Facing the Sweet Italian Music

By Madeline Mask

“POSSO AVERE UN PICCOLO CONO CON LAMPONE E CREMA VANIGLIA PER FAVORE?!” That was the first thing I learned to say in Italian, and what better way to start my integration process than with raspberry and vanilla gelato.

Last semester, I had the privilege of spending 17 weeks in Perugia, Italy, studying Food Studies and Sustainability at the Umbra Institute. I traveled to 26 different cities and 3 countries, ate 21 different kinds of pasta and became so comfortable with everything that was foreign to me that America left me feeling dull and unfulfilled. Two weeks leading up to my return to America, I remember feeling anxious, ready to go back home, to hear English be spoken rather than Italian, and to walk under canopies of trees; and not 13th-century Etruscan arches.

I chose to study abroad in Italy because I wanted to come out of my comfort zone, and out of my comfort zone I was.

Italy is everything America is not. Stores never had hours posted, owners opened and closed as they pleased, traffic laws were more like suggestions and time was truly a social construct.

I learned about the history and culture of food in Italy through a trip to Città di Castello where I went truffle hunting, Parma to visit the Parma Ham and Parmigiano Reggiano factory, and Modena to learn about Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena. I took a class called The Business of Wines where I worked with an organic, Umbrian winery named Terre Margaritelli, and helped them construct a business and marketing strategy to integrate into the Californian wine market.

Italy was scary, foreign in all aspects, invigorating, humbling and surprisingly cheap. I only wish I had understood the rewarding experience of studying abroad earlier in my college career. I urge anyone reading this to study abroad!


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