By MARIANNA CUOMO MAIER, Founding Member of ILF’s Emerging Leaders Council
In October 2022, I spent two weeks traveling in Italy, visiting beautiful and ancient cities, eating delicious foods, and learning about the rich culture and history that has impacted the people today. My journey began in Milan, followed by the Emilia-Romagna region on a special culinary tour and ended in Rome. Beyond the delicious food and breathtaking vistas, this trip reignited my love for travel and especially, my passion for Italian culture.
My Italian heritage has always held special significance for me. From recipes passed down generationally to hearing the beautiful Italian language spoken from the time of my early childhood, my family has always cherished and celebrated its Italian culture.
While attending Yale, I had the opportunity to study Italian with the most passionate and enthusiastic professors who made learning fun. I expanded my study of Italian by studying abroad in Siena, Italy through a Yale summer session program. During this time, I expanded my knowledge of Italian and gained a deeper understanding of my Italian heritage. My summer abroad was formative in solidifying my deep appreciation for Italian language and culture.
It was during that summer in Siena that I was exposed to the ways in which native Italians so fully enjoy life’s many gifts. I deeply admire the way in which Italians approach life and savor each moment. Italians prioritize leisure and enjoy the simple things. Meal preparation is an act of love and is intended to be shared. Enjoying a well-cooked meal with others, making conversation with them, and appreciating it all is an honored tradition. Food is often locally sourced if not truly farm to table. Italians live active lifestyles and walk everywhere.
This recent trip was particularly meaningful because we not only enjoyed delicious food, toured interesting places, and saw awesome sites, but we also met many locals and learned about their culture and family history. Throughout the Emilia-Romagna region we had the honor of visiting an authentic producer of Proscuitto di Parma, the Galloni family, as well as a factory producing Parmigiano Reggiano. In Modena, we visited Acetaia Giusti, a company that has been creating high quality balsamic products since 1605. We also enjoyed viewing the making of authentic torrone candy.
Each of the businesses shared the story of its family’s specialty and history and explained its production process. These well-respected businesses share a respect for tradition and a commitment to excellence. Additionally, having not traveled abroad in several years, it was eye opening to see the ruins of an ancient society as in Rome and be reminded that the United States is a very young country by comparison.
Through this adventure, I reconnected with my Italian roots. By speaking the Italian language, exploring various regions of Italy, and discovering new sights, sounds and flavors of Italy, I returned home with renewed energy and zest for life.
I hope to incorporate the Italian ways of enjoying life’s pleasures by living an active lifestyle, preserving leisure time, thoroughly enjoying meals, and cherishing my friends and family.