It's been over a week since I left for Italy and in that time, I've experienced more than I sometimes do in a month. Life here has not been slowâ€”I've spent countless days with my family learning so much about my heritage and all the while appreciating every moment of it.
Italy can be quite polarised in parts. The tourist areas, though architecturally impressive, is not where the true beauty is. The beauty of Italy lies between the cracks; in the places where people are often too afraid to look or too ignorant to see.
I spent from Tuesday to Saturday in the region of Lombardy and in that region lies the provinces of Sondrio and Fusine. Two places I can safely say I love just as much as home. These are essentially towns that don't pretend to be something that they are not. There are many aged stone-work buildings with two, and often three storeys. These are often made by hand by the many nonni (grandparents) of the town or buildings that have at least been passed down through families. In Italy, the life at home is always shared with your family. It is common at lunch time to come home from your job just to have a long lunch with them. Lunches which include always an assortment of salame, pomeriggio, and paneâ€”and always finish with that sharp, yet smooth taste of an espresso.
Lake Como was also a very beautiful place. Perfectly situated with the mountains in the background, with intricate and steep pathways leading to the water's edge. I found a gorgeous watercolour painting of the lake to take home with me too.
So far, in the rural regions of Italy, I have seen such an unadulterated life through the exchanges swapped between aunts and uncles, between very old friends and even between the ones I've had myself.
My cousins Alessandro and Samulele said to me, 'oh you'll love Milan so much more', but in all honesty, Milan so far feels like a shallow city. A city who seeks only to provide its tourists with an engagement on its surface. The shopping sales at the Duomo, the piazza of the Duomo itself, and all the intended experiences they serve to you on a platter, of course only for ten cheap euros. Perhaps I need a little more time for it to grow on me.
Mind you, at best I have only seen the common parts of Milan just from jumping off the train at several Metro stops. All I can see is a once beautiful city; its renaissance architecture masked by the colourful chemical trails of paint across most buildings just outside the main centre. It's doesn't seem as amazing as it was described to me and perhaps it's really not that beautiful. I feel like this kind of Italy is one that has been long forgotten about. But in saying that, there is a lot of amazing street art.
It was really hard for me to leave Fusine where my two cousins live, because I was able to connect with not just some very important family members, but also my heritage. A part of myself that I have known was there all my life.
Even as a four year old girl, I knew I was Italian and what that meant. Through primary school all my independent projects were related to Italy. For most of my life I have been trying to learn the language, but it was really hard to learn it in a classroom enviroment. And of course when this opportunity to study at UniversitÃ Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Italy crossed my path, I did not hesitate. Well, maybe I did consider Oxford and Cambridge first, but my first and one true love won; learning about film, cinema and storytelling in a very important country to me. Italy.
Of course as I sit here in the silence of the outskirts of Milan at what is essentially a hostel, all I can feel now is peace. Everyone has finally made it to bed after many a drinking games and story swaps, and now I can finally process all of my thoughts and feelings about what this trip has meant to me so far.
I mean, this week I met my Nonno's brother. He was honestly so incredibly moved to finally meet me after almost 21 years since his trip to Australia. He shared stories about how close he and his brother were and how hard it was when he moved to Australia. I think for Zio Bruno, meeting a descendant of his brother really meant that he could understand a part of what it means to be a Renaglia that he never noticed before. For me, I learnt that this feeling I have inside of me about what I think is important was shared by each and everyone one of my family. I love learning about history and what defines and creates us in this societyâ€”even if I am from Australia and they are from Italy.
Truly: my cousins felt just like my sister and I. Alessandro is the silly one, always happy, laughing, making funny faces and always intent on looking after those closest to himâ€”just like me. And then Samulele is always catching you off guard with his quick witted humour and sass. I have bonded with these two people just as deeply as my own siblings and I know they feel the same about me. And not to forget my musically and linguistically talented other cousin Nicla!
I am so truly honoured and blessed to be a Renaglia and to have shared some beautiful experiences with my family.
As for now I must get some sleep...
Per una prossima volta.
(Until next time)
"The program was an experience I will never forget. The course was academically challenging, but coupled with the engaging field trips, provided first hand insight into the operations and politics of the European Union."