In Sorrento life is tranquil. Dogs lay in the middle of the streets. The town closes down in the middle of the day for shop owners to have lunch with their families, and maybe catch a nap before heading back to work. It’s a beautiful way to live. Everyone has the time to chat on the streets, and as my host father would say, “Everyone stays well.” I will always remember the first day I walked down Corso Italia, the main street in Sorrento. I was struck by how slow everyone seemed to be moving. Usually everyone around me has a destination and few seem as though they are enjoying the ride. But walking down Corso Italia that day, everyone was taking their time. Many people were chatting casually with whoever they were walking with, some were gazing into the shops or stopping to catch up with a friend. I felt relaxed and timeless knowing that life in Sorrento would be very different from my college town in the States.
There is a different pace in Sorrento. One of the first cultural differences that struck me was the pride that many take in Italy’s history and the importance of travel. My Italian host family knows more about their entire country than I do my hometown of 15,000 people. Each time I venture around Italy or Sorrento my host father is always excited to share his wealth of knowledge about the best things to eat, and the most beautiful paintings or landscapes to see. He holds a love for Italy, and he holds it close.
My family has traveled Europe for their entire lives and this has created stories that could fill dinner conversations for years. My roommate Courtney and I are always in awe as we listen to their stories of sleeping in the deserts of Africa, getting shipwrecked off the coast of Morocco, and this fabulous meal here and this horseback ride there. My family, and others I have met take pride in the history of their country, and the importance of travel. It is a way of life for them.
Rather than working for a retirement pay off, people here can work to travel. Rather than staring at a box all night, we go into the streets and talk to one another about life, travel, language, and food! It keeps life here in Sorrento slow-peaceful. Now, as I walk down the street I still feel a cultural difference, a different pace. But now I feel a part of it. There is the dog lazily soaking up sun the middle of the street. There are men talking in their thick Neapolitan dialects next to the overlook of Vesuvius. The silent streets and shops of Sorrento in the afternoon, and here, life is tranquil.
Sarah is a student at Berea College studying at Sant’Anna Institute during the Spring 2014 term.