No matter how hard I try, I can’t shake Ischia, Italy, an island off the coast of Naples that is home to my ancestors and husband. While it’s no secret I much prefer the hustle and bustle of northern New Jersey in my United States of America, I always end up sucked into Ischia – at least for the summer. It’s become my second home for better or worse. A week since I bid farewell to the hidden jewel of an island, I am most nostalgic for the feel of the place.
As the boat approaches Porto d’Ischia, the sprinkle of water rising up from the waves, along with the sea breeze, touches my skin and moves me. In the wind, I feel the whispers of my grandparents, who are now my guardian angels and Ischitani natives. They call me to their home. They welcome me back.
What always united my family and most Ischitani I know is food. They grow it together in their gardens, cook it together in their kitchens, and eat it together in their dining rooms. And they share it with anyone who will join them. It’s one of the most beautiful parts of our life, and it’s what I miss most about my grandparents.
Breaking bread offers the chance to feel the crumbs – like sand – between your fingers. The slickness of octopus lightly coated in extra virgin olive oil and lemon glides from your hand to your mouth. The firm peach, with its velvet skin, is so juicy that it splashes on your face as you bite into it. That fior di latte gelato that just fell from your spoon to your T-shirt is making the fabric cling to your skin as though it is glue and you’re paper. Not the stain or the stickiness has you up in arms. Instead, it is the fact that you wasted a dollop of that divine dessert, whose love you only know for but a short time each year. Of course, you couldn’t visit Ischia without the feel of rabbit bone scraping against your teeth, so you suck up every bit of meat and flavor in the traditional dish.
A stroll on the beach is the perfect way to finish off one of those superb meals in Ischia. The gritty-yet-soft feel of sand under bare foot is summer in one sensation. Waves gently crashing on your ankles is a smile from Mother Nature as she otherwise pelts you with heat. Indeed, that stream of sweat is slowly falling from the top of your back down to your bottom, caressing and assaulting you at once.
In Buonopane, the Ischia town that my family called home before moving to the United States, I sit on the curb in the piazza as a feast goes on around me. My son, feeling satisfied with his stomping, is smashing peanut shells. I wonder what my grandparents would have thought of him, how they would react to his presence in their home. I’m moved. I swipe my hand across the pavement and think, “My baby is walking the same road home as his ancestors. My, my, how the journey has changed. My, my, how the journey has stayed the same.”
Di Meglio uses the written word to help families create memories and stick together. You can follow her on Facebook at Francesca’s Newlyweds Nest and on Twitter @ItalianMamma10.