All I wanted was a paper cone filled with roasted chestnuts, what I got was a reminder of the kindness of the people in this region. This Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit Caprarola. It was especially wonderful because I was able to see CioccoTuscia: a two weekend local event. Not only was I able to see Palazzo Farnese, but I was able to experience local foods and festivities. After making my way from the bus to the school where the event was held, I got my first look at CioccoTuscia: vendors, food stands, pastry chef demonstrations, and even a bartender showing off his skills.
One quick look around and I knew exactly where I wanted to start: a cone of roasted chestnuts. I fished out three euro and made my way to the table. To my disappointment, the man said no (among other words I did not understand) and pointed somewhere behind me. I was not prepared to navigate a complicated system in a language I don’t understand very well. I made my way to another booth in the general direction of his pointed finger. The cash box and notepad of small green paper on the table seemed promising! I placed my order in weak Italian and received another no and a point toward another booth.
Once again, I approached the table and asked for the chestnuts; once again I was pointed to the neighboring table. Finally, recognizing that the banner on this table matched the banner behind the chestnuts—that I was finally in the right place—I marched up confidently and asked for… what? After all of this wandering, I had forgotten the word for chestnuts. Eventually I recovered the word, but my bravado was gone as I finally took my order ticket to claim my chestnuts. It only took one look at the man with the chestnuts to restore my good mood: he was glowing with pride and gave the most sincere “prego” I have ever heard.
All of the Italians I have met in Tuscia have been so accepting of my language blunders and so willing to help me learn. Every day I learn something new because a shopkeeper, friend, or neighbor takes the time to teach me. Often, they will try out some of their English on me, or offer to write out something I don’t understand. In Caprarola, I sat next to a kind family who pressed their son to talk to me in English. He asked for my name and I soon learned that his father is an English professor. The conversation switched back to Italian and I was able to explain where I am from and where I am living. The professor complimented my pronunciation and I was ready to survive the rest of the day.
While I went to Caprarola to see frescoes and eat chocolate and nuts, I returned to Viterbo with a newfound confidence in my Italian language skills and a deep appreciation for the kindness I have found in Tuscia. I could not ask for a better place to study. I have to practice my Italian every day whether I am asking for directions or buying groceries. Yet, here I feel comfortable making mistakes, and I know that the people around me are willing to help me learn. All of this makes Tuscia idyllic for the young American who wants to live the culture and speak the language. The chocolate and delicious local cuisine—well that is just the icing on the cake.
Reiley Porter studentessa USAC a VIterbo