Guest Post: A True Family Dinner

Throught it would be better to hear about the family's first day in Florence from my Dad! A big thanks to him for being generous enough to write for me :)

While I welcome the opportunity to be a guest blogger for Ellen, the pressure seems enormous.  She has done such a wonderful job of documenting her time in Florence, and her previous guest blogger (Sean) matched her ability for colorful description.
Thursday was our first full day in Florence, having arrived at 9:30 the previous night and caught up with Ellen briefly. It was a busy school day for Ellen but afforded us a wonderful opportunity to warm to the city and see her in her new environment. For us, the day began with breakfast at our hotel and then an excursion to the “must see” sight of Florence – Michaelangelo’s David, housed at the Accademia. Kitte and I visited this amazing sculpture on our first visit to Florence almost 25 years ago and it appears the Accademia has built up its collection a bit since then. Nevertheless, all the paintings and other sculptures seem to be mere filler, as the David is the prize that dominates all. Its detail and grandeur continue to impress, though we can share no photos here because they are no longer permitted in the museum.

Leaving the Accademia, we headed to the Villa Rosa, where we met Ellen and got a brief tour of Syracuse University at Florence. Of course, as a parent, it is not only fun to see where Ellen is studying and to meet some of her friends, but also gratifying to have Jim Kauffman, the associate director of the program, thank us for “lending” Ellen to the program. He and Vittoria, who heads the volunteer program, went out of their way to compliment Ellen on developing the Healthy Monday program for SUF.
For lunch, we joined the SUF group in the piazza in front of the school for Sharing Thursday, enjoying pasta with broccoli that they shared with members of the nearby community. The crowd was down, due to the holiday week, which we found would not be the case anywhere else in Florence.

As Ellen had classes throughout the afternoon, Kitte, Laura, and I took the opportunity to walk around the city, shop a bit, and then enjoy a brief jet-lag fighting siesta. That set up a highlight of our trip – dinner at Ellen’s host family’s house. Their graciousness and hospitality is certainly as wonderful as Ellen has described it. Christina and Marco greeted us into their home and we took our places in the dining room. We then enjoyed 2 hours of 7 courses and wonderful conversation. Bruschetta (pronounced “brew-skett-uh” here) was followed by antipasto, then followed by spinach and cheese ravioli in a light butter sage sauce, which preceded the main course of salmon and potatoes, then followed by salad – and a pineapple cut to look like a chicken – and finally a wonderful homemade tiramisu. And no, Ellen’s coaching to “pace yourself” didn’t help when Cristina poured out the pasta!

Even more amazing than the food was the hospitality. While Christina was rather quiet, as she does not feel confident with her English, Marco was a warm and gracious conversationalist, asking questions, regaling us with stories, and forcing Ellen and her roommate Ali to speak in Italian. (Another wonderful experience – observing Ellen converse in a language we don’t know!) Clearly, Ellen and Ali are blessed with a tremendous host family, and the fact Marco and Christina have been hosting students for 22 years is clear. They give them room to experience Florence as they wish, but provide a supportive, caring, (well-fed!) environment. What a wonderful day we had, seeing a bit of Florence through Ellen’s eyes and meeting her wonderful “Florence family”.

P.S - The family took most of the pictures on their camera this weekend and I failed to get them before they left! More pictures to come...

1 comment:

  1. Great Post, Tom! I can see where Ellen gets her gift of writing. I'm so delighted that you all got to see Ellen in her Florence element. I remember when I spent a semester in London, how much my parents enjoyed sharing my experience. The sisters photo is so sweet.