Sophia Loren once said: Credo in sogni, sogni diventano realtà—I believe in dreams, dreams become reality. This idea resonates with me, and it is one of the themes of my new book “Dreaming Sophia”. It is a novel about Italy and weaves together many strands of Italian culture in a mixture of fantasy, romance, art, and history. “Dreaming Sophia” is also about turning fantasy and whimsy into tangible realities. I have always believed if you can dream it you can do it!
My story is that of a young American painter named Sophia who is named after La Loren, the legendary movie actress. At the start of the novel, she is a woman blindsided by fate who must come to terms with a devastating tragedy. But, Dreaming Sophia is also a joyful story, at times even funny and whimsical. It ultimately tells how Sophia emerges from a very dark place by tapping into her creative, imaginative powers. In Italian, a person who daydreams is said to sognare ad occhi aperti—to dream with eyes open. And this is what Sophia does. Through her dreams Sophia meets and talks to famous Italian personalities from past eras—Eleonora de’ Medici, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Simonetta Vespucci, Lucrezia Borgia, Garibaldi and even the Prince himself Lorenzo de’ Medici. As she heals and grows stronger, she can accept the gifts each muse gives her, to move forward and follow her path to Italy.
Sophia’s journey is about turning her dreams into reality, but it is also about finding a balance between fantasia—fantasy and realtà—reality. Sophia Loren the actress knew the importance of finding this balance. She grew up in a time of war, famine and poverty to become a famous movie star. La Loren knew how to imagine and visualize a better life for herself. She knew that una favola—fairy tale loses its magia—magic without real life and that the opposite is also true. The most beautiful thing in life is to learn how to walk between the two—trovare un’equilibrio tra fantasia e realtà.
Following Sophia Loren’s example, my character Sophia finds joy again and moves to Italy to pursue a painting career. Her dreams seem to have come true! But once she arrives in Italy, she is faced with a new set of realities. Not everything goes liscio come l’olio—smooth as oil. She must adapt to a new culture, a new language and life with an Italian family. She also must navigate the complexities of a new social network as she also starts to date Italian men. More perplexing than that, she must learn how to survive the labyrinth that is Italian bureaucracy as well as succeed as an artist in a foreign country. In Italian, there is another idiom: Hai voluto la bicicletta, adesso pedala! You wanted the bike now learn to pedal! You wanted this, now learn to deal with it. And this is exactly what Sophia learns to do!
In “Dreaming Sophia, readers will meet many fascinating Italian personalities through Sophia’s dreams as well as travel with her from the vineyards of Sonoma to Florence, Fiesole, Lucca, Rome, Verona, and Venice. They will learn also about popular legends and illuminating anecdotes, as well as learn about Italian film, music, and food. And they will also pick up a bit of Italian to boot!
Like Sophia in my story, I too have turned a dream into reality. Because of this novel I had the opportunity meet Miss Loren after her one-woman show in Las Vegas last March. I was able to kiss her on both cheeks in the proper Italian fashion and tell her about Dreaming Sophia. What a thrill it was to see her smile at me and say: I believe in dreams, dreams become reality!
I have enjoyed the journey of bringing Dreaming Sophia to life. I hope you too will enjoy your travels with Sophia! Non smettere mai di sognare—never stop dreaming.
About the book
Dreaming Sophia is a magical look into Italy, language, art, and culture. It is a story about turning dreams into reality and learning to walk the fine line between fact and fantasy. When tragedy strikes, Sophia finds herself alone in the world, without direction and fearful of loving again. With only her vivid imagination to guide her, she begins a journey that will take her from the vineyards in Sonoma, California to a grad school in Philadelphia and, eventually, to Italy: Florence, Lucca, Rome, Verona, Venice, and Val d’Orcia.
Through dreamlike encounters, Sophia meets Italian personalities—princes, poets, duchesses, artists, and film stars— who give her advice to help put her life back together. Following a path that takes her from grief to joy, she discovers the source of her creativity and learns to love again, turning her dreams into reality.
About the author
Melissa Muldoon is the Studentessa Matta-the crazy linguist! In Italian, "matta" means "crazy" or "impassioned". Melissa has a B.A. in fine arts, art history and European history from Knox College, a liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, as well as a master's degree in art history from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. She has also studied painting and art history in Florence.
Melissa promotes the study of Italian language and culture through her dual-language blog, Studentessa Matta (studentessamatta.com). Melissa began the Matta blog to improve her command of the language and to connect with other language learners. It has since grown to include a podcast, "Tutti Matti per l'Italiano" and the Studentessa Matta YouTube channel. Melissa also created Matta Italian Language Immersion Tours, which she co-leads with Italian partners in Italy.
Dreaming Sophia is Melissa's first novel. It is a fanciful look at art history and Italian language and culture, but it is also the culmination of personal stories and insights resulting from her experiences living in Italy, as well as her involvement and familiarity with the Italian language, painting, and art history.
As a student, Melissa lived in Florence with an Italian family. She studied art history and painting and took beginner Italian classes. When she returned home, she threw away her Italian dictionary, assuming she'd never need it again but after launching a successful design career and starting a family, she realized something was missing in her life. That "thing" was the connection she had made with Italy and the friends who live there. Living in Florence was indeed a life-changing event! Wanting to reconnect with Italy, she decided to start learning the language again from scratch. As if indeed possessed by an Italian muse, she bought a new Italian dictionary and began her journey to fluency-a path that has led her back to Italy many times and enriched her life in countless ways.
Now, many dictionaries and grammar books later, she dedicates her time to promoting Italian language studies, further travels in Italy, and sharing her stories and insights about Italy with others. When Melissa is not traveling in Italy, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is married and has three boys and two beagles.
Melissa designed and illustrated the cover art for Dreaming Sophia. She also designed the Dreaming Sophia website and created the character illustrations that can be found in the book and on the Dreaming Sophia websites.
Connect with the Author
Win a copy of Dreaming Sophia (print open to USA & Can, ebook international). One winner will get the grand prize package that includes a copy of the book, calendar, mug and terote bag (USA & CAN only) 7 winners total. Ends Dec 24.