My mother’s first language was Italian. Her mother was always known as the “crazy Italian grandma” and everyone loved her! My friends thought her accent was funny, she made great pizza and, although she was always a stickler about the sand, she always let us bring guests to her shore house.
I felt very tied to my Italian heritage growing up, often describing myself as “100% Italian” to anyone who asked and even to those who didn’t (and I haven’t yet found a reason to state my nationality as anything else otherwise, but a DNA kit is tempting me). To my knowledge, this is what I’m made up of. But actually going to Italy always felt like a pipe dream. We didn’t travel much and it wasn’t until I turned 18 that I even left the country for the first time, and then wasn’t until I was 22 that my Italy pipe dream turned into a reality. Right after I graduated from college, I went on a three-generation trip to the motherland: a stressful, eye-opening, exciting vacation with my crazy Italian family.
Our first stop was Rome and we stayed in a beautiful apartment that overlooked a cobblestone street. My favorite parts were the washing machine and doorbell, so it seems.
Golden hour in Rome, June 1st 2018 8:04pm.
The next stop was the Amalfi Coast. The place is something like a fantasy. This was our Airbnb, and then the view from it. We stayed in a town called Praiano — a little less touristy than the towns of Amalfi and Positano, but a lot harder to get around and much more local. But that’s what made it so charming. We took a small bus to the beach each day and upon our return home we wouldn’t even leave for dinner. Instead we stayed in and cooked and watched the ocean from above (we were literally on top of the mountain). I left my bag with my wallet, IDs, credit cards on the bus and they somehow returned it without anything missing. I loved this place; the most beautiful place I have ever been.
Praiano at night, June 3rd 2018 9:02pm.
The next day, we ate lunch on a cliff. Afterwards, I saw people cliff diving and decided to join (something I had never done before). I saw these three little boys from above; locals, cursing at each other in Italian (so my mom said). One of my favorite pictures from the trip.
The next day entailed a boat ride (my grandma infrequently dresses for occasions accordingly).
Next stop was the small city of Lucera in the province of Foggia (in the region of Apulia). Not a typical tourist destination but this is where my relatives in Italy currently live, and my grandma grew up nearby. Here I listened to my extended family talk in Italian, ate my body weight in cherries and officially gave up on being vegan.
Second to last stop was my grandma and grandpa’s hometown of Alberona — a village in southern Italy that sits on top of a mountain (I had never seen a mountain before this trip, and I’m still waiting to see a snow-capped one). In Alberona, I met a little girl who only spoke Italian but somehow still cried when I had to leave even though it was impossible for us to communicate. We played patty cake but had no idea what one another was saying. The village was quiet and scenic. Most people who lived there grew up there, and remembered my grandmother despite the fact that she hadn’t visited in years. Wild.
Lastly, we went back to Rome. We stayed with my mom’s cousins who took us out to eat with an Italian movie star (true story). One of them even took me on a motorcycle ride and brought me to the Spanish Steps, which is ironically where I started the trip as well (daylight = first day, nighttime = last night there). I felt like Lizzie McGuire and despite being terrified, it was pretty cool to see Rome from a motorcycle. Went out with a bang, I guess.
Italy, I hope I see you in 2019!!