Returning To Italy Doesn't Make Me Feel More Italian
Lifestyle

Returning To Italy Doesn't Make Me Feel More Italian

Belonging somewhere new takes work.

7
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.
Health and Wellness

This Survey Shows How Quarantine And Drinking Relate, And I Can't Say I'm Surprised

"5 o'clock somewhere" is more of a guideline now than ever.

As it stands, and my friends and I are finally 21. We're extremely excited to be able to go out to bars and "get lit" as the kids say, but due to the pandemic, all of our plans have been put on hold. We'd rather wait and go when it's safe than risk spreading the infection and hurting our loved ones. So, we've all been quarantining apart, getting on the occasional wine zoom call. This made me wonder if anyone else our age were doing the same thing.

Then, I discovered this survey: We Surveyed Millennials And Gen Z About Their Quarantine Drinking Habits — Cheers. Here are 3 things that I discovered through the survey results.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

Feel A Lil' Better: Because Those Hormones Aren't Gonna Balance Themselves

Your weekly wellness boost from Odyssey.

No matter how good (or bad) you'd describe your health, one thing is for sure: a little boost is ALWAYS a good idea. Whether that's reading a new, motivating book, or listening to a song that speaks to your soul, there are plenty of resources to help your health thrive on any given day.

It's common knowledge that your hormones impact practically every aspect of your body. Weight gain, acne, mental health... it's all related to your hormonal health. If your life is treating your body like the superstar it is, your endocrine glands should produce the perfect amount of each hormone to keep you running like a well-oiled machine. This is a nice thought, sure. In our current society, even the most balanced person you know may be missing an important aspect of respecting their body. Things like sleep, stress, diet, exercise, and a busy pace of life can throw hormones off balance and negatively impact your general wellbeing. Sometimes these imbalances are noticed right away, while other times they can be smaller — annoying, but not as obvious.

Keep Reading... Show less

One of the biggest discomforts I initially had with the stay-at-home order was feeling trapped and isolated from what was going on outside the walls of my house. Add that to living in a massive city, where social distancing is nearly impossible when doing something as simple as walking down the street.

Keep Reading... Show less

There is no such thing as a defined beauty industry. For those who believe so, it's time to open your eyes and look around you. Chilling in LA, Beauty Beez has been marketing the beauty industry towards people of color. Not to mention, Beauty Beez is a Black-owned beauty store. They have their own beauty bar that provides threading, waxing, facials, and braiding!

With the client at the center of the experience, our diverse group of professional and knowledgeable beauty experts are able to effectively educate and assist, while you explore. - Beauty Beez

You bet their fabulous mission statement was created by a female entrepreneur. Her name is Brittney Ogike and she is a mompreneur with a career in sports management. Beauty Beez came to life through mere observation or the lack of.

Keep Reading... Show less

I've always been a picture hoarder. No matter what happens with someone or how many pictures I have of the same thing, I hate deleting pictures. They all serve as memories to me, which is something I think is super important.

Keep Reading... Show less
Lifestyle

These Phoebe Buffay Outfits Prove She's A '90s Fashion Icon — We're Replicating EVERY Single One

In case you needed another reason to love our favorite coffee shop singer.

NBC

I've always been described as the Phoebe of my friend group — not just for being a vegan, animal-loving people pleaser, but also for the false sense of confidence in my singing and athleticism.

I consider it a compliment to be labeled a Phoebe. Besides her general warmth, I was always drawn to her hippy-chic vibes and passion for environmentalism before it was even cool to be vegan or to care about the planet. The way she carelessly ran through parks flailing her limbs without a care mimicked her effortlessly eccentric style.

Keep Reading... Show less

'Tis the season for wedding fun and if you're hosting or helping plan a bachelorette party for the bride-to-be, you're going to want it to be a blast. Whether it's a social distance soiree or a virtual party, games will always spice up the time with the gals, so if you're looking for a fun and easy one to get the party started (and everyone drunk), this game is for you.

What's the name of the game? "Drink If: Bachelorette Party Edition." Here's how it works.

Keep Reading... Show less
Health and Wellness

I Talked To My Friend About Her Cystic Fibrosis And Wow, CF Patients Are WARRIORS

Not many people can say they've had a double lung transplant.

Alissa Katz

Forty percent of the United States lives with a chronic disease. These diseases are unique in their own way, but one thing is the same — every individual who lives with a chronic condition faces obstacles because of their disease.

Not only do these illnesses require a lot of education for the individuals who have them, but for the community as a whole. The more we as a society know about these diseases, the more well-rounded (and ideally, helpful) we'll be. If anything, we'll have a greater appreciation for the strength individuals with chronic conditions show on a daily basis.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments