When I told my friend, Tony, that I’d be studying in Sorrento he looked right at me and said “Ohhh that’s the best part goomba!”. I knew it must’ve been true, because this was coming from a guy who lived in the country for 10 years, and who eats, sleeps, and breathes all things Italian; therefore I appointed him as my “consigliere of travels”.
Still I could not wait to go and see for myself if Sorrento really was the best part; And you know what? The man was right!
Now I know most of you may be thinking, what about Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice… all the history, the architecture, everything! Well, Sorrento has all those things and more:incredible weather, food, beaches, a gorgeous coast, a rich history , family friendly environment, close proximity to: Naples, the Amalfi coast, Positano, etc., southern Italian charm, small town pride and hospitality, authentic Italian owned businesses, and the three big ones: wine, women, and song. Where else can you find all of these things in one place? Nowhere, that’s where. Those other places are great, but they’re too touristy. Sorrento is a tourist town where an Italian can still be an Italian, and one can fall in love everyday…And I usually did. It had all the little things you expect and want from any Italian town… clothes hanging out of the windows in the alleys, people speeding around on Vespas, and old men sitting in the street talking/playing cards/doing nothing (one day I hope to join them)… I’m telling you, it doesn’t get any better than this!
I chose to live with a family, so I could learn the Italian culture as it exists in Italy. Serena from Sant’Anna, did an amazing job matching me with my family; we had so much in common. Flavia and Enrico were both actors, as am I; Salvatore (the Papa) and I both liked the same music; and Grazia (the Mamma) and Marzia liked to cook and I love to eat! It was a match made in heaven!
The family wass very sweet and a huge asset to my experience here. The parents treated me like a real child. Every day I had a traditional Italian dinner with the family. It was my favorite part of the day because I could talk with the family and I always enjoyed the food.
Salvatore was fiercely proud to be Italian, and had values in preserving the old ways; characteristics that I admire and respect immensely. He even grows his own grapes for wine (a once common practice that is rapidly dying out). This year I was able help him in harvesting the grapes and making the wine. It was a beautiful thing. He was even kind enough to forgive me when I spilled some of the grape juice for the wine; at least I think he forgave me! I loved speaking with him and listening to his funny stories in his perfect “Neapolitan-English”; he was always helping me to understand the culture better. And like any wise man, he was sure to tell me the same stories again and again, so I didn’t forget, which is great.
Grazia is very popular in Sorrento and it is easy to understand why. She is a big hearted woman who will help you in any way she can. She was always going out of her way to find things for me to do that she knew I would like, as well as giving me directions, planning out trips, correcting my speaking errors, and helping me when I got lost God knows where. Nearly every evening, after making sure I am well fed, we sat down together and she gladly answered any questions I had and helped me in speaking the proper Italian. With her help, I improved every day. Now when I speak in Italian I sound far less like a hoodlum. Salvatore and Grazia are two of the best friends I could have made!
But it doesn’t end in Sorrento. Hospitality in Southern Italy has no bounds! My Zi’ Pasqual’ and his brother and my dear friend Andre’ told me when I get to Italy to call their cousin Francesco. So I did. This was a man who I had never meet, seen, or spoke to in my life. When I called him he was ecstatic to hear from me. “A friend of Pasqual’ and Andre’ is a friend of mine!” he said in Italian. The very next day, only a few hours after we hung up the phone, he and his wife picked me up at the train station and had me as a guest in his home, in Salerno, for Sunday dinner. Let me tell you something, when I tell you we ate….WE ATTEEE! I can count on one hand the times I’ve eaten as much as I did that day, and I one of those times was ’02 (yes, the year). We sat for 6+ hours and just ate. At times I thought I would die, but I made it and it was fantastic! I could tell you what we ate, but I’d need a fresh article to do it. Francesco took a picture of me and you can see the sweat on my face from all the force I was exerting while eating.
It was an honor and a pleasure being in their home. Francesco is a great man. He and his family treated me like family and fed me like a king, even though they never knew who I was before that day; Now that’s respect! That’s the Italian way!
All in all Sorrento and Italy is great. Time finally came for me to leave, I was sad, but I will definitely “Torna a Surriento”. To anyone who has never been here, Italian or not (but especially, Italians) you need to go. Words cannot do it justice, but if I had to describe this beautiful land in just ONE word, only ONE comes to mind… As us paisans say in the “new country”…. “Fuhgeddaboudit!”