Sorrento, Italy by Isabella Varano

Italy is the first European country I had ever been to and when I tell you the culture shock was so real! I immediately fell in love with Sorrento, its quaint streets and passionate locals reminded me of our beautiful Charleston community. My first day of the program was all about getting situated and familiar with the city, we took a walking tour with a guide provided by the school where we learned about Sorrento’s origins, visited local museums, and walked the Marina Grande beaches. Legend has it that during the sixth century a man named Saint Antonino Abate saved a boy on the shore of Sorrento who was suddenly swallowed by a sea monster. Saint Antonino has served as a symbol of protection for the city of Sorrento for many generations. I was able to see the bone of the “sea monster” also known as a whale hanging outside of La Basilica di San Antonino. Later in the day, I had my first Italian exchange with a local sandwich shop owner.

Though I knew I had some practice to do, the owner appreciated my efforts in speaking the local language and even gave me my sandwich for free. He had asked if I grew up in Italy and when I answered no he said “well welcome home.” The kindhearted laid-back, and generous lifestyle of the Italians in Sorrento has made me reflect on my own outlook on life. The next adventure was finding groceries and the discovery of siesta time. My classes had just finished up for the day and I headed to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner. I was met with a closed-up shop in the middle of the day— it was siesta, the time of day between 3 and 5 when workers will go home to rest and have lunch with their families before returning to work. I waited until the store opened and prepared my meal at 9 that night, the typical dining time in Europe, very different from our usual dinner time in America. Living in an apartment for the month, laundry was another moment of culture shock. Because electricity is limited in Italy, there are no dryers in homes. Clothes are dried on balconies and racks allowing the sun and wind to do the work. I appreciated the low level of consumption and waste in Italy with smaller portion sizes, fewer supermarkets, and less big company influence. Most restaurants and stores are small family-owned businesses. The emphasis on recycling is also very different than America. Each home in Italy has four separate trash cans for sorting and recycling wastes. I feel that the more time I spend in Sorrento, the more I fall in love with its rich culture and values. I also enjoy that it is socially acceptable to eat gelato all day, every day! I look forward to internalizing the lessons and mannerisms I have learned here and implementing them into my life in America.

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