Last month, I decided to take a break from the chaos of Roman life and spend a weekend in my friend Domizia’s southern hometown, San Giovanni Rotondo. The D’Maggio family graciously opened their doors and welcomed a visit from their daughter, another mutual friend, and me.
The weekend consisted of driving around the city in a glossy white Fiat 500, shopping, and aperitivo-hopping at local bars. Time not spent exploring San Giovanni was spent in the D’Maggio house, experiencing true Italian culture.
The D’Maggios practiced traditional family values and reminded me of my American family in many ways. Nonetheless, the emphasis on shared family meals and the insistence that we all wore slippers in the house served as a reminder of my whereabouts.
As we passed around fresh, homemade dishes during lunch one afternoon, I listened to the rapid Italian that surrounded me. It was fascinating to experience traditional Italian culture firsthand, where the importance of good food and conversation contrasts drastically with America’s need for time and efficiency.
My stay with the D’Maggio family and more significantly, my move to Rome have truly altered my American perspective on friends, food, and family. The most obvious difference between American and Italian friendships is the amount of physical affection you display and receive. Personal space is highly valued in America, but in Italy I am regularly attacked with kisses and hugs from my Italian friends.
The food I grew accustomed to in America is almost incomparable to what I have found in Italy. Fresh farmers’ markets, such as the local Mercato di Campo de’ Fiori, are typical in Italy and unlike America, quality trumps quantity when it comes to grocery shopping and eating.
I quickly became jealous of the relationship Domizia and her siblings shared. Coming from a household where an Xbox 360 receives more attention than any person does, it was particularly refreshing to see the way that Domizia was hugged and kissed by her younger fratelli.
My grandmother was born in Montoro Inferiore, a farming town outside of Naples, and has helped me over the years become acquainted with the Italian language and culture. My mother kept her heritage alive in our family by cooking savory Italian dishes and teaching me the importance of family. Studying in Rome has allowed me to understand where my family’s Italian traditions and values came from, which play in important part in who I am today.
Whether I am in Rome or back home in Boston, Italian culture remains its prominent role in my life. My trip to San Giovanni Rotondo was a fantastic reminder of where my family comes from, and reminded me of how lucky I am to have such incredible friends from around the world.
JCU Class of 2018
Hometown: Canton, Massachusetts