The Flavor of Italy (and Pâté)

[I just wanted to add a quick note and let you all know that I wrote a series of blogs while I was in Italy last month that I didn’t have the capability to post while I was actually there. This is the first of a series that I will be posting for the next month or so. I have not altered my posts to put them in the past because I wanted to share with you my real experiences as I saw them in the moment. I hope you enjoy!]

Ciao a tutti!

I’m blogging from across the Atlantic – sitting in a garden overlooking the breadbasket of Umbria in the city of Assisi, Italy. I’ve been hoping to update everyone for days because so much has already happened on this journey that I want to share with you, but alas, wifi has been virtually non existent thus far.

This was just the beginning stage of packing for my trip.

I’m studying abroad this summer with the William and Mary program in Florence, Italy. Beginning on Friday, I will be studying Italian and art history in the “Cradle of the Renaissance” with 25 other W&M students and the director of the Muscarelle Art Museum, Dr. Aaron DeGroft. (For more on why and how I applied for this program check out my previous blogs!) For me this journey began two days after I took the final exam of my freshman year when I boarded a flight to Rome with my mom and dad. The plan was to visit Rome and Assisi with my parents for a week, travel with them to Florence, and then they would continue on to the Cinque Terra while I stayed behind to begin my program. There have been so many incredible moments that I hope to update you on later, but for now let’s fast forward to my visit to the medieval town of Assisi.

Streets Lined with Stone

Last night we wandered into a small restaurant up an alley off the main piazza in Assisi. By this point in our trip, we were in search of a lighter meal and so the menu filled with zuppe verdure (vegetable soup), pollo (chicken), and insalate miste (salad) was a much needed respite from the cheese-laden dishes we had eaten up to this point (which were to-die-for mind you, but one can’t eat sweet nectar of the gods every meal of every day and still think of it as a delicious treat). When the waiter came to take our order it was apparent that he spoke very limited English. In Rome, most waiters seemed to speak English much more fluently than I speak Italian and so would automatically switch. From time to time I would slip in a vorrei (I would like) or grazie but not much more. Last night felt like a real chance to flex my Italian muscle.

One of the many stunning white-brick homes in Assisi.

I ordered for all of us in italiano without stuttering too badly or making any huge errors to my knowledge. I felt a deep sense of accomplishment – even though the victory was superficial, it seemed like a huge step forward in my confidence. I came to Italy to improve my language skills and the only way to get anywhere is to bumble through the mistakes and poor pronunciation and allow my tongue to grow accustomed to the new language.

My efforts were rewarded then in a way I hadn’t imagined. Suddenly the waiter was bringing out bruschetta with pâté for our table. My immediate thought was “Oh shoot, what have I done!?! We didn’t order any appetizers … could I have possibly mangled the word for soup so badly he thought I meant this??? I need to pull out my pocket dictionary from my purse right now and figure out how to explain this…

In reality, the man was complimenting and thanking me for my use of Italian! This was exciting and I think I blushed with surprise, pleasure, and a touch of embarrassment. It was also one of those moments where you are simultaneously elated and filled with dread. Pâté is something I’ve never had before. My vague understanding of the delicacy involved ground-up liver of various animals – something that sounded far from delicious to me. However, I was faced with the fact that this pâté was a gift and it would be rude not to eat it; so I took a deep breath and took a big bite. I’ll be completely honest: I didn’t love it, but I didn’t hate it. It was something I had never tried before and the taste was colored by both my excitement to take in everything new Italy had to offer and the knowledge that the pâté was an embodiment of my success in speaking Italian.

I’m hoping for many more moments like this along the way. I’ll keep you updated.

Categories: Arts & Culture, Student Blogs, Study Away
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