I sat down in the outside patio as my eyes faced the Duomo of Florence, celebrating the beauty in sight. All was well as I looked down at the enticing menu before my growling stomach, craving an unforgettable lunch. A surprise was near. My eyes traced the findings of an incredibly Americanized “Italian” dish: Alfredo. One of the first things I learned after arriving in Viterbo is that Alfredo is an unknown dish in Italy that American’s ever-so-cluelessly have created in attempt of reflecting an Italian meal. This is when I knew, despite the beauty and history of a famous town like Florence, that the little luxuries placed within the authentic and tiny town of Viterbo are my alley-way to experience real Italian culture. Never have I ever crossed the word “alfredo” in the Italian town I call home.
I am certain that I will always take in the beauty of, but always question whether I am lying within a tourist trap while visiting big cities. Questions rambled through my mind as I walked Firenze’s streets full of venders, musicians demanding money for photos, restaurants with English speaking workers outside luring me in to dine, and many items for sale in which I skeptically pondered their true original origin. The restaurants here in Viterbo, located in the nooks and crannies of alleys and little, hilly streets, entice people primarily by the smell of fresh ingredients and beautiful interior. The beauties between each crevasse of this town draw me in further with the people who delightfully introduce me into their personal lives. The people who get to know my face in coffee shops, the friends who give me a kiss on each cheek before we part, and the lucky ones who get to listen to me as I struggle to speak the little bits of Italian I’ve scraped together in my mind. Being surrounded by Italians and barely any Americans or other tourists gives the luxury of receiving insight into the most divine and cherished places of the town, giving the chance to experience extreme authenticity.
After speaking to some friends studying abroad in Florence, we compared our experiences and learned how drastically different they have been. They hadn’t yet experienced not being able to communicate with shop owners or people on the street because most people speak English or come from an English speaking place. They hadn’t experienced the shock of shops closing between 1 and 4 p.m. or just having to guess if the place your heart desires to wonder to in town on a Sunday will really be open or not. They had not been introduced to the incredible amounts of food you eat while going out to aperitivo. I know that if I were in a town that included so many customs I am used to, especially including my own language and people from my own country who look and act like me, it would be incredibly hard to run away from my comfort zone and dive into the sweetness of slow-paced, big-time-eating, wine-drinking, Italian culture.
Viterbo has placed locals right in front of me who are open to my questions and my inspiration to reach into their lives that hold such different, yet such similar standards as mine. I’ve never been literally pushed into a street before that contains no comfort zones and insane unfamiliarity, yet, I would have it no other way. This is how I’ve learned first-hand, from authentic Italians, how they live their lives and what unpredictable fumes this town runs on each day. Never will I take the luxuries of a small Italian town for granted. Jolly and free, my feet were destined to meet the authenticity of the people, food, lifestyle, and culture of Viterbo. Salute to the hidden luxuries of a teeny town that makes an American like me stick out like a sore thumb, but makes me feel at home as ever.
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.