Growing up in the United States as an Italian American (with dual citizenship), I remember from an early age having such a deep pride in my Italian heritage. I don’t know if it was the Sunday lunches with extended family and homemade sauce, or just the way my nonno lit up a room when he walked in with his fierce laugh, his stylish newsboy hats, or the way he demanded his food exactly the way he liked it at exactly the time he wanted it (he was the definition of hangry before hangry was a thing!). The annual family reunions with my nonno and his 7 siblings plus all their offspring also sparked my love for all things Italian. They were weekends, always over Labor Day weekend, filled with games, laughter, fun-tilled theme nights, an abundance of food, chatter about our family history, a giant family tree sprawled across one wall, and us kids running free through the creek and fields of this beautiful private park.
Regardless of what planted that seed and fostered it to grow into a true curiosity and passion; it’s no surprise that when I made the decision to study abroad I chose Italy as my destination. Spending 5 months in the country I felt so connected to yet completely unfamiliar with felt like the most magical trip of a lifetime.
Going from Milwaukee, Wisconsin to Rome, Italy couldn’t be done without some culture shock, but it was a beautiful culture shock, one that made me want to immerse myself into the Italian culture and never return. Without a cell phone or GPS I still wonder to this day how I managed navigating my way around this bustling city with insane amounts of traffic and winding streets so narrow at times large vehicles became stuck! Yet, somehow I managed.
My favorite memories were days I traipsed around the city alone, exploring the Roman Forum, having a coffee in the piazza of the Vatican, circling the Colosseum in awe and often times I would lay in the grass near the Colosseum and just write in my journal. The inspiration felt immense and the emotion flew out of me. There truly is something magical about Rome and Italy in general.
With my new group of friends we did trips to Florence, Venice, Capri, Sicily, and even a weekend away in Greece. I didn’t make it on the trip to Cinque Terre (I’d get there years later), as my wallet had been stolen on a crowded metro ride, so I didn’t have a way to pay for anything, but I always enjoyed exploring Rome and felt like every time I went out there was something new (yet extremely old) to see and capture my curiosity.
Although I was there for 5 months and saw a lot of the country I knew there was still so much to explore. When it was time to leave I know I had left a piece of my heart there and that I would be determined to go back.
Lucky for me I did go back, many times now, and each time I find more things to fall in love with there. Each part of the country is so different and to choose a favorite city or area is darn near impossible. There is something truly magical about Italy and it’s not something one can really put into words, it’s something you have to experience on your own by going there and seeing it all for yourself.
(I struggled to write this and I’m not entirely sure why…I don’t feel like it captures what I wanted to say, but I’m publishing it anyway in hopes it gives a small insight into how I feel. And I hope it sparks your interest to explore Italy!)
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