Nostalgia is a bittersweet old thing. It can bring you back to blissful fluttering memories and it can also transport you back to the sickening, darker times in life.

They say that the sense of smell is one of the biggest triggers of nostalgia, but for me, it is hearing particular songs.

I’m sitting propped up in my bed wide awake on a Tuesday night, much to my dismay, because the several dogs along my street won’t stop barking. It’s 1am! I resort to my good friend, iTunes, for support. I hastily click ‘shuffle’, and iTunes answers my prayers. “Volare” by Dean Martin starts playing, and my soul is soothed immediately.

I quickly floated up and away from my room and barking dogs through the clouds of the night sky as my nostalgia brought me back to the happiest feeling and time of my life. I was like Wendy from Peter Pan, flying to my Neverland, Italy.

The Italian verb “Asolare” means to pass time in a meaningless but delightful way. (Andrews, 2006)

It’s late afternoon and the countless terracotta-coloured buildings of Bologna are illuminated a warm orange from the sunset’s glow. The air is still and balmy, the streets are filled with people who love to linger and waste time in coffee shops, bakeries and tobacconists. There is no agenda and no schedule, time is nothing and all that exists is the present. Walking along the cobblestone roads to our favourite restaurants and bars, everyone is relaxed. There is an Italian verb that describes this memory perfectly: “asolare”- meaning to pass time in a meaningless but delightful way. The fact that there is a verb to actually describe this just proves the blissful, laid-back lifestyle one can enjoy in Italy. Dean Martin brought me back to my utopia.

I find nostalgia to be one of the most intricately wonderful things. Taking a quick look at the definition of the word on, I find exactly why nostalgia is so bittersweet. Of greek origins, “Nost-“, means to return home or homecoming, and ‘-algia’ is defined as denoting pain or a painful condition.

And it is so very true. “Volare” brings me back to a place I once called home, the fleeting memories are so happy they give me butterflies in my stomach, yet Dean Martin’s rendition often manages to bring a tear to my eye. I want to go home so much that it aches, but I know it’s a time and feeling I cannot get back, even if I did go back. It wouldn’t be the same.

But I am glad my brain allows me to visit Bologna and several other places or times every now and then whenever a specific song randomly comes on… it adds a little more excitement to the wonder that is music!

What triggers your nostalgia most? 


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