One of the most captivating things about traveling across Italy is that ancient history is never further than a few steps away. Florence is home to the oldest stone bridge in Europe, and the same streets Dante, da Vinci, Michelangelo, and the Medici family strolled. In Siena, the Palio dates back to 1482, and is still run today; this year’s victors were the Goose and the Rhino. The Etruscans grew vines and made wine in Tuscany as far back as the ninth century BCE. And in Rome the Colosseum, Pantheon, and Forum all date back to the time of Caesar.
My grandparents immigrated to the United States from Italy as Benito Mussolini’s brand of fascism swept across the country in the first half of the 20th century. It was their journey to America that offered me the privilege of growing up with Italian grandparents in the house; we were the only family on my street who had multi-generations living under the same roof. Having emigrated from small towns in the Abruzzi region, my grandparents didn’t speak much English.