During the summer I spent I spent five weeks in the south of Italy studying and visiting some historic cities and towns. Now, in the fall, I am studying in Urbino, Italia which is in the northern region of Marche, Italia. The differences between the North and the south are quite clear, and I honestly wish that I was back in the south of Italy. I had known before I even came to Italy that I would prefer the south to the north just from things that I had heard and knew about Italy. I had my mind set on studying in the south in a little town called Pisciotta, and even though my professor really did not want me to go there, it was my decision to go. I cannot describe to anyone really how happy I am that I chose to go to this remote little town in the south. I was very comfortable down in the south, I made friends with the townspeople, I bought the local produce and ate at the restaurants in the town. It specialized in seafood, had some amazing sauces, the olive oil was out of this world, and it knew how to utilize its garlic. The people were very amicable and animated and would always say boun giorno or buona sera whenever they saw you. My Italian greatly improved while I was there, mostly because I was the one who knew the most Italian in my group of friends so I was always the one that had to do the talking and understanding whenever we went anywhere, and no one there made me feel nervous or intimidated.
When I arrived in the north, after having stayed in Istanbul for a month and a half with my boyfriend and his family, I knew that my Italian was a little rusty, but I was prepared to jump right back into it. I was excited to be back in Italy, the place that I had loved so much. Little did I know that nothing would really be the same here. It just did not have the appeal that the south had. The north is much more Anglicized and most of the people here do not share the warmth of their southern neighbors. They all seem to think that they are better than everyone else because they are from the north and not the south. Another major difference was the food. Sure, it’s great, but it lacks everything that the south provided. Everyone in America always links garlic and Italians together. I think the main reason that they do that is because most Italian-Americans are from the Campania, Calabria, Puglia, and Siclia, all these areas are in the south. The food in the south, delicious, garlic in everything, they know how to make sauce and great homemade pastas, and pizza. I don’t even think the north knows what garlic, good sauce, and pizza are. I haven’t had garlic in anything that I have eaten since I’ve been here, the sauce tastes like it’s from a can, and the pizza? I think that they should just leave that to the professionals down in Napoli.
The landscape in the north is absolutely gorgeous, that I cannot deny, but it also true for every other location in Italy. Everywhere I have gone in Italy, I have been in awe of the mountains and valleys, the fields, and the views. Everything here is just so picturesque. In my opinion, the south was a bit more picturesque simply because it was just more real, if that even makes sense.
I suppose that the only real thing that I like more about the north is the fact that I can go and wear my Juventus jerseys anywhere I want and show my Juventus tattoo without having to worry if anyone will want to attack me, I’m even know as “La Juventina” on campus. In the south, I was a bit uneasy wearing my jerseys and showing my support for my team. Especially in Napoli! The Napoli fans just kind of scare me. I’m not quite sure why, but they just come off as “nasty” in a way. I honestly would not be caught dead wearing a Juventus jersey in Napoli. There was even one Napoli fan in Capri who saw my tattoo and started yelling, “Juventus?! Dio mio! Perchè? Perchè? Dio miiiioooo!” All the while, putting his hand over his heart and then grasping his face in horror as if he had just witness me commit a heinous crime. It did provide a good laugh though. It should be quite interesting when I travel to Torino for the Juventus – Napoli game in two weeks for my birthday.
My real problem with the north is that everywhere I go, I am just too nervous to speak in Italian. I’ll be great when it comes to reading, writing, and listening, but when it comes time for me to talk I completely blank out and forget everything I’ve ever learned. I do not feel nearly as comfortable with the people here as I did in the south. The only person who is as warm as people I’ve met in the south is Mario, the gray-Einstein-haired, smiley, always happy, old owner of Mamma’s Café. He’s always animated and has a smile on his face and is not intimidating. Every other person that I have met here intimidates me. At times, I feel like I’m not smart enough to be here because most of the students that are here have been studying Italian for many more years than I have, and they are all Erasmus students. The problem is that they all know English even better than they know Italian so that’s what they all always speak in. I somehow need to get some more speaking practice and not be so nervous all the time. I wish I had been able to study in the south for the fall semester, but I’m here so I might as well suck it up and deal with it. After all, I am in Italy, and I need to make the most of it in my time here. I also have a feeling that my friends that I’m making here are probably sick of hearing me say, “But in the South…”