Who says an Erasmus love is always about culture differences? Egle and Ilario had to go to Valencia to fall in love with somebody who spoke their own language – and actually lived less than 200 km away.

It is an April afternoon. A boy and a girl are sitting at a bakery. Although surrounded by hundreds of sweet temptations for every mood, the girl’s appetite seems dead and her stomach locked. Sitting right next to Ilario, the only thing that Egle feels is an unexpected, annoying nervousness. Of course boys cannot understand how butterflies manage to enter a girl’s tummy in the most appropriate times, so Ilario only wonders: why did she  accept my invitation to go and eat something, if she isn’t going to eat at all?

A good kiss | Photo: Egle Miccoli

Egle Miccoli was born in 1984 in Chiaromonte, a small town in southern Italy, but she has lived for 18 years in Senise, also in southern Italy. Today, she is about to graduate from the University of Bologna, where she studied Humanities.

Less than one year earlier and many kilometres away, Ilario Ritacco was born in Cosenza but he has lived most of his life in Bisignano in southern Italy. He studied Medicine and since last July he has been a graduate doctor.

Although they are both Italians, their paths crossed abroad: in Valencia, Spain, in February 2010. They both got an Erasmus scholarship for a year; Ilario arrived in Valencia in September, but Egle appeared some months later. Due to some bureaucratic problems of her university, she arrived in Valencia in February, although she was not exactly excited about it. It didn’t take her long though before she realised that life had other plans for her…

“The news about the Erasmus grant did not make me particularly happy. I wanted to go to Paris. Valencia had been my second choice. How I did the selection is another story… I wrote down the three alternative choices that I had, except for Paris, and I mixed them up. Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia… Then I picked one of the papers and it was the one with the word “Valencia” written on it. I repeated the same procedure two more times in a row. The result was always “Valencia”. Then I kind of felt that I should go there,” she says.

A common destination: Valencia

Once they were both in Valencia as Erasmus students, their meeting was a matter of time. Urged by her great love for theatre, even before leaving for Valencia, Egle had tried to find information about the theatrical happenings there, so that she could take part in them immediately after her arrival. A friend told  her about “Escena Erasmus“, a pioneering European theatre project located at the University of Valencia and addressed mainly to Erasmus students. She passed the audition, joined the group, and there she met Ilario.

“The thing I remember most about our first meeting is certainly his smile and his eyes. During my first drama lesson, he came running, he was late. Ilario is always late… At the end of the class, he approached me introducing himself with a sweet smile. Then we talked a bit… It was funny!” says Egle, whose eyes had captured Ilario’s attention too.

I picked one of the papers and it was the one with the word “Valencia”. I repeated the same procedure two more times in a row. The result was always “Valencia”.

“The thing that attracted me most from the beginning was her eyes. Her face. Her ability to be so nice when relating to other people. I remember that it was not cold at all, but she came into the theatre with a wool hat and a scarf… She was a strange girl!” Ilario reveals.

No matter how much they liked each other, the timing was not good for them to make their moves. Egle had a boyfriend and Ilario a girlfriend. But anyway, who counts stupid timing when it comes to relationships? And how can the timing to fall in love ever be wrong? So… soon they both found themselves single and ready to admit their feelings for each other.

Several times they hung around together as friends and met after lectures; besides, they had so many interests in common and they enjoyed each others’ company. The first time they went out together, Ilario suggested having a dessert at a pastry shop. Egle accepted his invitation, but her nervousness was much greater than her appetite. “I didn’t have anything to eat… I was so nervous!” she admits today, satisfying Ilario’s curiosity, who could not help wondering on that April’s day why Egle accepted his invitation if she wasn’t going to eat.

The first official date

Egle and Ilario. | Photo: Egle Miccoli

Their first official date, however, was when Ilario invited Egle to the cinema. Following the magic steps of Alice in Wonderland behind a pair of 3D glasses, Egle felt her stomach very disturbed once again, but she wouldn’t tell; this was their first date and nausea should come second.

A walk for two in the fresh air followed their “escape” from Wonderland. Sitting on a bench in Plaza del Ayuntamiento, on this evening in May, all the pieces of their story came together and were sealed with a first kiss. “My reaction was funny: I pulled back and I started speaking very quickly – I was excited and surprised- and he kept kissing me. It was a beautiful evening,” Egle recalls.

If this was a fairy tale, we would now only have to say: “…and they lived happily ever after.” But real stories give us the opportunity to know more about that “after”. So today, one year and some months later, we find our protagonists together, only literally many kilometres away.

Due to her studies, Egle lives in Bologna, while Ilario lives in Rome. However, last April Egle got an internship at a museum in Rome and they lived together until July.

Every time they have the chance to meet, they share things that they both love and enjoy: for Egle, that is theatre and art in general; for Ilario Lindy Hop dance, which he now teaches to Egle as well. And of course they travel.

“This summer we went to Portugal and later to Spain to meet our Erasmus friends. We love travelling. In our relationship sharing experiences but also maintaining our independence is very important,” Egle says.

As for the near future, their common plan is to manage finally to live in the same city and – why not? – in the same house, although the future is for both of them something which is more fun when you do not try to predict or determine it. “Life always surprises us and this is what we like about it,” they say, looking forward to whatever it’s going to bring them this time…

Cover image: Egle Miccoli

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