Category: Italy

Italy: Love at first sight

As soon as I set foot in Rome on April 11th my heart was immediately captivated, and as I continued to explore new cities and towns throughout Italy and Europe I only fell deeper in love. My program traveled around to Rome, Florence, Siena and Bologna the first 2 weeks and then we settled into Vicenza, our home away from home for the next couple of months. And it truly did become just that. We became regulars at the café down the street from our apartments and our favorite self-serve restaurant. We spent our evenings drinking spritz cocktails on the terrace that overlooked the neighborhood piazza. We would frequent the grocery stores for group dinners on the weekends and kick around a soccer ball at the local park. Class was typically outside, drawing and taking notes and when we were inside we worked on our studio project redesigning a new building and Piazza for downtown Vicenza.  Although we were finally settled in somewhere that did not mean that we were done traveling. Vicenza was a short train ride away from Venice and many other small Italian towns that we would go on day trips. Lastly, nearing the end of our time together in Europe our group went on a bus tour through Switzerland for week.

The entire 3 months that I was studying abroad I never ceasedIMG_1300 to be amazed by the architecture, art, religion, traditions and culture that seems to fill every nook and cranny of Europe. I like to think that Italy is an architect’s heaven on earth. Studying architecture there was incredible. I was able to see things in person that I had only seen in movies or text books. To be in the colosseum or the Vatican for example, places that I have spent so much of my life dreaming about was surreal. What’s more, those were only two of the countless buildings my classmates and I visited and each one, famous or not, was a masterpiece in its own wright.

Moreover, what lingers in my mind more vividly is the smaller details that make up the fabric of Italy: like the narrow cobble stone streets, the shutters, the laundry hanging outside of windows, the small alters for Mary and Jesus that are mounted on to the sides of buildings, soccer playing on the television, ordering a cappuccino, the smell of cigarette smoke, the smell of pizza being made and the lengthy greetings shared in Italian with the coming and going of every friend. These are the attributes of Italy that truly won my heart. I don’t miss the museums and the buildings, I miss getting lost in the streets of Italy and the people, sounds and smells that you run into along the way. Being immersed in a different culture is life changing. It opened my eyes to new possibilities. Traveling not only made me appreciate things about my life back in the U.S but also made me realize where IMG_2012I see room for improvement.

The people are also what last in our memories forever, more than the sites and tourist attractions. I didn’t know a single person in my program and by the end of my 3 months I can call every one of them a dear friend, including my professors. People with different backgrounds and lifestyles coming together over common interests in learning and exploring to create timeless friendships. I learned so much from each of my peers, my professors and the random acquaintances I made along the way. I feel a new sense of independence that I didn’t have before this trip. Now I have confidence in myself that I am capable of navigating the world, but this is thanks to the support and companionship of my new friends.

 

  • Eden Haskins-Dahl, Architecture in Vicenza

Lost in Translation

It was still the first week in Italy and I did not speak nearly as well as I do now. I wanted to do the “When In Rome” thing and try all of the local customs, as one should when studying abroad. Right outside of the CIEE building where we had just finished our first day of orientation was an Italian bar.

It was early, I was tired, and we were in Italy. Obviously the bar was summoning me to its fine Italian brew. My new friends and I wandered over to the bar. I was the first to order. I am not a big coffee drinker: I know very little about American coffee, much less the seemingly endless varieties Italian bars have to offer. All I knew at the time was that if I was going to get into this coffee thing I was going to have to take baby steps. The first coffees needed to have copious amounts of milk. Earlier in the week I had tried a Latte Macchiato. It was a good mix of coffee and milk but I figured that I could use a bit more milk. So I found a friendly name on the menu and asked the barman, “Cos’è un Latte Bianco?” (What is a “latte bianco”?)

I knew I had nailed the question when he answered rapid-fire style,“Un latte bianco è una tazza di latte caldo. Ne vuoi uno?”

As I alluded to before, I spoke a little bit of Italian when I arrived in September but just was not able to completely comprehend his response. In fact, I did not really hear much of anything. I just smiled and nodded, then looked at the girl next to me. She was not really paying attention. Again, this was the first week and my new friend next to me was really cute, so I decided that I preferred to not embarrass myself by asking for clarification. Instead, I just nodded, “Si, lo prendo.”

I thought, what’s the worst that can happen? He gives me too strong of a coffee while I look awesome speaking Italian with the barman in front of this girl? Well worth the risk of getting even the worst coffee in my book.

As the barman reaches under the counter to grab an empty glass, the girl asks me what I had ordered. I come clean: “I’m not really sure, I asked him what a Latte Bianco was and he said something about milk. I think it’s got a lot of milk and a little bit of coffee.”A lot of milk indeed.

Before Krista can respond we both watch the barman take the empty glass, fill it completely with warm milk, and put it on the counter in front of us. “€1.20,” he says with a smile. Krista starts laughing and I grin sheepishly while I pull my wallet out. So that’s how I paid $1.50 for a warm glass of milk at 9am on my third day abroad.

To me, this story sums up my time abroad. Not in the sense that the majority was lost in translation but rather that I was prepared for struggles and failure yet would be willing to shake it off in an effort to improve my Italian and experience everything this country offers. I knew it would not be easy living in a foreign country where my mother tongue is not universal; in fact, that was one of the main reasons I was attracted to this opportunity in the first place.

Studying abroad is about losing things in translation, not understanding cultural differences, and flat out looking foolish at times. That is just the way it is. The best way to handle that is to just relax, laugh off the awkwardness, and get back on the horse for another ride. I knew that before I committed to studying abroad and my thoughts on the matter have not wavered in the year since. This experience at the bar early in my year abroad just worked to reinforce that idea in my head and set the tone for an incredibly rewarding time in Italy. After all, studying abroad is about appreciating one moment outside of your comfort zone after another. That, and enjoying a warm glass of milk once in a while.

– Beau Battista, Italy

Reimagining Rome

Early spring I was not going to be able to have the chance to study abroad because of financial reasons. I ended up being encouraged by my intern supervisor to enjoy the chances of studying abroad before graduating and starting a family. I ended up talking to my parents; they unquestionably loved the idea because they know how much I love architecture and exploring. They allowed me to start applying for the opportunity and I eventually was accepted into the program. I immediately began to apply for international study abroad scholarships and with hard work and perseverance I was able to receive two University of Oregon scholarships from the UO Mills Center and UO International Study Abroad Committee, and I am so thankful for their consideration and for the support to pursue this life-changing experience.

After the blessing of receiving these scholarships I began to think about how my life, attitude, and perspective on culture and architecture was going to transform with being in Rome, Italy for two months. We as a group of 16 students came together, learned a bit about the Italian culture, packed our things, and off we went. I’ve never been outside the United States so I knew flying into international airports was going to be interesting and somewhat a little bit confusing when trying to find the right gates. Nonetheless, I made it out alive and 21 hours later, I made it to the Fiumicino Airport in Rome.

Finally on the ground again, I met up with another student within the program to take a taxi into the city. We first had to exchange some dollars into euros then find an official taxi. I say this because there are many Italians who try to hoax you into paying more because they think you don’t know any better. Our taxi driver spoke little English, but I was able to communicate with him through some Spanish. Once we arrived at the street of our temporary place, the moist and sweaty feel of the air was not too bad. My classmate and I were lost for about three hours because we did not have our ‘student phones’ yet to call other classmates that were already at the apartment we were staying at for the first week. We eventually found the place and gathered up with all the other guys staying at the place.

Settled in and relaxing, we didn’t have class the first week so we were able to walk around and experience the Italian day and night. We were able to obtain Wi-Fi at the apartment and chat with our families back in the states. Classes started up and the studying was something kind of new to me because I’ve never taken summer classes before. I expected that the program was going to be a slow two months, but it went by too fast and I would have loved more time to learn and explore. I took two architectural history classes, one media watercolor course, and a design studio. It was a pretty packed schedule, but we had the weekends to travel and relax. We were able to travel to Northern Italy (Florence & Venice) and Southern Italy (Pompeii and Paestum). All I could think of was beauty and paradise! The Italian cities have changed my views on all aspects of life. Their food is so fresh, the way of transportation, how friendly they are, and how they obtain natural fresh water is amazing. I had to buy groceries every three to four days, walk or take a taxi to class, and being able to just have a water bottle and fill it up at every street corner or piazza was awesome.

The things I was concerned and shocked about the Italian culture and lifestyle was their smoking habits and ability to keep streets clean. I saw and inhaled smoke many times throughout the program. Smokers ranged from adults to even teenagers. Their approach to collecting and disposing of trash is very underprivileged as well. It is quite wonderful that many citizens walk but the city of Rome itself has a poor means of transportation. The immense amount of parking lots and cars everywhere has made the air feel unclean and muggy; Rome currently deals with a major urban infrastructure problem and as architects we try to repair these problems through design, communication, and user inputs.

My main highlights during these weekend trips were being able to see, touch, and feel the colossal scale of awe-inspiring architectural structures, such as churches and cathedrals. It is still amazing to me today as to how much labor based work a whole city or region had to commit to finishing these huge buildings. The techniques they had to do to collect materials from other parts of the world and bring them back to Italy is astounding.

More importantly I discovered who I was as an individual and who I could become. I’ve never been abroad so I felt like I broke out of a shell of being a follower and transformed into a self-leader. Italy gave me the opportunity to eliminate the anxiety of being lost alone and knowing that I could do things separate from the group. The first couple of weeks were difficult because I felt like I wasn’t comfortable with my surroundings and was not able to see or reach new places. After the trip got deeper into the program I went to scenic places by myself, met some new people, and learned that sometimes our future back in the states could be like this after graduation from school.

These differences in the Italian society from the one back home has taught me that there is a distinct challenge everyone faces. The different attitudes of others on Americans and how others view an American student as privileged and spoiled. As in my student perspective, we are not fortunate because of the thousands of dollars in debt we face to study. The amount of work that goes into living a healthy and manageable life is difficult just like everyone else on earth. We contain the same issues all over the world. This was a chance to be an individual, as well as a representative of my culture, and encourage positive understanding of global diversity and adversity. I now see the United States through new eyes and I am able to spread a new understanding to future prospective study abroad students.

Dylan Garza, Architecture in Rome

Vicenza: Che Bella Citta

Vicenza isn’t among the top tourist destinations in Italy, and I enjoy that. Sketch of Duomo - Firenze_KellyBuchananVicenza feels authentic and real. In Vicenza, I am greeted by “Buongiorno” or “Salve”, not “Hello.” Paying and waiting in lines is not required to experience Vicenza, yet there is still plenty to marvel at.

I am amazed at the constant presence of residents out and about in Vicenza. It is obvious that they take pride in their city and enjoy being a part of its everyday activities. From my daily commutes, I have noticed that there is never a dull moment in the piazza Signori. From concerts, to DJs, to art installations and markets, there is usually something taking place. Even when there is not a scheduled event in the piazza, the piazza still provides prime people watching. I have enjoyed watching the passing of bachelorette parties, local musicians playing for change, children riding their bikes and the dog who brings a tennis ball to anyone willing to throw it for him. The piazza is a space appreciated by all and no matter what day of the week or the time of the day, people still find the time to enjoy a spritz by the Basilica.

Roman Forum_KellyBuchananThe Basilica and its brilliant copper roof serves as a beautiful landmark and is the anchor of the city. It is a daily destination for me as well as­ others in town. In addition to the Basilica, Vicenza has an amazing collection of Palladio works. The Villa Rotunda was among my favorite buildings to sketch and the Opera at the historic Teatro Olimpico was spectacular.

I am going to miss the beautiful cityscape of Vicenza, but also the cuisine and the outdoor exploring. Righetti’s is one of my favorite places in town. Even after eating there night after night, I still looked forward to it every day. The Aperol spritz, a Vicenza staple, has become my new favorite drink, which has been a
refreshing treat after climbing and hiking around Vicenza.

Vicenza has so much to offer and there is always something new to discover. The simple delights of Vicenza make it a wonderful place to live in. Vicenza provides a great example of what people everywhere try to achieve in their own daily lives and cities.

– Kelly Buchanan, Architecture in Vicenza

Food, Family, and Eating Ethically in Italy

My time in Macerata, Italy is most strongly characterized by the food I ate—fitting, since I was studying food, culture, and the environmental and ethical dilemmas associated with them. My fondest memories are not only because of the culture and history behind the meals, or even their quality and contents; most importantly, I know I will always remember who I ate them with, and all of the different people I met because of food. My experience in Italy truly showed me how powerful food is in cementing social bonds; whether the meal was in my apartment with my roommates, starving after our day of environmental studies and Italian art and architecture classes, at the coast eating a seafood meal caught by local fishermen, or olive oil and wine tasting after class. All of my memories I cherish, however, one especially valuable experience was at a family owned restaurant that was full of character, called Trattoria da Ezio, where I learned to make pasta from scratch from an eccentric Italian grandmother.

Mirella, the owner of Trattoria, is an older woman full of character; she is exactly how one would imagine a spirited Italian grandmother to be, full of life, jokes, and an intense passion for quality, delicious foods. I loved the family aspect of the restaurant; Mirella’s father, her son Marco, and Marco’s brother all work there. It was pretty cool to see them in action, and to see how they interact with each other in the kitchen. This family run type of business is becoming rarer in present day society, but I think it is so valuable and truly adds character to a business. Mirella and Marco were the instructors of our lesson in making pasta from scratch; they made the process look simple, but, like any skill, practice is necessary to perfect it. Mirella emphasized that we should only use fresh eggs; supermarket eggs will not suffice. The eggs we were given were local, and the yolks were brighter than any I have seen. They were bright orange, and resembled the color of a sunset.

The ingredients for fresh pasta are very simple; flour, eggs, and a dash of olive oil. It’s a cheap meal to make and fairly easy, making it a perfect dish for college students or people looking to eat economically. She is so accustomed to the recipe that when she cooks, exact measurements are not necessary. Although she did not measure anything out, 100 grams of flour is necessary for one egg and this amount makes one serving of pasta. She placed a handful of flour in front of each of us, and made a well with her fist to crack an egg in. We were then instructed to beat the egg into the flour using a fork, until both were incorporated enough to work the dough with our hands. Kneading the dough is the next step, and I worked to get a smooth, ball shape. Olive oil is then splashed on the dough to prevent sticking and to give the noodles flavor. Mirella scolded us often (in a loving way, of course) and yelled, “Farina! Farina!” when the dough was too moist. After kneading again to incorporate the oil, we used a rolling pin to flatten the dough. The goal is to create a thin, square or round shape. The thickness should be minimal; I would estimate around a quarter centimeter, so definitely as thin as possible without breaking the dough. However, I found that if there are a few holes or cracks, the pasta is not ruined, because when cutting the noodles out it is easy to avoid these imperfections. They don’t affect the end product. Flattening the dough out was the hardest part for me; it requires a surprising amount of strength and patience. After thinning the dough, it is supposed to rest for about an hour. After resting, the circle or square is rolled from opposite sides, making a scroll type shape. A knife is used to slice the roll into desired thickness. We made a pasta shape called “tagliatelle,” although a variety of noodle shapes can be made from the same dough such as angel hair and spaghetti. This dough is also a base for ravioli, tortellini, and lasagna noodles. After slicing the noodles, they are ready to boil. Fresh noodles only require a few minutes of boiling. Mirella said that directly after making the noodles, only 1 or 2 minutes is necessary, but since we brought our noodles home to cook, and I found I needed around 3 or 4 minutes since the dough had sat out longer than an hour.

I loved being able to apply this experience to my educational studies; how making pasta the “old fashioned” method is one way to return to the land and improve the quality of food in our lives in America. It also inspired me to try new combinations after returning to Eugene. I would love to try and make pumpkin ravioli in the fall, gorgonzola and mushroom ravioli in the winter, and ravioli filled with pesto in the spring. Sauces and fillings can be seasonal; artichokes, mushrooms, tomatoes, basil and the addition of meats, too. You can make noodles into a comfort food such as lasagna, or prepare a thick, creamy gorgonzola sauce for homemade angel hair. It can be light and refreshing—a simple drizzle of olive oil, fresh slices of local heritage tomatoes, mozzarella, and spinach with tagliatelle. The ideas are endless, and that is what I love about cooking at home. It is such an outlet for creativity, and not only do I love eating things I make from scratch, but I love the joy it brings others, too.

I feel so blessed to have this cooking experience in Italy. In my time there, my beliefs and values regarding food, food production, and its relationship with culture and the environment were cemented. I have realized that when deciding what one eats, consumers have to consider more than the nutritional content,. Eating ethically requires one to take into consideration where their food came from, the cultural context surrounding it, and who made or grew the product. Making fresh homemade pasta culminates these ideas perfectly, and it is exceptionally tastier than dried boxed pasta. It is unprocessed and healthier; it does not have any additives, it was made in an environmentally and ethically sound way, and as Mirella told us, it is made with love.

– Marina Brassfield, Food and Culture in Macerata

An Excursion to Rome

Anderw Burgess - Santi Luca i MartinaAs a student of architecture, the opportunity to study in Rome was invaluable. To be able to see firsthand the art and architecture created long before our country even existed was an incredible experience. Though it is difficult to narrow down what the most compelling thing I experienced was, the Pantheon is one building I will not forget.

On my first full day in Rome, a small contingent of our larger group decided to do some independent sightseeing. The five of us, mostly acquaintances at the time, walked from our apartment north to the heart of the city. After a brief visit to our program center, we headed in search of the Pantheon.

I still remember turning my head to look down an alley and seeing it. We were to the west, so we decided to circle around to meet it from the front. When we got to the piazza, it was crawling with people, but the Pantheon was foremost in my mind. We walked up the steps and were all overwhelmed by the monumentality of the structure.

I still remember the noise at the threshold and the change once we entered. There was a sudden hush—the act of crossing into the space seemed to demand silence. It was afternoon; the sun coming through the oculus was on the floor to our left. I went and stood right in the midst of the light.

The people around me faded. I stood in awe of the hemisphere above me and the floor below. I tried to absorb everything and failed. There were too many details; too much to see.Anderw Burgess - Villa D'este

I remember standing by a column and simply staring at it, trying to understand everything I could. How it was constructed. How it was implemented. What it looked like almost 2,000 years ago. The possibilities that were left to my imagination were overwhelming. And for seven weeks, I felt this exact same way each time I would stand and gaze at yet another of mankind’s great masterpieces.

– Andrew Burgess, Lecce, Italy

My Most Memorable Class

Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.42.11 PM  My study abroad experience in Siena was, for lack of a less cliché description, life-changing. The Tuscan landscape was indescribably beautiful. The friends, both American and Italian, were some of the most genuine people I’ve ever encountered. The food was exquisite, and the cultural experiences were eye-opening. My academic experiences collided seamlessly with my cultural experiences abroad. My favorite class, Food and Culture of Italy taught by Suzanne W, is the perfect example of this collision.

First, Suzanne was the ideal teacher for this course because she too had been an American abroad years earlier. Suzanne has lived in Tuscany with her Italian husband for years. Though she has become fully integrated into Italian culture, she had originally studied abroad in Milan as an undergrad and was able to provide us with a unique perspective on learning about Italian culture.Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.43.16 PM

Food and Culture was my favorite class because the planned excursions for the class provided some of the most unique opportunities to learn about Italian culinary traditions. Some of these excursions included a trip to Brolio Castle where Chianti wine is produced, a trip to Spannocchia where the Cinta Senese pigs are raised to produce salumi, and a trip to a local olive grove to see olive oil being produced. Visiting Brolio Castle was fascinating because we were able to learn about both the history of the castle itself and the wine-production process. When we visited Spannocchia, we watched a video about industrial farming in the United States before we learned about the sustainable production processes Screen Shot 2015-09-03 at 1.41.27 PMat the farm. (…) At the olive grove, we participated in an olive harvest before going to the olive press to see new olive oil being made. We were able to taste the final products at all of these locations, and after seeing how they were produced, we were able to better appreciate the gastronomic experiences.

The immersion opportunities in my Food and Culture class were essential to my academic experience in this course. Had I taken this class at the University of Oregon, I would have missed out on all of these excursions and would be lacking the cultural context necessary to truly understand the material presented in class. The hands on experiences and visual stimuli offered in this course made all of the knowledge that I acquired stay fresh much longer. I think back on these experiences and remember what I learned from each them with a fondness that cannot be replicated with the use of a textbook.

– Madison Shepard, Food and Culture in Siena

Learning and Living in Lecce

Nearly every day presented something new for me to do and I loved the sense of adventure and opportunity to learn about a completely different Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 2.05.46 PMculture. There is no one memory that sticks out further than all of the others; my entire experience in Lecce, Italy was amazing. I could narrow it down to a top three experiences which would be: the week off of class when my mother (who has never been out of the US) came to travel Italy with me, the weekend when 2 of my newest and closest friends and I traveled to northern Italy to stay with a friend we met in the first month of school, and the last days I spent in Italy with another of my friend’s authentic Italian family (that was a real test of our language lessons, let me tell you!) being fully and completely immersed in the Italian lifestyle. But, because I could write about all of those experiences for days, I’ll just stick with telling about the most treasured thing I came back to the States with: newfound friendships.

Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 2.05.34 PMWhen you are thrown into a strange apartment in a foreign country that speaks a different language, I’ll be completely honest, it is quite terrifying. However, then you start meeting people and you realize that this is the best thing you have ever done. Sharing an experience like this is indescribable. It creates a bond between people that words cannot explain and pretty soon you have your own little community and get to know everyone in your study abroad group like you’ve been friends for years. I met some amazing people from our own U of O as well as from other countries and other places in the US.

I share memories with these people that I met over the summer that I will never forget and no one other than those who were there will ever be able to fully understand. Even when I explained stories upon my return to friends and family members, I felt they could not fully grasp my experience. Studying abroad and being submerged in a new culture can only be truly appreciated if you yourself go and do it. You cannot rely on stories from other people about their experience, you have to see for yourself and make your own memories. This sounds extremely cliché, but studying abroad truly was the best experience of my life so far.

– Sydne Sloy, Lecce Italy

Pasta and Passion in Macerata

The Italian culture and lifestyle would be nothing without the people of Italy. The rolling green hilly landscape and amazing delectable cuisine full of handmade pasta and gelato help-but the Italian people themselves are truly special. Stereotypically Italians are known as being loud, passionate, confrontational, and full of gestures. My first day in Macerata, a friend and I were walking down the main street Coso Cavour and immediately heard two very loud voices outside a “pasticceria”(pastry shop). There were two middle-aged women standing very close to one another screaming high-pitched Italian at each other. One was carrying a plastic bag full of vegetables and using her other hand to wave dramatically up in the air while the other was looking up into the sky rolling her eyes with a hand defiantly on her hip. Walking towards them, I whispered to my friend and noted, that they seemed very angry they must have be in an argument. Not thinking anything of it we walked past them and went into a store.

Coming out five minute later and still hearing the same voices I turned toward the two women. To my dismay the two women were air kissing each others cheeks while smiling and enthusiastically singing, “Arrividerchi, Ciao, A Demani” (Bye, See you later); pleasantly walking away from each other grinning. I was stunned, was itDavidson1 not minutes earlier that I had just witnessed these women in a huge fight. Confused I thought back on the situation. Although I didn’t realize it then, Italians are very passionate people and very family oriented. What I first assumed to be an argument from my Americanized perspective was actually just a normal Italian conversation that consisted of loud voices, big gestures, and highly engaged conversations. Passionate is the best word to describe Italians in my opinion. Italians demonstrate passion in forms of love, friendship, and for their homeland and country.

This passion transfers not only between friends and family but strangers as well. One of the most memorable experiences and true representation of the Italian people and culture was meeting my neighbors Silvia  and Marco. The first month in our apartment in Macerata, my roommate and I were cooking dinner for some friends in the program and had the door slightly open for them to walk in. As we were cooking dinner chopping fresh vegetables and boiling water, we heard a knock on the door and bursting in came this older Italian lady into our tiny apartment filling the small hallway with a huge smile.

She was tall and had a head full of curly grey hair with piercing blue eyes and was wearing layers of jewelry on her neck and fingers. She looked at our stunned expressions and started greeting us with “Ciao” and other Italian phrases with such a warm smile that it didn’t matter that we had never met. She quickly enveloped both my roommate and I into a huge hug and put a gift-wrapped bag into our hands, which we later discovered was full of lemons and a mason jar of prune jam.

I was stunned, who was this Italian lady and why was she being so nice to us? In Italian she was asking us our names and where we were from. I was surprised I understood her after only a couple weeks of Italian. Silvia was smiling and was genuinely interested and seemed overly excited to meet us. After exchanging names and that we were from America, Silvia kept pointing up to the ceiling and then to herself. Silvia was telling us she lived upstairs and rapidly grabbed my roommate’s hand and was rushing her out the door up flights of stairs. I quickly grabbed my Italian dictionary and followed them up to her apartment. Unfortunately, the basic Italian phrases would only last us so long. (put somewhere else)

Davidson8[3]My roommate and I ended up spending a couple hours with Silvia. We met her husband Marco and their son. She fed us delicious traditional Italian Easter cake and gave us a tour of the apartment. The older couple pulled out old family photos and went through each one of them with us pointing out their other children and different vacations around Italy they had taken in the past. They showed us pictures of the Italian coastal beaches and slowly pronounced the names of the cities making us repeat it with an Italian accent. Then they would either smile energetically at our achievements or sourly shake their heads at our botched Italian and would repeat the word until it was identical to their smooth Italian dialect.

We also discovered that Silvia’s husband Marco was an artist and Silvia proudly displayed all of his many types of artwork to us making gestures of painting on a canvas. All of this time, it was my roommate and I speaking English and Marco and Silvia speaking Italian. Although there was a language barrier, it was as if it didn’t really exist because of hand gestures or commonalities. Somehow we managed to understand one another without the use of language. They taught me so much about the Italian landscape, and I even learned the days of the week from Silvia and Marco later on.

We left with smiles on our faces and I felt truly at home. Silvia was the perfect Italian grandma and opened her house to two random strangers she just met. I don’t think she realized it at the time, but she created a sense of family for me, without knowing it. Although Silvia didn’t speak English, and I never really knew in-depth Italian we managed to create and form a relationship and her passionate persona is one I will never forget.

* All names have been changed for privacy

– Rachel Davidson, Food & Culture in Macerata

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