you know what’s great? when you’ve been living on the other side of the world, haven’t seen your family in over a year, and you show up to be a guest in some strangers’ homes for a week expecting it to be awkward, only to find yourself really feeling like a part of the family.

i’ve stayed with three families in italy now, and each one has been incredibly generous, easy-going and welcoming. each week, i seem to find myself sharing a home with people i get along with more and more, have more and more to talk about, find it easier and easier to have a laugh together. my host family this week is the absolute cream. let’s start with renzo:

dude is sixty, the quintessential italian flirt. he calls me his bella frutta and asks me things like whether i need some company when i go to take a nap. but not in a creepy way. he has a warm smile and a winning sense of humor. and get this: dude went into the forest, cut down trees to build furniture, and outfitted his house with ballin’ window frames, door frames, tables and so on. he cut down. his own. trees. hecutdownhisowntrees. and made his house with them. respect.

but he, like the rest of the family, is a little photo shy.

my host mom, agnese says she doesn’t like to cook, but tonight she made a lasagna bolognese that had me coming back for seconds, which i can rarely manage, what with these heart attack-inducing italian monster meals. her son, andrea, is 16, and we have adopted each other as quasi-real brother and sister. this kid taught himself english using facebook in some way i still don’t understand after having had him explain it to me, like, three times. we talk about deep shit. he takes me out to party country style with his friends. tonight: stealing corn from some field down the road, vespa racing to a park ‘n’ ride in the middle of the alps where we made a bonfire to roast said corn with a few friends, creedence clearwater revival (his favorite band!) on a cell phone speaker. he looks out for me in these really sweet ways, and it just swells my heart about to bursting when we share a laugh or a little secret. the kid is bra-vo. he’s teaching me dialect and helping my sorry-ass italian. i’m… well, i sit on his bed eating cookies and updating my blog while he plays gran tourismo. i want to steal him and his parents and bring them to america with me. i’m innamorata. tonight, i caught myself called agnese “mamma.” a few days ago, we walked up the street to check out this old mill where they make polenta. probably from the same corn abbiamo rubato earlier tonight.

it runs on a water wheel and everything!

knock knock
me: come in!
enter andrea, holding two ears of corn he brought home from the bonfire for me because i came home early, feeling sick.
me: *one million high fives*

the view on the ride from home to school.

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