I had the wonderful experience of staying with an Italian family in Porpetto, Italy – region Friuli-Venezia Giulia, while traveling through Italy with my friend Lisa before I ultimately settled in Switzerland working as an ‘au pair’. Lisa’s friend set us up with this family when she heard that we would be in northern Italy during our European adventure.
Porpetto is a small town, population less than 3000, 66 miles north of Venice. At the time there was one person that we knew of in the town who spoke English, the mayor. And guess what? When we arrived to the train station the mayor was there to greet us! You know you are in a small town when the mayor greets your train! Lisa had been studying a little Italian at the time and had a better chance of understanding the language since she spoke some Spanish. I could speak decent French and luckily our host spoke limited French from his days of studying it in high school.
So here we were two Americans in a small Italian city with a wonderful Italian family. It was one of the best travel experiences ever. We communicated somehow and were welcomed into this family, and truly were a part of the family during our stay. There were two sons, a mom, and a dad. With our new family we were able to explore the region of region Friuli-Venezia Giulia all the way to the border of the former Yugoslavia which was to the east of Italy.
I saw some amazing small towns across Friuli-Venezia Giulia including: Trieste, Palmanova, Aquileia, Grado, and Udine. I also was able to truly experience what it is like to live with an Italian family- even if it was only for a few days.
I would like to share two experiences that remain in my memories some 15 years later……
Italian pizza. Pizza to me at that time was Pizza Hut, truly American style. It was the weekly ‘pizza Sunday’ in the house and everyone (family and friends) came over to order and hang out. I really did not remember that pizza was an individual thin crust item that you ate alone. I was thinking we’d have four or five pizzas total that we would share. When they asked me what I wanted on my pizza I looked up in my dictionary ham and pineapple, which is called Hawaiian style. Ananas is the word in Italian. Everyone began laughing and I was surprised that my simple ingredient of pineapple was so funny to everyone. Apparently Hawaiian pizza had not been introduced to Italy at the time. To say the least I had to change my toppings.
Italian Soccer. That same night I learned about the power of soccer, or as they call it — ‘il calico’ in Italy. The local team is Juventus and everyone in this town loved this team. I enjoyed watching the game with my family: all the energy, all the spirit, and the fact that the players were easy on the eyes did not hurt either. To this day Juventus is still my favorite European team – although I have a Bologna FC (Football Club) sticker on my car.
The visit to Porpetto was priceless. We met a wonderful family and I truly soaked up Italian culture. As we left town our Italian mother kissed us on both cheeks and presented us with two little porcelain dolls dressed in native dress, and yes, I still have those dolls. Now I have an Italian family of my own and have seen the love and passion of Italians first hand once again, but I find it absolutely amazing that complete strangers welcomed me into their home and made me a part of their family so many years ago.