I came to Pittsburgh 33 years ago and, eventually, became an executive with the venerable Oxford Development Co., where I had the privilege to work for 25 years.
I met my wife, Jessica Coup, in Pittsburgh. Together, we lived a fairy tale life in a place that we have called home. Though that part of our story is soon to come to its happy ending, you, Pittsburgh, will live on in our hearts for as long as they continue to beat.
We leave Pittsburgh heavy of heart but light of spirit, prepared to begin a new life. For us, that new life is in Italy.
As Jessica and I leave our positions, our home and our friends, we cannot help but reflect on all that Pittsburgh has meant to and done for us. We were both drawn to the arts community, and we relished the opportunity to support some of the many incredible cultural organizations Pittsburgh has fostered.
Through both our professional and personal relationships, we were given the chance to participate in events and activities in support of civic initiatives and endeavors such as the quest to cure juvenile diabetes, blood cancers and heart disease.
A few years back, we bought a derelict of a penthouse Downtown. After a two-year renovation, we moved into our first home together. We had the thrill to witness and be a part of the transformation of Pittsburgh's newest neighborhood.
Downtown living was the perfect complement for our lifestyle. Our weekly grocery shopping was a stroll to the Strip District. The extra glass of wine at dinner was never a problem since the restaurant was always within walking distance of home. An evening at the theater was not complicated by traffic or parking concerns. And my "commute" to work was an eight-minute walk.
But what meant the most to us was the warmth, beauty and emotional generosity of the people we came to know and love in Pittsburgh. It is these people, these treasures, who make Pittsburgh the beautiful place that it is. Even when the skies turn gray and stay that way for months, the people of Pittsburgh who dedicate their time and resources to support causes that benefit the community lighten the firmament over the city.
A couple of years ago, Jessica and I visited the Puglia region of Italy. Sometimes referred to as "the heel of the boot," Puglia is a thin isthmus surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean and Adriatic seas. It boasts a mild climate, low cost of living and 60 million olive trees. The food is fresh, the wine is hearty and the people welcoming.
This is where we will live, near a town called Cisternino, in a village called Marinelli, in a home we call Villa Tutto. It is as much like our lifestyle in Pittsburgh as auto repair is like neurosurgery. Our days will be spent working in the vegetable garden from which much of our food will come and maintaining our olive trees in preparation for each November's harvest. This year we will press our first oil for sale and plan to export it to the United States.
We have been warmly received in Puglia. We may still be "gli americani," (the Americans), but we are also part of la famiglia. We spend holidays in the homes of our friends, celebrate their birthdays at Villa Tutto and ride bikes to the beach with 20 amici for a barbecue. For all of the challenges the Pugliesi have endured over the centuries and all the conquerors they have suffered under, they have shown an affection toward strangers that we can only respond to with love.
Leaving our home in Pittsburgh and making a new one in Italy is a bittersweet experience.
We will miss the stimulation of careers that challenged us intellectually and professionally. We will miss the arts and cultural organizations to which we have become quite attached, though the breadth of our access to new versions of those is so great that we cannot even contemplate them.
As for our family and friends, now you have a home in Italy and you know you are welcome there anytime. Our new friends there will embrace you as well, kiss you on each cheek, and consider you part of la nostra famiglia.
So, with love, affection and gratitude, we say, "Arrivederci, Pittsburgh, grazie di tutto -- thanks for everything."
Scott Bergstein, who writes a blog about his new life at www.souloftheheel.com, may be reached at email@example.com. The PG Portfolio welcomes "Local Dispatch" submissions and other reader essays. Send your writing to firstname.lastname@example.org; or by mail to Portfolio, Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Portfolio editor Gary Rotstein may be reached at 412-263-1255.