They say home is where the heart is and this suburban haven of Piazza Bologna has been growing on me. There’s a magical moment when you and peers abroad go from saying…
“Let’s head back to our homestay”
“Let’s head back home”
This haven from the city is not even close to how chaotic Rome is. The center of town is nowhere as hectic as back in America, but it definitely feels a lot colder and stagnant in the city center.
It is absolutely tedious to get home from the city center.
Bologna doesn’t have sardines packed in the bus at 6 PM during the week. There aren’t the mobs of people roaming the streets gawking at the different basilicas. No saber-wielding-selfie-stick tourists walking around either.
Vittoria, our host, was definitely right when she said Bologna was a place for locals and university students (Sapienza Universita).
Last Friday, my roommates, Vittoria, and I, went to aperitivo at one of the local spots. Aperitivo is similar to an appetizer round or happy hour, but for us it starts at around our normal dinner times (around 6 or 8 PM). It is almost indescribable to Americans because it is between pranzo and cena, or lunch and dinner.
The €11 all you can eat buffet was definitely a great bang for your buck.
In the moments of struggling conversations between the three of us and Vittoria (due to our subpar Italian skills), the girls next to us noticed and helped us out. What entailed was Vittoria and our new friend and now translator, Elena, started conversing throughout our whole meal.
Elena spoke extremely good English which she had picked up in her year of living in London. She was in her fifth year of high school (similar to our first year of college in the states) and very liberal. When she mentioned a few of the social issues we talked about in class, such as, gender inequality as racism…
I knew I needed to interview her.
The night we all met Elena, she seemed to love America and I couldn’t figure out why if she’s never been there. But, upon meeting her mother and getting a tour of her apartment, I got a little glimpse of it.
Her room was draped in a ton of American things…
- American books translated into Italian
- A poster from the band Nirvana
- And a ton of other little neat things that I could recognize back home
I could see the bits and pieces she enjoyed from our culture and how it has influenced her mentality today. She was far from soft-spoken and ambitious. Elena’s perspective was different than the older Italian women that I’ve spoken to.
She wanted to work and work, while other women I spoke to had a more laidback, nonchalant work ethic. I told her she would probably enjoy America with her mindset and perseverance. As we started our discussion, I learned that she agreed with me.
“I don’t see a future here, for me, or my family.”
But, Elena had never been to America, how could she possibly know what it would be like? Her mother’s travels to Washington have given Elena all the insight and hope she could need.
“She (Elena’s cousin) has a family in Washington and my mom went there… she lived her dream, you know? To be a woman, to be considered a woman. Here, women are nothing. They treat you like you’re nothing. The men are the men and the women are nothing.”
This was mindboggling to me. It felt like I took a trip down memory lane in America’s history. Elena was experiencing same thing women in America felt, but years later. Women in America have definitely come a long way and I felt for Elena’s frustration.
Despite the negative factors that were pushing her further away from the Italian culture, she also had enthusiasm and hope in her possible future in America.
“Because I am very ambitious in life… I would like to write books and not just that, but I would like to make my own movies. Here in Italy there’s no university to become an important producer.”
Coming from a family of lawyers, professors, and doctors, she wanted something different. She yearned for an artistic outlet and wanted to do that through her passion of writing.
Even with her being one of the most outspokenly frustrated individuals I talked to, she had the most eagerness to do anything about it.
I describe this mentality as an American one and have nothing but respect for it.
It brought me an incredible amount of joy to see that a sense of individualism existed in a place of such social oppression in young Italian women. America is where it is today from the individuals as brave as Elena to think differently.
I found a piece of home (America) in Piazza Bologna and it’s in the form of hope.