So being from Italian heritage, studying in Italy made sense for me. Get to know your roots. Right? So before coming over, I refreshed my memory a bit. My great great grandfather, Giuseppe Verucchi, came to America in 1896 and made his way to Arkansas all the way from Italy. After a couple months of being over here in Tuscany, I finally got the nerve to send messages to all the Italian Verucchis that I’m friends with on Facebook asking them if we are related from way back when. I sent a ton of messages and heard back from a pretty good number, but most people weren’t able to help me find out much information. However, I did hear back from a boy named Matteo. My message had sparked his interest about his family heritage, and we struck up a conversation. It turned out we are the same age (different only by 4 months). He was an engineering student in the city of Bologna, and there was a little population of Verucchis where he was. The train from Florence to Bologna was just about an hour, so after a little talking he offered to take me to the Archivo di Stato to check birth records, and then show me around the town. I thought it would be so cool, so I said, “Yes! Sounds great!” We worked out the logistics and on a sunny Friday morning, I made my way to the train station, bought a ticket, and found myself in Bologna an hour later. I found Matteo who then took me around the city, showing me the significant historical sights, the places the locals love, and all the rest. It was such a neat city. After climbing an old Medieval Tower to get a great view of the city from above the center, I knew the two of us would be good friends. After we took in as much as we could from up top, we went on back down and walked to the Archivo di Stato to look at the birth records of Bologna. I had never done anything like it, and to actually go through the process of looking up records from years and years ago was really neat. Rolling through the film collected from the different papers through the years. In Italy of all places. It was awesome. Sadly, I found no record of Giuseppe, but that’s OK. I at least got a great new friend from this experience.
After checking the records, it was time for lunch. Matteo took me to one of his favorite pizza places next to campus. Once finished and happily full, he took me around campus to show me where he studies and he and his friends hang out. At some point we decided our next move would be to drive up to this church overlooking the city on one of the surrounding hills. To get there we would have to take his car, which was outside the city center, so we walked over to the bus stop and took the bus #27, got off and walked to his car. It was this little silver Fiat and was oh so cute. So we then loaded up and went on our way up, up, up the hill to the incredible church that looked out over the city below. We moseyed around up there, exploring the church and the surrounding grounds. That was about all there was to do up there, so we then went back down to the city to get some of the best gelato I think I’ve ever had. Man oh man, it was good. At this point, it was about time for me to make my way back to the train station, so we drove through the city for one last look, parked the Fiat, and walked to the station. I thanked him for a fabulous day and then loaded the train back to Florence.
Since being here in Florence, I have made two local Italian friends: David and Paolo. They are SO fun! The two boys, myself, and my American friend Sam (she’s from Boston) had all planned to have dinner together this Friday night, so once back to Florence, I freshened up a bit and waited for my friends to come get me. Once it was time, we all loaded into David’s car and drove out of the city to his countryside home in Greve in Chianti. It was a really neat place. He had prepared a full Italian dinner for us, which we sat and ate down in their wine cellar. How cool, right? We had typical meat and cheese and a great local red wine to start. Then we moved onto the pasta, then onto the meat as the meal. Oh! And don’t forget the “Tuscan fries” (which were basically our American French fries, but better). Once we were all sufficiently full, we each poured a small glass of Vinsanto (dessert wine) and got out some cantuccini (dessert cookie that you dip in the Vinsanto) to finish up. It was the perfect end to a great Tuscan meal prepared by one of my real Tuscan friends. The four of us just shared friendship, food, and good times, and I don’t think I have ever felt more Italian.
The things I study in class are great and I really am learning a ton. But when it comes down to it, it’s days like these that I will leave Italy with the best memory of: The ones full of new friends and new experiences that you have to get out of the classroom to create.