Mi Mancava Qualcosa
I traveled through Italy in 1996 with my family and saw Cinque Terre before it was a “must see.” I experienced the energy in Siena just days before the Palio. I marveled at the massive interior of St. Peter’s Basilica. I lounged lake-side in Como and Bracciano. It wasn’t enough.
In the fall of 2003 I spent 90 days backpacking through Europe. It was the typical shoestring adventure, staying in hostels and eating salami & cheese sandwiches. Of my 16-week tour, 5 weeks were in Italy. I hiked from town-to-town in Tuscany. I watched a volcano erupt at night in Stromboli, off the coast of Sicily. I read “The Agony and the Ecstasy,” a fictional biography of Michelangelo’s life, after being awestruck by the Sistine Chapel. It wasn’t enough.
In the fall of 2006 I went to Rome armed with knowledge of Italian and determined to have a richer, deeper experience. I lived and studied in Rome for a semester. I walked to and from school nearly every day, passing St. Peter’s, the Pantheon, Castel Sant’Angelo and Piazza Navona. I had lectures in the Roman Forum and debated Science vs. Religion in a course taught by a Catholic Priest. I was a member of a local Jazz Club and a regular at a bar in the historic center. I attended A.S. Roma matches at Stadio Olympico and cheered with the Tifosi in Curva Sud. It wasn’t enough.
Regardless of whether or not I throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure my return, I always seem to find my way back to Italy. I have always had a notion of what I wanted to get out of my time here, and it was never quite right.
Mi mancava qualcosa – I was missing something – but I didn’t know what. I doubt that my thirst for Italy will ever be quenched, and I will likely continue to find my way back here. However, I can now say with 100% certainty that I finally found what it was I was looking for: my Italian family.
What makes this culture so rich is the undying devotion to your loved ones. Relationships with family and friends are absolutely sacred in this culture, nothing else takes priority…ever. It is in the name of these relationships that Italians enjoy long meals, create piazzas, and have siestas. Knowing this, I was desperate to integrate into this part of the culture, to feel this unconditional and unwavering love, to become part of an Italian family.
Last night was my final night with the Gelli family and little did I know that there would be a festa in my honor. Tonja invited her brothers and sisters, and their kids over for a “send off.” They wrote “La Canzone di Katie Wax” and sang it to me while one of the cousins played the guitar. Each of the girls wrote me a card with a picture and said “ti voglio bene” – I love you. Simone hand-crafted a bracelet for me out of bronze in his workshop, a gift so I can take the love of this family with me as I travel. Tonja and her sister Federica cried as I stumbled through a “Discorso” in Italian, thanking everyone for such an incredible experience. I finally felt it last night…this Italian love. It is rich, pure, and one of the most beautiful gifts I have ever received.
Thank you to the Gelli Family, the Pierallini Family, and all the other friends & families who welcomed me into their homes and hearts this summer. This experience was more than I could have ever imagined, and I lack the words to express my gratitude. My home, wherever or whatever it may be, will always be open to you.
Grazie alla famiglia Gelli, ed alla Famiglia Pierallini, e tutti gli altri amici e famiglie che mi hanno invitato nelle loro case e nel loro cuore quest’estate. Questa esperienza è stata più di quanto potevo immaginare, e mi mancano le parole per esprimere la mia gratitudine. La mia casa sarà sempre aperta per voi.