When I first decided that I wanted to commit to studying abroad, Italy was my first and only option. I had always dreamed of traveling to the country where my family history all began. My grandfather’s parents had six children and the first three were born in a small town in the center of Sicily called Enna. They raised their children there and three generations later, the family still resides on the same hill. After raising the first three, my great grandparents moved to the United States for a better business opportunity. They moved to Pittsburgh, PA where my grandfather was born and started our family business, Lamagna Cheese Company. To say the least, we truly value our nationality. It’s tradition, which made my decision to live in Italy for an entire semester that much easier.
I often get the question: “So, what was your favorite trip when you went abroad?” Now, this is definitely not an easy question because of all of the beauty our Earth has to offer. However, I do not think there is anything more unique and meaningful to me than meeting and getting to know my family members that I have heard about all of my life. Fortunately, my dad was able to come visit me while I was studying in Italy, and we made the trip to our true homeland. Our relatives Enrico and Antonella greeted us at the airport, and they took us directly to get delicious cannoli’s and espresso. Antonella had an English dictionary and I used my Duolingo when necessary since we both know little of each other’s languages. After some time of waltzing around Piazza del Duomo in the heart of Catania, they drove us to meet the rest of the family on the beautiful coast of Taormina, which is a view I could never forget. The rest of the day we ate, walked, and ate a lot more. (I think I gained about 5 pounds that weekend.) It was really amazing to experience dining out with locals because the service goes from like a 60% to 110%. We were treated so well. That evening we went to their friend’s hotel to sleep because you do not understand how compact and tight the houses are if you haven’t been to Italy before! We had a beautiful view of Mt. Etna, and it was extremely peaceful.
On our last day in Sicily, we went over to our family’s home for a traditional Italian meal. On the way there, my cousin Simone gave us a tour of Enna and hiked up to the highest point. We drove past where my grandfather’s parents lived and worked, along with the church they belonged to. Once we got to their home to eat, they had all of these family albums and several pictures of me as a baby. This is when I realized how important my family is to me, and the love we naturally have for one another. I felt like I had known them all my life! We talked for hours that day, and I worked on my Italian conversation skills the best I could. They even stuffed my suitcase with Sicilian goodies to take back with me to Rome. I will forever be grateful for this experience and all of the memories that were created with la mia famiglia!
Julie Lamagna is a Junior majoring in Communication Sciences and Disorders, and minoring in International Studies. She studied abroad during the 2016 Spring semester in Rome, Italy. She traveled to seven different countries during her time in Europe and learned more about her Italian Heritage. She loves to explore new places and is already trying to plan another trip!