A while ago, I posted a video about seeing places from different perspectives and feeling at home in more than just one place. Today I want to share with you the story of how I found a home away from home in a small town in Northern Italia.
When I was ten years old, my dad took me to Italy to introduce me to some wonderful people. I remember noticing how crowded the family home was and that everyone was kissing – whether to say hello or goodbye, to give congratulations or condolences. I thought that was very strange.
When they weren’t kissing cheeks, they talked – loudly. Everyone spoke at the same time, across room and tables, and if they thought they were being overheard, they just yelled louder. I loved it. The steadily increasing noise level didn’t seem to bother anyone else either.
The people we visited soon became family and after that trip, I spent many summers in that small Italian town with medieval walls and exceptional liquorice ice cream.
Then, five years ago, something changed. Like I’d done many times before, I went to visit our family that July. Only this year something was different.
I fell in love.
First with the man, that until just recently I was sure I’d marry. Then with his family, their country and their culture. The trips became longer and more frequent, my Italian more fluent and the wish to live there one day grew. Italy became my home of heart, my happy place. And for years I kept wondering why I felt such a strong connection to a country that was so different from my own.
That’s when I realized that, sometimes, you can find a culture that simply fits, even though it’s not actually yours. The Italy I encountered wasn’t the touristy summer holiday destination by the beach, but the everyday life of local families in small towns in spring, summer, fall and winter. I was there when they celebrated holidays, like Christmas, Easter or Ferragosto – and I was there on a busy Monday morning in November. And for some reason their values and the way they chose to spend their day-to-day lives agreed more with me, than my own had up until that point.
Don’t get me wrong, some things drive me nuts over there. For example, having all your family and friends in a small town, like the one I used to go to, means a lack of privacy and often a lack of independence – especially among young adults. Also, I can’t always relate to certain norms and traditions.
But the importance of family and the time spent together, the strong friendships and good food definitely overweighed. That’s what had me keep coming back and stay for as long as possible every time.
I love the fact that children stay out late to play on summer nights, when everyone meets in the piazza to eat ice cream and chat. I love the fact, that Sundays are spent with family and way too much food and that no matter what day or time of year, friends meet up for an aperitivo before, or drinks after dinner. I love the fact, that food is always wholeheartedly enjoyed – principally in good company.
And even though a lot of the things that connected me to Italy have changed, the feeling of somehow, somewhen and sometimes belonging there, hasn’t. Because I got to be a part of these amazing people’s lives, Italy to me remains a home away from home.
Now you: Do you have a home away from home? Have you ever felt connected with a culture that isn’t your own? Tell us about it in the comments below!