When I was younger, every Sunday was spent visiting my Italian grandparents. Dressed in our best to impress outfits, my sister and I loaded into the car, and our dad drove us to the tenement house he grew up in with his big Italian family.

Unlike the stereotypical Italian sons who live with their families well into their thirties, my dad moved out of his childhood home in his early twenties after he got married. Yet as a true Italian, my father recognized the value of Don Corleone’s quote to Johnny Fontane in The Godfather when he said, “A man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Although my dad no longer lived on the second floor above his grandparents, or below the floor with his aunt and uncle and cousins, his strong connection to family kept him going back every Sunday.

Making sure that my sister and I were aware of our Italian heritage was a strong motivator for my father to drive us to our grandparents each weekend. When we arrived, we were always greeted with hugs and kisses just as warm as the heat emanating from the kitchen. On the table, there was an array of Italian goodies to satisfy our growling stomachs. While my sister and I dove into the homemade egg biscuits, chicken soup or pizza, my dad and his mother immersed themselves in conversation about the “good ole days” in their Italian neighborhood.

Though I was too young — and perhaps too interested in the food — to recall many of the stories shared in my grandma’s kitchen, I vividly remember a sense of affection and familial bonding on Sunday mornings. Each visit served as an opportunity to learn about my ancestral past and connect with family members from older generations. Those Sundays were my introduction to Italian hospitality, and they set the standard for my understanding of Italian relationships.

When I arrived in Florence two months ago, I looked forward to exploring whether or not my ideas about Italian families were reflective of a true standard or simply a false stereotype I created from experience. From the onset of meeting my host mother, I felt that rush of warmth and solidarity that I remember from my childhood. Every evening, she prepares dinner for my housemate and me, and just like when I was younger, I am always surprised by her extensive efforts in preparing the food. If there is something left untouched on my plate, she often asks “Non ti piace? (you didn’t like it?),” and I often must reassure her that while I do love the food, I am simply too full to eat any more.

As Italian soap operas play in the background, my host mom always expresses interest in how my day went or what my plans will be for the coming weekend. Because two of her daughters live nearby, they along with her grandchildren are also constant guests at the dinner table. Talking loudly and emotionally with their hands, their interaction evokes memories of conversations between my father and grandmother.

Such a strong emphasis on family is also present at the villa. Each weekday, students gather together with professors and staff members for pranzo, or lunch. With three courses to digest, the meal serves as a time of storytelling and bonding. Further adding to the homey feel, students take turns setting and clearing the table after each meal. Such responsibilities instill a sense of community and companionship at the villa.

So whether I am at the villa or at my home stay, every day in Italy seems like Sunday.

 

Bethany Imondi is a sophomore in the College and is currently studying abroad in Florence, Italy. She can be reached at imondi@thehoya.com. Livin’ La Vita Dolce appears every other Friday in the guide.

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