The pinching of my leg muscles tighten and pull as I haul and struggle up four flights of steep stairs. Awaiting me is the light that softly embraces the whites in the halls and the smiles so beautifully placed on the faces of my roommates. In America, we use the elevator even if we go to the second floor, so we’ve had some adjusting to do. The moment I step in my little Italian hide-out, immediately my hands open the balcony doors. Then appears the dreamy view of Italian hills and clothes hanging from lines; the everyday appearances here put me in awe.
Every morning, the chatter of Italians on the streets below, the smell of coffee at San Sisto Café, the zooming by of Vespas, and the huge, absolutely intruding sound of church bells ring through my ears. The sheer curtains let light peek in and subtly illuminate my room in the morning, waking my dreary, tired eyes. These are just signs that the day is here; Viterbo wants me awake, and I should slip on some Birkenstocks and hit that cobblestone path. I am living within the walls of a medieval Italian town with nothing to tear me apart from the adventures that capture my soul’s growth and its numerous desires.
As I proceed on these ventures around the teeny, tiny, majestic town of Viterbo, I’ve found that some extremely important justifying words to know are “mi dispiace sono stupido Americano.” Or, in English, “I’m sorry I’m a stupid American.” My friends and I use this phrase as a crutch in getting a laugh out of Italians while not quite grasping the culture, language and lifestyle of this new place we call home. But, fortunately, I was placed in an apartment with a girl some call “The Queen of Viterbo,” who has made me much less of what one may call a “stupido Americano.”
Sara, also known as “The Queen of Viterbo,” has taught me most about the Italian lifestyle that is so different from mine, but really not different at all. We cook, (she cooks significantly more pasta than me), we drink (the wine consumption in this house hold is equivalent to water), and we most definitely talk about love, our problems, the beauties we see in the world, and then; we laugh. The Italian language may seem like a barrier to some, but in my case, I see it as a way to get to know people in the most unique, personal sense. Sharing food and laughter in our apartment with Sara’s friends who speak slim-to-no English have been some of the most intimate and memorable times I have captured in Viterbo. There’s this magical vibe of togetherness we consume when our main way of communication is lost, but we are still able to love life together all the same. Honestly, I feel this way with my roommates who come from America, too.
I share this beautifully-knit abode with two other American students who double as family. We’ve only known each other for two weeks, but have been able to communicate in the joyous ways one would with a foreigner. With our smiles, our gestures, the making of pasta for one another, and most importantly, personal, delightful wake-up calls from my dear friend Hannah. All three of us have received handfuls of the Italian culture by living in close quarters with Sara.
This apartment is full of Italians all of the time. I breathe, sleep, and hear the Italian language. I mean, after all, I do live with the Queen of Viterbo. Sara has shown me the enchanted alley-ways, the most salivating-worthy pizzerias, the most stylish clothes, but most of all, I have been able to lean into her everyday life with the people she calls family. We have genuinely met about twenty different people who Sara confidently, individually, names as has her “best friend.”
In the first few minutes that we arrived to Casa Bonta, Sara immediately took the roommates and I to San Sisto Café for a nice welcoming cappuccino. There’s something about the place you first lie your feet at that can just never slip away from you. San Sisto is full of life, familiar faces, coffee, wine, and beautifully crafted croissants just waiting for me to grab before my journey to class begins at 9 a.m. We even have received little San Sisto rewards cards because we go in there so often. One more step to becoming locals! If I meet someone out, most likely one of the Queen’s friends, I am sure to see them again at the café. This place, nearly directly underneath my apartment, brings clarity to and defines the small town where I’ve landed.
More and more places on the street where I live are becoming more familiar and more like a home to me and the people with whom I live. No matter the distance one leaves from their homeland, the frequency of problems and joys and daily-life events all mold together in one big category. We are all the same, really. The difference in our culture, our language, the road we grew up on, and the family we come from; in the end, it all comes back to square one. We are all just humans soaking up the life that surrounds us.
I’m still grasping the idea of permanently crispy, air-dried clothes, enough carbs to last a life time, and the permanent lateness that is entrusted in the heart and soul of the Italian culture, which, in fact, I am huge fan of. As I live closely with Sara and her twenty best friends, I think I am beginning to use the phrase, “mi dispiace sono stupido Americano” a little bit less each day. Immersing myself into this foreign culture has been leaps over what I ever expected it to be, but where I live has made me feel more at home than ever. Ciao ciao for now, the Queen of Viterbo awaits another stroll around town with her silly roommate who would be clueless without her.
Chi sono: Alyson Bisang, sto studiando all’estero all’università della Tuscia e sono una fedele studentessa dell’università dell’Arkansas. Il mio percorso si è intrecciato con le magiche strade di Viterbo per quest’estate. Sto studiando giornalismo e vorrei lavorare nel mondo delle pubbliche relazioni. Se mi cercate, mi troverete in un bar, seduta al sole, mentre mangio della frutta e facendo foto delle belle facce e dei bei posti di questo mondo.