What are the chances of seeing your best friends from high school and college, cousins, and family all in the same week while you are studying abroad? My guess is pretty slim.
This long story full of familiar faces starts with a weekend trip to Florence. By sheer coincidence, I, my friends from home, and my friends from Marymount all happened to be in Florence for the same weekend. My friends from high school, Jess and Ally, came to Italy to visit for their Thanksgiving break. Our other friend from high school, Christina, is studying in Florence. We all decided to take a trip up to Florence to get together and catch up. Two of my other friends from Marymount, Yasmine and Olivia, also study in Florence. To top it all off my friend Victoria from Marymount just happened to be visiting Yasmine in Florence this same weekend.
What more could I ask for? Five of my closest friends from both high school and Marymount were all together exploring Florence for the weekend. We spent our time catching up while sightseeing, eating, and going to fun dance clubs. The weekend flew by just like I had expected, but it was so refreshing to be surrounded by my girls. Friends are the family you get to pick, and I am lucky enough to have picked all the best.
Speaking of family, I have mentioned in previous posts how important my family is to me. I come from an extremely close-knit Italian American family. Along with that, we have countless aunts, uncles, and cousins all over. And again, by chance, my aunt, uncle, and cousin happened to be in Rome on vacation. My cousin Mikey is only a few years younger than I am, so I jumped at the opportunity to take him out and show him my favorite hang outs in Rome. We only had one night to hang out because they were leaving the next morning to head up to Venice for the rest of their vacation. Although we only got to hang out for a few hours, it was so amazing again to be able to share my experience abroad with the people I love and care about so much.
We missed each other like passing ships, the morning my cousin left for Venice my family landed in Rome. It would have been so awesome for both of our families to be in Rome at the same time. But nevertheless, I was stoked to have my family here. Having all five of us together for a few days in Rome to celebrate Thanksgiving was just about the coolest thing ever! My family consists of my mom and dad (who are my most favorite people in the world), and my two older brothers Joe and John. We always have the best time when we are all together, so I knew this vacation was going to be one for the books. My family were staying in Rome from Wednesday to Sunday. Only four days! My mom made sure to pack every day full of sightseeing, wine drinking, and eating.
The night my family got to Rome I scooped them up and brought them out dinner in front of the Colosseum. After that I took them to my favorite bar in Rome, Scholars. Ally, Jess, my mom and I got up and sang Living on Prayer for karaoke. That night was such an amazing and memorable way to kick off the rest of our trip. Thanksgiving morning, we woke up early for a wine tasting on the outskirts of Rome. Although it was 10 in the morning and none of us were in the mood to drink any wine, we were fascinated by the technology and science that goes into the aging of wine. The vineyard was stunning, like something out of a picture. I couldn’t stop smiling. Who would have ever though I would be celebrating Thanksgiving in Rome with my family!
That night my mom organized a huge dinner at one of my Aunt’s friend’s restaurants in Rome. Now this was a Thanksgiving dinner we will never forget. There were 16 of us around the long table. All friends and family laughing and catching up. My mom invited her family friends and cousins who live in Rome. The more wine we drank, the easier it was to understand and speak Italian. We joked and called this our first true Italian lesson. Although there were some language barriers, we all had a wonderful time spending time together. With our bellies full and hearts warm we had an early night.
The next day we went to Assisi and Orvieto for a day trip. We took a two-hour van to the beautiful hilltop town of Assis, the home of St. Francis. We learned all about his life and even saw the original church where he prayed and the house he died in. We then made our way up to the beautiful church at the top of the hill where he was buried. After that we went to another medieval town called Orvieto. The town is built on the edge of a tall flat mountain. The ride in was breathtaking as the van drove around mountain side roads. In Orvieto we walked the small streets and did a little shopping. Before heading back to Rome, we ended our 13-hour day with another wine tasting.
Our last full day together as a family was spent in Naples. My mom’s father lived in Naples before moving to America. My mother still has a lot of family and cousins who live there, most of whom I have never met. So, we jumped on an hour-long train and met up with more of our Italian family members. It was like Thanksgiving all over again, only more people and less English. It was so exciting to meet people who I barely knew but still felt so much love for. When we walked into my mother’s cousin’s house we were greeted with thousands of hugs and kisses. It was so heartwarming. Even though there was a language barrier, it didn’t stop everyone from expressing their love and excitement about being together. And again, like on Thanksgiving, the more the wine flowed, the better our Italian got. This was our second Italian lesson of the trip.
This past week has shown me how extremely blessed I really am. Even when I am in a different county, I am lucky enough to be surrounded by the people I love. There are so many things for me to be thankful for this year. Reflecting back on this week fills my heart with happiness. I feel beyond blessed and I am so thankful for the life I have. I am thankful for the people in my life, and our health and happiness. I am beyond blessed.