Little Moments in Viterbo: A Collection of Short Stories

Scarlett Lipe is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a Campus Storyteller. She comes to SYA from The Latin School of Chicago 

Mexican Food

Picture of Italian countryside from Scarlett Lipe IT '23

After trekking through the rain with a broken umbrella, we arrived at her house, groceries weighing down our arms. Italian food never gets boring. Pasta drowned in olive oil and pesto is culinary perfection. But tonight, we wanted Mexican food. Finding authentic ingredients from a supermarket was difficult—almost impossible. The ingredients we gathered were minimal but effective. We spent the night mashing up unripe avocados, crying while cutting onions, cracking jokes out of delirium, and attempting to turn on a broken oven. There were even moments when we ended up on the floor—too hysterical to carry on. Her host parents looked horrified when we pulled out the rice, rightfully so, as it was uncooked and cube-like. We continued laughing, our lips glued to our cheeks. We could hear Italian music from afar. We sang along despite only understanding a couple of words. Our result was our take on chicken fajitas in a soft taco shell—our presentation was probably offensive, but it was fun. We ate our tacos in her Italian kitchen, sitting in silence: reflecting on another night in Viterbo, Italy.

Naps in Teatro

Trickles of classical music playing in the background—an Italian takes over the piano. They play the perfect tone, reading the consensus of the Caffe. I've noticed that about Italy: every Italian can play piano. The barista appears by our table. We always order the same thing, un te nero, un te freddo (pesca), due mele, un caffe latte, and due caffe shakerati. The food doesn't illuminate Teatro–the environment does. The walls are painted with deep maroon and sporadically covered with paintings. The floor is wooden, but it never once creaks. Bookshelves coat the room, yearning to be read. The Caffe wall is glass, overlooking the theater. Sometimes bands perform. Sometimes little kids dance around, supposedly in play practice. We laughed and watched the grinning children jump about. They reminded us of America, home. Kids are alike in every country: bundles of joy busting with emotional energy. On the two corners of the room, brown cushioned couches quietly lay awaiting the warmth of a person. Thankfully, we were always there. On that couch, in those moments. We’d nap away the homesickness and academic drainage. We’d nap it all away until only Teatro, and the couch remained. The tranquility of Teatro is unlike any other place. Teatro is another universe, planet, another world.

Grape Picking at the Vineyard

After a strenuous walk uphill, we arrived. There were infinite rows of green, each leaf attached to a bunch of grapes. We were given massive scissors and bottomless buckets and told to disperse. Buckets filled fast—we were motivated to pick every grape. The weather: built for harvesting, the sun glistened, plating our bare shoulders. We’d eat the sour bulbs that'd fallen on the ground—too dirty for our future wine. They were both sour and sweet simultaneously, the seed gave them an uncomfortable crunch, leaving a savory flavor. They were perfect for wine.  When we grew bored, we snuck away. Instead of looking for grapes, we scavenged for flowers. Dandelions were sporadically growing out of every patch of grapes. We picked until our hands got tired. I put one behind her ear, curling it like on an earing. We sat in silence, constructing flour crowns. The only noise was laughing students from a distance. I picked a purple flower for an elegant centerpiece. Mine fell apart immediately after putting it on. We laughed—collecting the scattered flowers. We returned to the grapes; somehow, the majority of the bunches were still untouched by a harvester As the sun showed and the blue breeze crawled through our clothing, we filled our buckets with grapes. Enough grapes to feed 100 families—maybe more. When our wine finishes fermenting in the spring, I won't taste solely bittersweet red grapes; I’ll taste the laughs we had and the flowers from the grass. I’ll taste the vineyard.

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