You can find beautiful countryside and good food in many places around the world — and Italy certainly has both — but it’s the people I met in Italy will be what I remember and love the most. Big bosomed Italian mothers making me five proscuitto and fromage sandwiches to propel me through weekend trips to Venice and Rome, driving with Italian men who blare American music and kind strangers who have guided me through streets when I was lost. It was an incredible six weeks. Here is a quick rundown:
What I learned from teaching: I thought I was doomed to a life of drawing lopsided stick figures for the rest of my life. But after four weeks of entertaining 5-9-year-olds who couldn’t understand I word I said, I was finding all sorts of creative ways to entertain them. Suddenly I was making Jungle Book posters and masks out of glue and colored sugar. It felt great to get the left side of my brain working again!
Most interesting food: Strawberry Risotto, from my “dad’s” restaurant in Roccafranca.
Weight gained: 6 pounds. Time to head to France and learn firsthand why the French don’t get fat.
Biggest surprise: How few Italians had left the country. I figured that, as Europeans, most Italians probably hopped from country to country on vacation. In reality, most don’t have the money to go from North to south, let alone travel Internationlly. I jest about Italian men living with their moms into their 30s but they really only do so because they often can’t find jobs that pay enough for them to move out. The two Italian men I met made less than 600 euro a month at their jobs.
Biggest disappointment: Italian men. There was no lover.
Favorite destination: The Amalfi Coast. Stunningly beautiful, fun hostel, nice people, vespas… I can’t say enough.
Most stereotypically Italian moment: When I was at dinner at my “dad’s” restaurant in Roccafranca and the grandmother, uncle, friends, etc. told me I should marry 27-year-old Giovanni.
Where America is better: Nightlife. I don’t mean we have better dance clubs and drinking options. Italy is behind in quality of movies, music and theater. In most places I visited I felt the only entertainment available was sitting with friends and having a glass of wine. The only thing that changed was the location (most frequently in the town square).
Where Italy is better: Family. Nursing homes are not a concept there; they take care of their parents until the end. Plus they eat lunch together every day and they all live in the same town. My own mom would be so happy if picked up some tips!