Sep 13 2011

Ischia – Italy’s Islanders 28

A return to Ischia, at first, was a return to tranquility. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio

A return to Ischia, at first, was a return to tranquility. © Photo by Francesca Di Meglio

Get the truth about one of Italy’s most popular islands – and its people – by reading my new weekly blog installments (every Monday right here on this site)

Chapter Twenty-Eight – Return to the Homeland

After I arrived in Italy for the first time since I began dating Tony, he greeted me at the airport, and we took a drive from Naples to Florence, where I was going to meet some Italian editors with whom I had worked. Once in the car, Tony asked if he could kiss me, something we had not done in the months since he was in the United States. When I agreed, he gave me a movie-like kiss and we left. With a smile on his face, Tony asked me about our trip and we talked for hours, occasionally holding hands while he drove, before I started to fall asleep.

When I awoke, we were almost in Florence. Traffic was keeping us from arriving, so I gave Tony a gift I had brought for him. It was a link bracelet made of titanium. He was thrilled, and gifted me with another one of those kisses. This time we both had a big smile on our faces. Unfortunately, however, it was short lived. Those first couple of days in Florence were difficult. I spent most of the time working with my editors while Tony did some site seeing on his own. On our way back to Naples (to catch a boat to the island of Ischia, home of my ancestors and Tony), we committed to spending more time together. I had taken vacation for the rest of my two weeks in Italy.

After finally arriving at Tony’s house, I was a bit overwhelmed by his family. I too have a big Italian family, but I never actually lived with my siblings, their spouses, and their children. After you wed, you left and lived in your own home. Although I had spent much of my childhood with my first cousins – who my mother often cared for because she worked for my father from home – they all returned home to their parent’s homes in the evenings for dinner and sleep. During the school year, we were scattered at different schools in our town.

Tony’s family, on the other hand, lived all together in one big house that had once served as my father’s middle school – yes, it’s a small world – and then Tony’s family’s hotel. While each of his sisters and their families had their own apartments upstairs, everyone spent most of their time downstairs with Tony and his mom. All 13 people living in the house ate breakfast, lunch, and dinner together. All the children went to school in the same place. Still, I was enamored with their open arms. They seemed as welcoming as my family. And Tony’s three nieces, who ranged in age from 4 to 7 were adorable; they took to me right away. I thought, “I could fit into this family.” They seemed so much like my own. They ate, they shared, and they loved.

Some names and identifying characteristics of the real people involved have been changed.

Tune into this Web site, Two Worlds, every Monday for the latest installment in my blog about my experiences in Ischia, and every other Monday to ItaliansRus.com for the latest Our Paesani column about all things Italian. Di Meglio is also the Guide to Newlyweds for About.com.