When I sent a Couch Surfing request to Vittoria, I wasn’t expecting the response I got.
“Hi Daniel! me and my family are glad to host you!”
Family? I thought, what does she mean by family? Maybe she isn’t that good at English and she meant to write friends.
It seemed so foreign to me to be hosted by a family. Mainly because I could not think of any family being okay with a stranger sleeping on their couch. I know if I ever asked my father if someone could crash on our couch that I met online he would probably think I was smoking crack.
Located in an upscale apartment building in a small town just north of Milan, I stepped in around 8 p.m. and was warmly welcomed by Vittoria and her family. I was sat down at the dinner table and immediately offered a surplus of food. Of course, that’s the way Italians are: eat, eat, EAT. And drink plenty of wine as well.
The father came and sat down next to me. White hair, glasses, and very loud. He grabbed a few glasses and poured out a couple glasses of wine. “Very strong!” he said as he pointed to the wine. His English wasn’t very good and the more he drank the louder his voice became. I think he thought the louder he spoke the better I would be able to understand him. I knew a few words of Italian from practicing with the computer program Rosetta Stone but none of the words were very useful.
However, the more I drank the better I could understand his mix between Italian and English and even managed to spit out a few Italian words myself. It just goes to show you, wine helps people understand languages.
During our conversation I informed him that my family was from a small town in Sicily called Carini, which is just outside of Palermo. I was a bit hesitant to tell him this because I had heard that Northern Italy doesn’t really like Sicily that much. But, to my surprise, he was very excited. He threw up his arms and announced that he was also from Palermo! After this I was pretty much family.
The next evening, the family was celebrating Lucia and Vittoria’s cousin, Marco, graduation from college. The celebration was held at a restaurant about an hour away from Milan and I was invited to come along!
I put on my best shirt (the only shirt I own with buttons on it) and we all piled into their car like I was a member of the family.
Before long, we arrived at their relative’s home to meet up before we headed to the restaurant. Hugs and kisses were shared and I was introduced to everyone without having a clue as to what anybody was saying to me.
We headed to the restaurant and took our seats. Lucia translated the menu and the food was absolutely delicious, as expected.
Luckily, I was sat at the end of the table with the rest of the cousins and they all spoke very good English. Every so often, the uncle at the other end of the table would should out my name, “Daniel!” he shouted in a thick Italian accent, “drink!” as he held his wine glass far above his head.
I feel like at this moment I was as deep embedded in Italian culture as possible. Family, food, and wine: those are the three most important areas in any Italian family.
Since I missed Easter this year it had been awhile since I was at a big family gathering and I forgot how long Italian dinners last. We showed up to the restaurant around 8 p.m. and didn’t leave until around midnight. They consisted of several different courses which were all heavily saturated with laughter and wine.
I felt so blessed to be apart of this intimate family gathering and even made my way into some family photos.
I will be back in Italy in September and I know that I will definitely be stopping through Milan to see this amazing family.