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Reflections on an epic "Grand Tour"

I am home again in Buffalo, and it is surreal. During my stay in Europe, I gained a lot of insight about myself, my work, and the mix of cultures I come from. I am forever changed; that's for certain. These vistas and experiences will stay with me for the rest of my life.

Sleeping on the couches and guest beds of friends and family, I witnessed their lives, patterns, communication styles, and work relationships. I gained understanding about what is important to them, what motivates them. In many ways, it is the same as people back here. However, there are some major differences.

No matter whether you work in a co-working space, or as a housewife, life is slower in Italy. People take conversation seriously, and the connection between people when they converse is strong- not to be broken by interlopers, a text, or even the weather! Food is always, always fresh, and regional/seasonal. Beauty is a part of life, and it is expected. Ugliness, in all its forms, is called out without shame. So is weight! When "Zia Lolla" grabbed my thigh and said (in Italian), "You have nice big legs, like all the Cappelletti women!" I almost died of laughter.

We bonded with our cugini (cousins) in Norma, strolled around the old town to get caffe al bar, and enjoyed numerous meals in LARGE groups. It was an overwhelmingly emotional (and loud) experience.

We visited cousin Marco's mules, which he uses to bring lumber down from the montagne, nestled in a pasture surrounded by olive groves:

We stopped in to the olive oil factory, where all the local people get their olives pressed:

We visited the cemetery, and paid our respects to Pasquale and Maria- the furthest ancestors in our line, who connect all of us together.

We sorted out the massive family tree, with a lot of help from the new parenti (relatives):

The two sisters who helped us connect to everyone in the first place (thank you, Facebook!), Beatrice and Floriana, turned out to be distant cousins too!

Cousin Anna, our host and guide for the duration, took us to the Tyrrhenian Sea for views of San Felice, a gorgeous bay village popular in summer.

And on the last night of our stay in Italia, my cousins from Guido's line (my great-grandfather's brother) invited us to dine all together at a big pizzeria ristorante in the countryside near the village of Corri.

I look forward to catching up with my friends and colleagues here in Buffalo- and sharing more details about my experiences. Thanks for following along- keep checking back here, or on my Facebook page, for further updates and reflections.

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