I have grown up in a home where our Italian heritage has been celebrated immensely.With all my grandparents born in Calabria, in Italy’s south-west, the country has always held a big place in my heart, and naturally it was a destination on top of my bucket list.
So when my dad announced that he was travelling to Italy with my nonna, his mum, I begged to go.After days of deliberation my dad finally gave in and decided to let me accompany them on their holiday which saw me grin from ear to ear.
My mum chose to stay home with my little sister as she was too young.That decision has been dubbed the biggest mistake of my mum’s life.
We travelled in July, leaving the miserably cold Tullamarine airport and landing in the warm and friendly city of Rome. I was the happiest girl alive.
Our first destination was Calabria and on our arrival we were greeted with a big “Ciao!” from about 20 family members — just a small Italian family gathering. My nonna, who had not returned to her home town since she was 17, was met by many of her cousins who couldn’t contain their excitement.
Although jetlag was a setback, the first couple of days were highlights as our mornings started with homemade bruschetta for breakfast, pizza for lunch, gelato or cannoli (sometimes both) for afternoon tea and a beautifully cooked meal from our relatives.
The nightlife in my nonna’s home town of Varapodio was buzzing. Show rides were running from night to early morning, free of charge, as the locals gathered — playing cards, dancing, singing and eating as a celebration of the start of summer holidays and the upcoming religious festivals.
Another night in Varapodio saw a popular singer tour the town and perform.We experienced the concert on the flat roof of the local church, dancing and singing as we watched on.
I expected Rome to be just like every other city, but boy was I wrong.Our tour in the ancient city started with a ride on a double-decker bus, something we don’t get to experience here in Shepparton.
We travelled past old architecture and ruins, including the Roman Forum, with an earpiece in, which was particularly useful as it filled us with information relating to each landmark we passed.Living la dolce vita Taken from a double-decker bus in Rome.
The Roman Forum in Rome.Taken inside the Vatican Museum in Rome.Taken on a day trip to Sicily.Beside us were locals zooming past on their red Vespas-greeting us with a friendly wave.We arrived at the Colosseum, a huge oval amphitheatre in the centre of the city, and were then led to a Roman Catholic church.
The tall ceilings and walls inside the church had been painted with such precision and detail.Women are instructed to cover their knees and shoulders when entering the church as a mark of respect, a rule which is taken seriously in all churches in Rome.
While I absolutely respect this rule, it was difficult as it was a hot summer’s day and I wore a dress that exposed my shoulders.I therefore had to purchase a scarf from the gift shop next door. It turned out to be a great souvenir.
The Trevi Fountain had just undergone reconstruction and looked beautiful.Tourists scattered like ants on the cobblestone path, all fighting for a clear shot to toss their coins in and make a wish.
Gelato shops were situated along the fountain, booming with business as tourists saw an opportunity to try the heavenly ice-cream and cool off from the summer heat.
Dinners were spent under grape vines and fairy lights at various restaurants as my unadventurous appetite did not stray from traditional Italian pizza.
However, my dad enjoyed the different pastas and breads that were on offer.My holiday to Italy has been a huge highlight in my life.
Getting to meet relatives and see where my grandparents grew up was amazing and having the opportunity to experience the Italian culture is an experience I will never forget.
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