While we did have several classes about Italy and Italian history before our departure, the most valuable lessons are the ones learned from the locals. The tours and sites we have seen so far have been fascinating but my favorite experiences have come from conversations with Italians and other tourists that we have come in contact with throughout our travels.
I could have talked for days with the guide that took us around Sicily. Ricardo is a Sicilian who currently works at the University of Palermo and kindly agreed to join our A&M group as a personal translator and guide for our five days of excursions in Sicily. One day on a trip back to our Agriturismo I became lost in the stories that Ricardo had to share. He kindly answered my dozens of questions about Italian schooling and government and even shared some of his families history with myself and another student. After completing his PhD in the United States Ricardo moved back to his hometown of Palermo with the English language mastered and a new patience for American tourists, for which we are all very grateful.
Other Italians also helped prove the kindness of island life. Every place we stayed in Sicily had owners and employees very willing to help us increase our Italian vocabulary. My favorite saying so far is "como se veche", meaning "how to you say". Everyone I have met has willingly tried to carry a conversation with me is what I like to call "Spatalian", a mix between what Spanish I know and what Italian I have picked up on so far. While I know I have a long way to go to becoming fluent in the native language I truly enjoy learning what I can each new day abroad.
In addition to the Italian relationships I have developed in my time here I have also loved getting to meet other tourists since our arrival in Sorrento. Our bus rides and strolls around town have lead to many interesting conversations with Australians, English and other Americans here on holiday or business.
So far I love getting immersed into the Italian culture!
Until next time, Ciao!