I grew up eating pasta. Lots and lots of pasta.
My granny’s mother and father came over to Chicago from Rivisondoli, Italy over 100 years ago. While I never met them, the family tradition of making homemade tomato sauce and lasagna noodles (on a special occasion) was not lost with my Granny or with me.
There are many European countries that I could point to as part of my ancestry, but it has only been Italy that has influenced my nightly meals and dating life. When I finally started dating in college (yup, late bloomer), inevitably the first question that was asked by Granny was “Is he Italian?”. And I would have to crush her precious spirit just a little by replying that I had no idea!
There’s always been a curiosity within me to see where this side of my family came from and my association of Rivisondoli to Granny only intensified after she passed away in 2007, even if she wasn’t born there. To see where the Italian Royal family used to ski back in the day; where scamorza cheese is made; where our family names, Romito and De Capite, are everywhere; where fresh pasta shops are still surviving. These were the things I had to see for myself.
For my very last week of traveling 14 months around the world, I coordinated a visit to Rivisondoli. This was my third trip to Italy and I made this pilgrimage my sole priority. What would take 2.5-3 hrs by car took me nearly an entire day by train and bus to this under-serviced village on the side of a mountain. It was worth it a hundred times over.
I rented an apartment for an entire week. I wasn’t going to breeze in, check it out and breeze out. I roamed the tiny streets or simply stared out at breathtaking views and soaked it in. I consumed heaps of scamorza cheese (think mozzarella) and local red wine. I walked to the two nearby towns of Rocarasso and Peccorastanza too. I hiked up the small mountain and stood amongst the bees at the summit.
I’ve been all over Italy from the north to the south and this was the Italy of my dreams. I would walk the streets and experience complete heartbreak. Not a lover’s heartbreak, but the kind when something sings to your soul and your soul sings back. The flower-lined houses; the shudders; the two little old ladies stopping every 20 feet between public benches as they gossip; weekends in the main square; wooden doors shorter than an average person; a (my?) family crest above a doorway. It didn’t matter that there was a complete language barrier for me. I understood enough.
It was the perfect week – a perfect last week to so many amazing weeks traveling around the world.
There are many more stories to tell from this past year and pictures to share! Stay tuned and thanks for coming along on this journey with me!