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Revisiting the Voyage of Discovery

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An update from Alessandra Nehr, a participant in NIAF’s Voyage of Discovery Program, all-expenses paid ten-day trip to Italy for Italian American students. Alessandra, who participated in the trip last year with her brother, will be traveling to Italy again. This time she will be taking her family to some of the spots she visited while on the Voyage of Discovery.

This past summer, my twin brother Frank and I were fortunate enough to be chosen for NIAF’s Voyage of Discovery program. While in Italy, we saw various cities throughout the country, including Rome, Naples, and Salerno, among others.  Having never been to Italy before, we both were struck not only by the immense beauty present there, but also by the innate kindness of the Italian people and their willingness to work with our group. We made numerous friends in our group and had incredible experiences, all of which we will certainly remember. Whether it was having the most authentic mozzarella at a buffalo farm or celebrating Festa della Repubblica in Rome, neither of us would have traded our trip for the world. 

Upon returning to the United States, we made the typical familial rounds, first telling our parents, then our grandparents (the only other members of our family who have set foot in our ancestral homeland), then our aunts, uncles and cousins. Although almost everyone in the family had been to Canada and Mexico, only my grandparents and, now, my brother and I, were lucky enough to experience Europe. When we told them all of our travels, they seemed genuinely interested in the possibility of returning as a family the following summer. My grandparents asked us if it was something that we thought everyone in the family could appreciate, given that my youngest cousins are only fourteen, and my brother and I both agreed that they certainly would. Even without the NIAF patronage, we believed that returning to Italy would be an unrivaled opportunity to not only experience the culture of our ancestors, but it would also give the family a chance to go on a once-in-a-lifetime trip, one which most of us may never again have an opportunity to experience. 

We will be leaving for Italy in mid-June and plan to visit Florence, Rome, Venice, Assisi and Vasto, the hometown of my great-grandparents. Since my brother and I never got to visit Vasto while on the NIAF trip, we are really looking forward to seeing the small town about which so many family stories have been told. 

Since we spent so much time in Rome during the Voyage of Discovery, my brother and I can’t wait to take my family to one of the best gelato places in town (Giolitti), try ossobuco again at Trattoria Leoni D’Abruzzo and lamb at L’isola della Pizza, and attend the Papal Audience to see the new Pope. 

Although we are by no means experts on Italy, we are looking forward to applying what we learned on our NIAF trip to the forthcoming trip with our family.  Once again, we really appreciate NIAF giving us our first taste of Italy, and I’ll be sure to write about our journey once we return.