Deciding where you want to study abroad is a big deal. The main considerations for my location choice included utilizing a different language, experiencing new culture and tasting a unique cuisine. My family always wanted to tour Italy, so I thought I’d jumpstart the expedition.
I was so fortunate to have my parents visit me abroad. After discussing times for them to come, we came to a great decision: arrive in Rome right when the Temple Rome program ends. Many of my classmates had their families visit during the semester, which seemed overwhelming between attending classes and finding their relatives to give personal guided tours. I think the most disappointing part is when the family leaves to tour other parts of Italy while the student stays back. My advice is clear: wait until you’re done with classes to fully enjoy your time with loved ones. I was able to travel around Italy, save my own money and spend two extra weeks abroad. Perfetto!
My parents arrived in Rome just as excited, jet-lagged and enthusiastic as I was months prior. Instantly they noticed differences between Italy and the United States. The most notable included the traffic and pedestrian relationship, conversations involving a lot of hands and the delicious food. Turns out it really is hard to find a bad meal in Italy–just avoid the tourist traps.
We spent three days in Rome. I finally saw the inside of the Colosseum, Mom discovered her chosen local drink (the Aperol Spritz) and my dad and I stared through the oculus of the Pantheon in awe. A favorite site for us both. After taking them to all the classic spots and a few of my preferred locations, we were off to the next location. Our mode of transportation was a Fiat 500L rental car, always an exciting ride as my dad perfected his fast, Italian driving. Advice he received from a taxi driver: “Drive like you have six eyes, and then add an extra pair for the scooters zipping by.”
The two weeks spent with my parents were busy, but slow dinners with a bottle of wine prepared us for the next day ahead. Overall, we toured Rome, towns in the Tuscany and Abruzzo region, Florence, Naples and the Amalfi coast. Each area was unalike: the specialty food and dialect ranged greatly from Central to South Italy. We saw crowded cities, medieval villages, rolling hills, mountains kissing the clouds and cliff towns along the coastline. I’ve been told that Italy is one of the most beautiful countries, and I truly believe it.
One of our most memorable visits was in the town of Gampatesa in the Abruzzo region. This is the town my father’s grandparents lived in before leaving for America in the early 20th century. We arrived in the town on a Saturday, everyone was outside for a wedding and it was clear we were foreigners in this small village. We showed someone my great grandparents’ passports and immediately we were taken to the municipal office, shook the mayor’s hand and were offered the assistance of two young, English-speaking local residents to show us around. They opened the fortress-turned-museum for us with a private tour and offered us a complimentary lunch. We also had the opportunity to walk down the street where my ancestors lived. The hospitality and kindness displayed by the people of Gampatesa was remarkable, a special experience in a beautiful town. It made me wonder why my ancestors had ever decided to leave.