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by Francesca Di Meglio
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Ischia, Italy: With My Ancestors
Discover how one Italian American is getting through the summer living in Italy where her family was born
A cruise ship was docked in the middle of the ocean and passengers were taking little boats from the ship to shore. Homesick for my United States, I was thrilled to hear buzzing Americans walking up and down the bridge that links the town of Ischia Ponte with the castle. How lovely and easy to understand every word without having to translate from Italian to English in your head first!
Still, as I sat in Ischia Ponte I couldn't help but wonder how many times Nonno Giovanni, my paternal grandfather, had walked this bridge. With whom did he speak? Did he ever watch the fishermen or the docked boats? Did he ever sit where I was sitting in that moment? What did his Ischia look and feel like? What about all the others - Nonna Francesca, my aunts and uncles, my maternal relatives, those whose blood flows through my body and who lived here ages and ages ago.
The woman asked me what she could do to help me. I just said, “I was far away from my home in America, and I missed my parents and family.” She wanted to buy me a sandwich and something to drink, but I thanked her and declined. After a little while, she came back from one of her errands to check on me once more. She gave me a hug and a kiss and when she walked off, it was as though she slipped away and disappeared. She never told me her name. It's been more than a month since our encounter, and I haven't seen her again, even though the town is small and you usually see the same people over and over again. I keep telling my parents that Nonna Francesca swooped in from Heaven for a visit when I most needed to see her.
Families my father knew as a boy still live here - and they remember him for his blonde ringlets and how he portrayed San Giovanni Battista in the parade on June 24 every year. The woman my maternal grandfather loved as a boy before he ever knew my grandmother still lives in Piedimonti near the butcher. 'Ndrezzata, the folk dance troupe of which Nonno Giovanni was a leader, performs for special occasions – and I can almost hear him playing the clarinet whenever I see them. The island's natives still walk the streets to see and be seen – and they gossip about everyone because everyone knows everyone. Lush hills and blue ocean are still the island's main attraction. And the spirit of my ancestors dances around me whenever I'm out in the sun.
Di Meglio is the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.
Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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