Studying abroad in Florence, in one word, was amazing. For most of my life, I had heard stories from my father, telling me stories about my grandmother who made these delicious Italian meals and desserts. She used to tell me stories when I was younger about her vague memories of living in Italy, and I loved hearing her speak to my grandfather in Italian. I had always dreamed of traveling to Italy to explore my Italian roots and heritage, and studying abroad through SAI provided me the perfect opportunity to do so.
When I arrived in Italy, I contacted some family members who live there, whom I've never met before. They were more than willing to meet with me at some point, and we planned to meet during Easter time. Once the time came, I took a train from Florence to San Benedetto, a coastal town on the eastern side of Italy. My father and boyfriend had also came down to visit during that time, so they were able to meet my Italian family as well.
As I arrived at the train station in San Benedetto, my family was there to greet me. The night before Easter, we went to one of my family member's house, a beautiful home in the hills overlooking the town. All the food was prepared that day, fresh from the oven. Fresh breads, pizzas...things I have never heard or smelled before. All my family members (only a few could speak English) crowded over to my boyfriend, my father, and I, asking one family member to translate everything we said into Italian, and asked us so many questions. The room we were eating in felt warm and cozy, and we sipped on some homemade dessert wine, the strongest wine I've ever tasted. It was an amazing feeling, being surround by these people I have never met before, yet feeling so welcomed and comfortable.
For actual Easter day, we attended a church service. The service was beautiful, and it was the first service I had attended since being abroad. And being able to experience it with my Italian family members was such a special experience. For Easter brunch, we went to a family owned restaurant, and were served a five course meal. I had to force myself to eat everything on my plate, and it seemed like all my family members were able to get it down no problem. The stereotype that Italians eat a lot is in fact true. But the food was delicious...three different pastas, breads, veal, beef....holy cow!
After spending two nights there, we had to leave San Benedetto. It was harder to say goodbye to my Italian family than I thought. Their kindness and hospitality provided me with so much joy and feelings of togetherness. Today, I still keep in contact with some of them, and hope to make plans to visit them again someday!