Tavarone is a tiny village nestled in the breathtaking, tree covered mountains of Italy and a destination on the Classics of Europe trip from People to People. People to People is a student ambassador program started by President Eisenhower to promote “peace through understanding” between young people. Eisenhower believed that the citizens of the world wanted world peace, and People to People trips would allow students to form friendships with people of different cultures. It was in Tavarone where I executed Eisenhower’s goal.
After dinner the first evening, a few of us in our delegation of 44 students ventured out to explore the village. We quickly found out how small Tavarone was, with only a few red roofed buildings and surrounded only by farms and distant mountains. Within a few minutes, we walked across the entire length of the village, stumbling upon a small cluster of children playing soccer on the only street running through Tavarone. With a mixture of English and Spanish (very similar to Italian, it turns out), we inquired whether we could join in on their game. In such a small village, the arrival of Americans was a great excitement, and the kids were more than happy to let us play with them. With the excited energy of the local kids rubbing off on us, we enthusiastically tried to play soccer. However, Americans being Americans, we weren’t very good compared to the Italians, to say the least. Within the first few minutes, there were people falling on their butts, the soccer ball was bouncing off heads and lots of kicking legs missed the ball by a few feet. It was truly comical, and I couldn’t help but to join in laughing with the Italian kids. We didn’t talk much due to the language barrier, but the laughter said all that needed to be said, indeed better than any words could do.
I saw three girls standing to the side, and I decided to leave the game to approach them. They were shy at first, but I quickly got them talking and found out that they, along with most of the kids, came to Tavarone only for summer vacation. After a while, they called their friends over to help them speak English with me, and my fellow ambassadors, seeing that I broke the ice, ran over to talk with the locals as well.
You would think that an encounter between people who barely spoke each other’s languages would be awkward, but we filled the street with so much laughter and conversations in bits of broken English, Spanish, and Italian that it was difficult to hear what everyone was saying. It was so hard to leave our new friends when it was time to return to our hotel. They followed us to the doors and stayed there late into the night; it turned out that the restaurant underneath the hotel was a place of social gathering for the whole village.
As I lay smiling in bed that night with my window opened to hear the sounds of laughter and the flow of a beautiful, alien language, I realized how easy it was to make friends with people of different cultures. If only everyone could have such an experience; Eisenhower was right. World peace is possible if the citizens of the world come together and at least try to become friends. Give it a go next time you’re in a different country. Trust me, it’s easier than it seems.
Dear Reader: This page may contain affiliate links which may earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Our independent journalism is not influenced by any advertiser or commercial initiative unless it is clearly marked as sponsored content. As travel products change, please be sure to reconfirm all details and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.