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Visiting the homeland? Awesome. Visiting the actual home in the homeland? Incredible.

Visiting the homeland? Awesome. Visiting the actual home in the homeland? Incredible.

Let me start off this post by saying how incredibly blessed I am. Not only am I studying in Rome, not only do I have all these incredible professors, not only do I get to travel to places I’ve only dreamed about (or pinned to my “Places to See Board” on Pinterest) I am also lucky enough to have incredible support from my friends, family, and most of all my parents. My parents have given me the gift of an amazing education, which allowed me the opportunity to study abroad in Rome. On top of that, my parents helped me earn every dime that I’m spending here in Rome. Without them, this semester, this LIFE, wouldn’t be possible.

For that reason I was so incredibly excited that they were able to come to Rome and visit me for a week. Hearing SLA Gina announce “Mary Mantia your parents are here” in Mensa was, although slightly embarrassing as the entire room burst into applause, also the most wonderful words to hear.

I spent the beginning of the week showing them Monte Mario and introducing them to “my” Rome. I took them to Simply (that might have been a selfish motive), to the restaurant near Piazza Navona to get pear pasta, to Trastevere to try my favorite suppli, and showed them what the life of a “typical American college student studying in Rome” was like. I even brought them to watch our Calcio game (thankfully we won in a last minute goal)!

After getting through a week of crazy classes my parents and I set off for Bagni di Lucca and Riolo. Why these places? Well let me tell you.

I am half Italian (25% Sicilian 25% Tuscan) on my father’s side, making him 100% Italian. My Tuscan side of the family comes from a town called Riolo, above Bagni di Lucca, which is right by Lucca. Since I was a child I’ve heard of my family speak of this mysterious villa in Riolo, that we apparently still had a claim to. It wasn’t until I was older that members of my family went back to the house, reclaimed it as our own, fixed it up, and made it into an incredible Tuscan villa. For the last few years or so I’ve heard these great stories of members of my family going to the villa, drinking brandy at the Bar Italia in Bagni di Lucca, and enjoying our actual homeland. I had only hoped that one day I would be lucky enough to see it.

Let me just say that the entire weekended exceeded my already high expectations. Bagni di Lucca, for one thing, is a beautiful tiny town where it seems every body knows your name. With a river cutting through the town every view is breathtaking, and looks like a scene out of “Under the Tuscan Sun.”

My parents in Bagni di Lucca!

After spending a quiet day in Bagni di Lucca, eating and drinking our way through the town, we relaxed at our hotel and prepared for the next day. Because Saturday was the day we had been looking forward to for quite some time.

Saturday morning we met up with friends of of family members (Michael and my Uncle Danny, who come to Riolo often) who then drove us up to Riolo from Bagni di Lucca to see the family villa.

It. Was. Beautiful. This is the house that my great great great grandmother was born in, where my originally family line worked and played and grew. I couldn’t get any closer to my homeland than I was at that moment. From the grapes growing off the balcony, to the original bed frame, to every niche and corner it was perfect. I was overcome with this feeling of home in the middle of a country I’m not even a citizen of. I wish I could more eloquently describe what it felt like to be there but in this moments words fail. It’s a feeling I will never forget, and will treasure until I once again find myself at the Villa (which trust me, will be as soon as possible).

My parents and I at the Villa!

After that incredibly emotional experience we headed back down to Bagni di Lucca, to enjoy the town along with more food (like wild boar!). I remember thinking as I sat with my parents talking over a couple of drinks and cigars about how ridiculous and amazing my life is in this moment. The only thing missing from the picture was my brother, who I’m sure will one day be back there with us. Life truly does not get better than this.

Does life get any better?

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