happiness in a way that only shows how he made this movie with every cell in his heart. He made everyone laugh and cry at the same time, the same way he did as he acted and directed his “La Vita e Bella.” 

Close to the end of his speech he says “I dedicate this prize for those who are not here and gave their lives in order for us to say life is beautiful.” Even though he’s specifically referring to those who lost their lives during the Holocaust, he made me wonder all the things we need to go through, to lose, to find in order to be able to truly say La Vita e Bella. 

Even though suffering is inevitable, I don’t believe people have to breakdown in order to find happiness or to learn in this life.

I came here to Rome, in love with Italy since I was very young. My Italian cousins (only by nationality) used to invite me and my family to the restaurant in the Italian consulate in Cairo. My small family of three and their bigger family of five used to sit at round tables, eat the most authentic Italian food and eavesdrop on those who are conversing in Italian. I later became friends with wonderful Italians in my camp, CISV, in 2013 and in 2015 and decided that Italy will be my next stop. Then I saw Roberto’s movie and dared to start learning Italian while waiting for an opportunity that came four years later.

When the opportunity came I was overjoyed; however, I wondered why did it have to be at a time when I was shattered from the inside from many things back home. I wanted to be whole and happy when I was living my dream but I wasn’t going to waste my opportunity and I knew that pasta, gelato and sfoligatella will fix my broken heart.

And they did. Only partially. 

Many rollercoaster of emotions, things to deal with, others to put on hold. Tears to spurt like floods that have been waiting to come out. Ache that reaches the core of your heart and the marrow of your bones quite literally were all sad transits between the beautiful time I’m having in Italy. 

Even though suffering is inevitable, I don’t believe people have to breakdown in order to find happiness or to learn in this life. Through tiny moments of awareness, I was able to say life is beautiful and mean it a year ago, and although my Italy journey is not over yet because I’m still leaving in two weeks, I hope as I take the last snapshot of Italy with my eyes on the plane back to Cairo I can look at this bella that is Italy, say life is beautiful, and mean it. 

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