It was a drizzly day in April, a big virus spread like a stain all over the world, and 67-year-old Annemieke was looking forward to some life in the brewery. She opened her dating app and was surprised to receive a special offer: ‘You can choose a place in Europe to go swipe. Free.’
She did not have high expectations, because the hope of a new great love had now disappeared. “But I thought: why not?” Then a very beautiful and charming Italian man named Mario filled her screen. “Gosh, what an open and spontaneous face”, I thought. And she clicked on the heart.
That one click would lead to her second great love, Annemieke had not thought in her wildest dreams. “He immediately started talking to me.” Chatting became texting, texting became calling and calling became video calling. “We fell in love … Weird huh?” Sometimes Annemieke and Mario were on the phone until 2 am. “He’s so funny. Sometimes I lie completely double,” she says.
Previously an Italian
Annemieke was born and raised in The Hague. She loves the Netherlands, but has warm feelings for the country of pizzas, pasta, sports cars and fashion designers. That’s not surprising, because she spent 28 years of her life with an Italian man: William. “He was my first love.”
Of all those years, they lived together in Italy for one year, in a seaside resort located on the Italian Riviera of Flowers. Their children, Mark and Laura, grew up in the Netherlands. They had a loving marriage, says Annemieke, but that came to an abrupt end twenty years ago due to the sudden death of her husband. “He died of a heart attack. It was all very painful.”
Exactly the same region
Annemieke does not believe what happened to her, thanks to the free offer from Tinder. “I had to poke a spot on a blank map of Europe. The first man that came by was Mario. I’m not spiritual or anything, but sometimes I think William sent someone,” she says with a laugh. Because Mario also comes from exactly the same Italian region as her first: the Riviera of Flowers. “I’ve been coming there since I was 20, you don’t believe that, do you?”
Annemieke celebrated her 67th birthday on May 18 and the 70-year-old Mario did not want to miss it. He bought a plane ticket. “You can’t come at all. All flights are canceled,” warned Annemieke. But that didn’t stop the Italian in love: he had to and would come to the Netherlands, even though traveling from Italy to the Netherlands was strongly discouraged.
“His flight was indeed canceled, after which Mario contacted the local police, then the Italian border police and then the French border police,” says Annemieke, who found this all very exciting. “The Italian embassy in Paris told him to fill out a form intended for ‘union with loved ones abroad’. He did that then.”
In the risk group
Annemieke and Mario both belong to the risk group for corona because of their age. Before Mario’s arrival they discussed the possible risk, but Annemieke was not afraid. “In Italy they have much stricter corona rules than in the Netherlands. He had to be afraid of me earlier,” she laughs. “We wanted to see each other so badly, so we took the risk.”
And so Mario drove his camper from his sun-drenched seaside resort on the Riviera of Flowers to a city that also lies by the sea, The Hague. “Mario was already in Germany on May 15, but the borders in Germany would not open until the night of May 15-16. So he was one day early.” It was exciting whether he could enter Germany, but eventually he succeeded. “He was very lucky”, says Annemieke.
Very intense kissing
“When he was almost here, I got a little nervous. Because yes, you have never seen anyone in real life.” When Annemieke saw the camper driving into the street, she ran to the front door. “We hugged each other deeply. And we also kissed very intensely. That just went without saying. It was a very special moment.”
In total Mario stayed in the Netherlands for three and a half weeks. “He met my children and grandchildren. My son is half-Italian, he thinks this is wonderful. We also cycled a lot in the dunes and I showed him beautiful places. We made the best of it, even though we could. doing less fun things than usual due to the corona situation. Although Annemieke ‘needed some rest and time for herself’ after his visit, she also realized how special this was. “I still couldn’t believe it.”
Two weeks later she left for Italy: first she visited Mario in his hometown and then they went camping together in Sardinia. “We enjoyed nature and each other so much. We laughed and hugged a lot.” The highlight of the trip was a boat trip to the Italian island of Caprera. “We had cycled all day and were all sweaty and dirty. We then arrived at a light blue lagoon and went for a swim. There was hardly anyone there. Well, that was quite romantic.”
They said goodbye again, but in September Mario was back on the doorstep with his camper, loaded with bottles of wine, cheeses, cold cuts, tins of tuna, chocolate and jars of olives. “Normally I hardly drink and now I drink a bottle about every night.”
But does she hate the Italian lifestyle? “No, I love Italy. We, Dutch, are sometimes so rigid. It has to be done like this and it has to be done like this. We have that enormous sense of duty:” No you don’t, because you have to work tomorrow. ” loosen up. “
Annemieke and Mario have been together for five months now. Sometimes she also squeezes herself in the arm. “My life was really good in the Netherlands. I have my children, grandchildren and friends here. I also almost retired. But it is great that this has happened to me.”
She is still deeply in love and has already planned her next trip to Italy. What will the future look like? “We think about it in peace. But I really want to be with him.” Her message? “So it is still possible people, always! Even in the situation in which we now live.”