Like many alumni of Gordon IN Orvieto, I returned to the States as a coffee addict. In the span of two weeks, I bought my now-loved Moka maker, received a French press from a friend, and learned the art of milk frothing. I have also betrayed my New England roots by switching from Dunkin’ Donuts to Starbucks. Yet it might surprise you that coffee wasn’t my beverage of choice abroad; rather, it was tea with our Italian neighbors.
In mid-December, we were invited to have tea with a friend of the program named Pina. Two of my peers had spent a Saturday helping this sweet woman harvest her olive groves, for she was growing too frail to do the task herself. To show her thanks, she opened up her home to everyone in the convent. Since it was the middle of riposo—an afternoon break where all shops close down until 5PM—I eagerly accepted the offer. Five of us meandered through the streets and made our way to Pina’s apartment complex, not sure what to expect. Little did I know that I would take many life patterns from this afternoon back with me.
As Pina prepared the table for tea, she had us explore her expansive garden, where a different type of flower bloomed every month. We got to taste-test her strawberry grapes and the herbs at the corner of her garden while a stray cat slinked through the greenery. Once again, Orvieto reminded me how much joy the outdoors has to offer. I can’t even remember how long we wandered through that garden, discovering each new plant with childlike wonder. Whenever one of us came across an unusual find, we informed the others and experienced the moment together.
It was dusk by the time Pina called us inside in her broken English, serving us pies made from the fruit in her garden. Her opulent dining room shimmered with a glass chandelier and semi-famous, 18th-century paintings. We sat needle-straight, feeling like royalty as we sipped out of porcelain teacups. Pina’s generosity encouraged us to try out our faulty Italian as she asked us about the American classics we were reading in college. In her excitement, Pina—with the hurried translation of our RA, Jenna—jumped into a lecture on Native American history. It was humbling to hear such a passionate account from a woman who had never been to the United States, yet knew more about my homeland than I did. Her love and care for Americans, when we had done little to deserve that praise, made us open up to her more than any of us expected.
While we had only met Pina hours before, we left her apartment as friends. She gave us kisses and wished us farewell, making sure she had our names written down so that she could think of us. Upon my return, I have tried to take Pina’s overwhelming hospitality into my relationships. American culture lacks riposo, but that does not mean I can’t allot time to spend with new friends and keep up with old.
Although there isn’t a glass chandelier in my apartment, the best moments have involved a teacup of Italian espresso.
Michaela Savell is a Junior double-majoring in Art and English who studied at Gordon IN Orvieto this past fall.