One of my best vacations was one that I took with my dad to Italy for his birthday. Besides the celebration of his birthday, we went specifically to Italy to attempt to track down relatives. Yeah, who would have thought Nick Valentino’s family would be from Italy right?
We landed in Milan where we took a train to Venice where we would be staying several days. Venice was beautiful as usual; it was creepy, yet wonderful in every way. After exploring the wonder of the city on the water, we rented a car and drove to Rome, then to the provincial capitol of Campobasso in South East Italy which we would use a base to drive to the tiny towns of Montagano and Ripalimosani. Keep in mind at the time; I had long dark purple hair, so I was definitely an oddity wherever I went. Campobasso, while a larger city barely had anyone that spoke English, so the guy with purple hair was much more than a random freak, he was the talk of the town.
Ignoring the funny looks and trying to communicate with the primal Italian that I knew, my dad and I did very well in the more rural parts of Italy. We visited Montagano first. This is where my maternal side of the family originated. The town was a sleepy place that could be walked from end to end within ten minutes. We stopped one of the only men on the street we could find and I was able to hammer out enough information in Italian to ask where there public records office was located. I think what I said, roughly translated to, “My family, one hundred years ago, in Montagano. Records office.” The man smiled politely and said the only word he knew in English. “Close-Ed”. The only trace of family we could find was two of my great grandmother’s maiden names engraved on a memorial honoring people that had been killed in a bombing of the town in World War II.
From there, we ventured off to Ripalimosani. This place was even smaller than Montagano and featured a church straight out of the middle ages. We got out of the car and walked the cobblestone streets, only to realize that people were peeking their heads out of the windows of the homes. It happened over and over as we passed each residence as if aliens had landed to take over the town. Within minutes, a crusty siren blared in the distance and before we knew what was going on, a little mini car the side of an overgrown golf cart pulled up next to my dad and me. Two angry looking Polizia hopped out and asked for our passports. (By the way, when abroad, always carry your passport on your person.) They tried to communicate, but the only thing the purple headed kid could say was “My family, one hundred years ago, in Montagano. Records office.” After holding us up in the snowy street for half an hour, they finally let us go. Why they had stopped us, we will never really know. We left in haste after that abandoning the quest to find any remaining family.
This all sounds a bit sad, but in the end I got to spend some of the most precious time with my dad that I could ever imagine. Sure we almost got arrested and I was surely the punch line of many jokes, but the experience was a wonderful one that I will never forget.
The point of this is that if given the opportunity, travel abroad. Of course Nick, are you paying for it? Ha! No, but there are tons of different options for the culture thirsty teen to get out and see the world. Ask your student counselor about being an exchange student or taking summer classes in another country. I bet you would be surprised to find out how much is out there waiting for you.
Encouraging reading - Hilary Hawkes
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