Returning To Italy Doesn't Make Me Feel More Italian
Start writing a post

Returning To Italy Doesn't Make Me Feel More Italian

Belonging somewhere new takes work.

Returning To Italy Doesn't Make Me Feel More Italian
Nicole Link

In the rolling hills of northern Tuscany, June is sagra season. Every weekend, churches sponsor a dinner to raise money for the local community. Each meal often features a special dish to draw in the crowds. Sometimes, it’s olive oil cake. Other times, it’s a meat or pasta dish that someone’s grandmother is “famous” for. Fundamentally, it’s an incentive for a town to get together, visit, and relax, something that seems to be increasingly rare in the U.S. It’s an experience that most tourists will never have.

Last Sunday, I attended a sagra in Segromigno, a small town located an hour west of Florence. In a yard behind the church, long rows of picnic tables were set up under a sparse scattering of olive trees. Attendees lined up to place their orders while kids clad in matching yellow t-shirts and paper hats brought out silverware and dense Tuscan bread in small paper bags. The specialty here is tordelli, a hearty, meat-filled ravioli topped with meat sauce. It arrived at the table in a Styrofoam bowl. The air was filled with the excited screams of children careening down the large inflatable slide in the corner of the yard, and the animated conversations taking place at every table. Church bells echoed in the background. In short, it was the poster-child of a good time.

Yet, every once in a while, the Scandinavian-looking family sitting at the table next to me drew stares from the regulars. Their blond hair, overly elegant attire, and stoic composure looked laughably out of place. My table-mates, an eclectic mix of expats from all over the world, commented briefly on their foreignness. Yet, trapped in my bubble of English, I began to feel the eyes on me. Nothing about the situation was unnerving, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was on the outside looking in.

By heritage, I’m more Italian than anything else, and for the past two years, I’ve lived in Tuscany part-time with my family. We have successfully crossed the threshold from tourists to expats. We have a circle of friends. We do yard work. We go grocery shopping. In short, we live here. Yet, I feel no more Italian than I ever did before. Which begs the question: Does heritage have anything to do with it? I think not.

My predominantly German-Norwegian father has done a better job of assimilating than I have. He’s harvested olives, learned how to prune grape vines, and greatly surpassed my level of rudimentary Italian. Don’t be fooled, though, it takes a lot of work. Like love at first sight, feeling completely at ease in a foreign place is rare. The expectation of receiving a rush of understanding and sentimentality when one journeys to (or lives in) the land of their ancestors is unfounded. Realistically, I grew up in a very different place. Despite humanity’s homogeneous nature, culture is often too fickle of a beast to completely tame.

What brought my family, especially my Italian-American mother, to Italy was the desire to find a place that felt like home. After nearly 50 years of living in the same place, they decided it was time for a change. We succeeded in our quest, for the most part. But like it or not, we are still undeniably foreign.

Several years ago, I visited the small town deep in the southern Italian region of Calabria, where my great-grandparents grew up and eventually left. I tried to picture them walking down the same street I found myself upon. I tried to grasp that intangible familiarity with each person I met there. Yet, deep down, I knew too much had gone by.

A small piece of me remains here, but most of it does not. That’s not to stay that I don’t want it to. Like my father has discovered, belonging somewhere new takes work. It’s impossible to revive the belonging of those who came before me, but it’s not impossible to start over. I think I’ll start at next week’s sagra.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
Rebecca Alvarez

Rebecca Alvarez is many things: founder, sexologist, CEO, mentor, and more — as a Latina businesswoman, each of her endeavors is grounded in the strong principles of inclusivity and diversity, especially in sexual health and wellness. Bloomi is the product of her all of her shared passions, and with it she has fostered a community of like-minded, passionate women.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is not a consistent standard for health education in the United States. There are a lot of variables that go into this — what state a student lives in, whether they go to a public or private school, and the district's funding and priorities. These variables can be argued for any subject, not just health class. But as we continue to grow as a society, hopefully bettering our education system along the way, it's crucial to consider this often-forgotten element of a child's schooling.

Keep Reading... Show less

In March, the whole country shut down. School was online, extra-curriculars were canceled, and I found myself laying in bed all day every day. One day, as I was laying in bed contemplating my laziness, I decided that I wanted to do something to make myself more healthy. I was feeling so down on myself and my laziness so I decided to make a change.

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Songs That Made It Onto My September Playlist

September is the month for Los Angeles natives and Australian music fans.


The Neighbourhood, Bad Suns and The Driver Era are three Los Angeles bands that released songs this month. Not only was it a month for Los Angeles bands, but many Australian bands released new music — San Cisco's fourth studio album, Surf Trash single, Skegss single, and High Tropics single. I made new discoveries this month and was pleased by the amount of new music.

Read the listicle below to learn what came out this month in alternative rock music:

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Staying Active While You're Stuck Inside IS Possible, It Just Takes Some Small Steps

I know the last thing you want to think about right now is exercising, but it's time to put down the controller and put on your workout clothes.


As someone who has also been living on a bed since March, I can guarantee you that working out has been the last thing on my priority list. It's pretty far down there, along with my motivation and brain cells I used to use for work. However, I have made an effort in the past couple of weeks to move up exercising to at least number three on my priorities list.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Got Clean At A Very Young Age, And It Honestly Saved My Life

At 18, the world looked so much different for me than it did for most other 18-year-olds that I knew.

Emmie Pombo

Going into rehab when I was 19 was hands down the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life. My addiction started when I was around 17 and spiraled and spiraled out of control, as addictions always do. However, looking back, I'm so lucky my addiction started and ended when it did.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

7 Things Your Partner Can Do To Support You When You Have PCOS

Don't be afraid to ask for help or comfort if you need it.


Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may not be totally visible to the eye, which makes it a lot harder for your partner to understand what's going on with your body.

If you are in a relationship, it's important that you communicate your PCOS symptoms with your partner. I say "your" symptoms specifically because everyone's symptoms are different.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Watched 'The Social Dilemma' And YIKES, I'm Terrified For The Next Generation's Mental Health

Millennials can remember a time without online social affirmation, but we may be the last ones.

The Social Dilemma / Netflix

I've been in a media job for the entirety of my professional career. From part-time social media internships to full-time editorial work, I've continued to learn how to tell stories, write catchy headlines, and keep people interested. I believe working in media is a big responsibility, as well as a valuable way to advance our world.

Keep Reading... Show less
Politics and Activism

One Indictment, Three Charges, And No Justice For Breonna Taylor

We can't settle for this decision or a system that is fundamentally broken and unequal.


On March 13, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was fatally shot in her apartment by police who were executing a "no-knock" warrant. Since then, there have been rallying efforts both in the streets and on social media demanding justice for Taylor and keeping her name known.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments