I wake up to the rich, reedy sound of an accordion-not something you would normally hear in the streets of America, but then, I’m not in America.
I’m in the home of my Aunt Lidia and Uncle Leonardo in Novara, the capital city of the province of Novara in the Piedmont region of Italy. As I hear the heaving of the squeezebox, I am reminded of why I love this place. The notes pulsate as the musician waltzes the alleyway just outside the apartment, my Aunt Lidia scrambling to open the windows to allow the music to pour inside. We stand there, together, as the rest of the family joins us, euros in hand. The talented young man below serenades us from the cobblestone street. We throw him coins in exchange for both the music and the wonderful experience, and at this moment, there is absolutely nowhere I would rather be.
Before experiencing a foreign country I spent most of my life with eyes closed. I was limited to one culture and oblivious to the marvels the world has to offer. Abroad, I have made connections that will last a lifetime, creating countless memories and stories that the value of a mere souvenir cannot equate.
When I arrived I stuck out like a sore thumb, but that was okay with me because I was learning, not only the language, but also the culture. Seeing how they lived so opportunely with what they had gave me a chance to challenge what I’d accepted as “happiness” back home.
After a day exploring the street life of Corso Italia, Piedmont, I would enter through the door of the small apartment, and the redolence of a home cooked dinner would reenergize my spirits with the mouth-watering bounty that lay before us. The food on Aunt Lidia’s table was free of pesticides and antibiotics and not genetically modified in any way. Like the culture, it was exactly the way it looked- sweet and succulent, and soul nourishing. When I am here, I am relaxed and careful not to miss any moment, surrounded by the people I love and their beautiful language that drifts through the air the way notes of music do.
When we sit at the table for a meal the room is immediately filled with laughter that seems to last right through the ten courses, including dessert. No one is on his or her phone! No one rushes off to be anywhere. The people here don’t ask for much because they appreciate what they have and know that, really, they have everything they could ever want. The passion for life is so genuine that even sharing a meal or talking late at night is worth celebrating.
That small apartment in Novara, Italy packaged in a 550-square foot space became a part of who I am. Although I can’t be there as often as I would like, just remembering that life is for living fully and the simple yet important moments are always to be cherished, Italy remains in my mind and spirit each day. Just thinking about it, I am back, tasting the exquisite food and lifestyle in just a matter of seconds.
Andrew Zimmern, notoriously known for his appearances on the travel channel, would likely relate to how I feel. In my favorite quote of his, he says, “please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you. Those are the keys to understanding this amazing world we live in.” As for me, I plan on unlocking every door.
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