Katharine K. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Denver School of Science and Technology in Colorado.
Discoveries from 6 Weeks in Viterbo
Caffeina and Cafè Cremas
The ability to walk down Via Cavour and study for hours over a cup of coffee is incredible. As the workload increased, many students hunker down in our favorite cafè, Caffeina, and study over cheesecake, cappuccinos, and very comfortable couches. My favorite drink, the Illy Cafè Crema, was a very unexpected find and has made many days of studying so much better. This drink is the best two euros I could spend. Coming to Italy, the relaxed atmosphere is reflected everywhere. During break, we are encouraged to go buy a cafè or cornetto (croissant), something my home school would never tell me to do. The culture is so inviting, I didn’t expect the “soft” aspects of Italian life like endless coffees and inviting baristas.
Living Close to Rome
Coming to Italy, I knew Roma was close by, but I didn’t realize the incredible blessing it is. My family and I went to Rome several weekends ago for an art tour, and it was one of the best experiences I’ve had yet. It pushed my Italian in ways I couldn’t imagine (we did a walking tour in Italian) and it gave me an insight into the familial culture of Italy. I experienced a late night (falling asleep at 3am) and spent hours of quality time with my host family and their friends, who became my closest Italian friends. Rome has become a family destination and gives il Viterbese a fascinating place to visit. It allows me to see the cultural wonders of Italy, but also get to spend time with Italians and build relationships over a beautiful culture. I am constantly awed by the rich history of cities that for my family are simple day trips.
La passeggiata is a tradition I will never forget. VIterbo is a walking-centered city, and while it is extremely convenient to be able to walk everywhere, it also fosters a strong sense of community. Every weekend around six, most families walk around Viterbo and down il corso to visit with friends. It seems as if the entire city is out and about, and the atmosphere could not be more warm and inviting. A 10 minute walk turns into hours of conversations, laughter, and usually a gelato break. The Italians have a way for conversation, and as my language skills have started to develop, I’ve found myself looking forward to meeting new friends, playing with the Italian kids I know, and practicing the language as much as possible. Beyond the social aspect, the passeggiata always gives me a way to get fresh air and explore the city, always while eating phenomenal Viterbese gelato.
One of our first fieldwork activities was making wine. We made it in the hands-on, historical way. While I knew we were making wine, I didn’t expect the intimate connection to Italian culture the experience would foster. Suffice to say, it was incredible. We spent the morning doing the classic vendemmia, or the grape harvest, and spend the afternoon making il mosto, the grape mixture that would ferment and eventually turn into wine. We used un spremitrice (a press) to crush the grapes and then removed all the stems by hand. It was an experience that truly reminded me why I chose to come to Italy--not only am I experiencing cultural traditions, but I am learning hands-on and get to connect with the experience. Now, we are watching our wine ferment in preparation to bottle it later in the year.
The Importance of Food
Everyone knows the importance of food in an Italian home, but I’ve learned that food is much more than family time. Food is a love language, a way my host mom cares for me and a way the community gets together. Whether it is the post-work social hour or a long dinner party, the community bonds over food. Every cafè owner has their regulars, and the food at the cafès are the meeting point for friends of all ages. Long feste (parties) are filled with many meals, including a second meal of la pasta at midnight, and the food is the grounding aspect to any situation. Whether it is la pizza with friends or coffee during break, food is the fabric of society in Italy and is so incredible I could eat it forever.
- Campus Reporters
- SYA Italy