Hi! Thanks for stopping by. Just a reminder that this post is purely for my own indulgence, reminiscing and my heart feels of a place I love. I’m not at all dismissing what is happening in our own backyard or other countries of course. The entire world is being affected. And this post isn’t about the-virus-that-must-not-be-named. It’s about remembering my favourite time in Italy. Stay safe and be kind 🥰
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As Italy begins to slowly open up again after being in lockdown for the past couple of months, it’s hard to imagine how they will recover from such a major event. During discussions of the current world situation I’ve been thinking about Italy and how it’s affected them greatly. It’s hard to think about a country so wonderful and the pain it’s gone through lately, how broken it became. But the Italian people, my word they are something special. The passion they have for life, food, family, their country – it’s commendable. Beautiful. We’ve all seen the videos of them singing from their balconies, staying together in such times. You get swept up in the emotion. We could learn a thing or two from them.
Through all this, I’ve been reminiscing of my travels and time in Italy. It’s one of my favourite places to explore. I’ve visited a few times now, each trip very different to the next. But each also so memorable for the experiences, the people we met, food we ate, towns discovered… it’s all there in my tiny brain, etched forever on a postcard of love.
My favourite Italian memory though, it’s a beaut little one, is something not many travellers would get to experience…
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In 2011, my sister and I travelled to Europe for our second trip within twelve months. Unlike the first trip, this time around we would be focusing on one country only (ok, well apart from a three-night bender in Germany for Oktoberfest but that’s another story). This time it was all about Italy. We had a plan to travel up and down the country to some of the most popular destinations however the one stop I was looking forward to the most was not your regular tourist attraction.
The village of Tufara, located in the Molise region, is where we were heading to after a few days of arriving in Rome. Tufara is where my father and his family are from and I was excited to visit a place of such significance. It’s something you think that maybe one day you could see but not sure if it could be possible. But I remember thinking how lucky we were that we’re able to travel and see the place where our heritage lay.
Arriving in Tufara was amazing. It’s so different to anywhere we had been before, so charming and quiet. A small town with a population of almost 900 people, Tufara was nothing bold or fancy but it was beautiful, and I was so happy to finally see it.
We were taken to my Dad’s cousins house on the hill where family were there to greet us, family who we never knew but they were so welcoming with joyous hugs and kisses all round. I should also point out that no, we cannot speak Italian. A travesty, I know. Over the years we have learnt words and easy sentences and growing up we were able to communicate with our grandparents via broken English, so we do understand a bit but not being fluent will hinder us slightly during our travels. In Tufara however, a friend of the family, Michela, would be our translator for our time there. Also, some of the younger family members were studying English at school so it was fun for them to practice with us.
After some broken English/Italian is spoken/gestured, we were soon sitting down to an amazing lunch. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced an Italian lunch before, but these things can go on for a while. Growing up Italian means we’ve had our fair share of long lunches, filled with many delicious courses and lots of chatter. Loud chatter. So we were well prepared for something like this. Someone who wasn’t prepared was Loz, our friend from home who joined us for this leg of our trip. She was travelling Europe at the same time on a different adventure but decided to join us for a few days in Italy. Poor Loz, as each course wrapped up then another started her eyes just kept getting wider and wider, looking at us as if to say “there’s more??”.
Yes, there’s always more.
The only time you know when it’s over is when the coffee comes out.
Then you’re done.
So we sat to lunch, just a small gathering of about 12 of us enjoying the company and food. The conversation still flowed just not as quickly as it would normally. Poor Michela had her work cut out translating everything for us. We did have the use of a huge Italian/English dictionary which had found its way to the middle of the table, finding words and managing to communicate with the younger ones. It was fun, and we laughed so much! And the food – oh GOD the food – was incredible. Home style Italian cooking is my kryptonite. I cannot say no. And why would you? This is something you can’t get from any Italian restaurant.
We ate like royalty. First the cheese, breaking some bread if you feel like it. Then the pasta, multiple choices of pasta at that, with sauces to die for. Then came the meat course, that is meat from the pasta sauce with a side of crumbed meat. After that it was a simple salad. Some more bread on the side. Throw in some homemade wine and limoncello if you must. Dessert consisted of ice cream, fruit and cake. Then, we knew it was the end… out came the coffee. Beautiful Italian coffee (whilst I am an avid tea drinker, I am partial to a good cup of Italian brew). But don’t forget the chocolates and biscuits too, of course.
Stick a fork in me. I’m done.
By the time we finished around early afternoon (yes you read that correctly, early afternoon… lunch had gone for approximately five hours), we were absolutely stuffed. These wonderful people had put on a magnificent meal for us, shown us what the Italians do best and we were so grateful. We couldn’t move for how full we were but as long as you’re full, the Italians are happy.
They then wanted to take us on a tour of Tufara and show us the sights. Happy to explore the village we rolled out the door to take on the winding cobblestone lanes. They took us through the town centre, down past the home where our Dad lived before he came to Australia, up to the old castle that overlooks the town… it was all so beautiful. And good LORD was it hilly! The Italian Nonnas take on these hills multiple times a day so they were running rings around us in speed, their walking sticks giving them an extra pep. Mind you we had also just tackled a five hour lunch so let’s factor that in shall we…
And the people we met along the way; oh, it was beautiful to meet so many happy faces. People we have never met knew all about us and had heard we were coming all the way from Australia. They knew our grandparents and were excited to see us.
Every second house we were invited in for food or coffee (though can sometimes sound like “come in fa coff” so it doesn’t always sound like an invitation, if you catch my drift) to which we accepted only a couple as we were still buzzing from lunch. People still had photos of my parents from when they had visited Tufara in the 70’s; it was wonderful to hear so many lovely stories. Our group wandered through the laneways saying hi to everyone on their doorsteps, chattering away, enjoying the afternoon air. It was such a simple afternoon, but it meant so much.
We eventually made our way back to the town centre where a few men were seated outside a bar each enjoying a beer. Our group pulled up a few tables and we got to sit and enjoy the late afternoon sun together after our trek around town. We laughed and enjoyed a few beers with everyone, Michela still translating when needed, but it was just lovely being in the company of people who enjoy a full, simple life. They have everything they need in this small town, not the fanciest things, not the newest houses, but just enough of everything they need.
As evening came, we discussed eating more food (the long lunch now a mere memory of the past… only six hours ago) so it was time for pizza. However, our group had grown to over twenty people so it was into the cars and a drive to the next town to a pizza stop that could accommodate us. And I don’t need to tell you how good that pizza was… but I will anyway. It was freaking EPIC!
Transport me back immediately.
Ok, you get the picture. It was good pizza.
It was the perfect end to such an amazing day. We were pumped. Who knows what tomorrow was going to bring?! I can confirm it included more food, more beer and way more laughs if that was even possible.
The Italians are so wonderfully warm and inviting, who wouldn’t want to visit a place where the people are lovely and the food is absolutely out-of-this-world? Sign me up again and again.
Reflecting on this makes me want to go back and visit… hopefully one day. It was something incredible to experience, so different to anything else I’ve done. Not many people get to do that, spend a few days in a small village with golden-hearted residents. A village that very rarely sees tourists, for its off the beaten path. A hidden gem, if you must.
I will always be grateful that we got to experience such a unique part of Italy. I’m so grateful for my heritage and to know where we come from. And I’ll remember that Italy was, and always will be, a place where the people are happy like sunshine, the food is always good and the limoncello tastes best when you’re laughing.