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This is the Italy That You Hear About at the Olive Garden

Last weekend, I took a trip to Athens and loved it. The city wasn’t the safest place in the world, but the epic history and the beautiful sights were enough to compensate for the sketchy graffiti and the march in the streets. Due to the current economic state of Greece, everything was ridiculously cheap, too. I was sure to stalk up on some nice souvenirs and eat as many giant 2-euro gyros as I could. The only frustrating part of an otherwise ideal weekend was a three-hour delay on our return flight, but a deck of cards and a makeshift backpack-table made the time fly.

The semester is coming to a close more quickly than ever, and everyone is beginning to take notice. Professors have begun talk of final exams, friends get sappier and more nostalgic by the day, and we’re all entering the realm of the “lasts.” That is, we’re starting to do certain things for the last time in Rome. For a while, at least.

The first of the lasts took place on Tuesday evening. On Monday, I got an invite from one of my friends to a dinner party that some of her Italian family friends, an older couple, were hosting. Earlier in the semester, many of my friends had visited this same couple, a trip of which I have yet to hear the end. Apparently, this older Italian couple was just the coolest, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I accepted the dinner invitation, and am glad that I did. The food was great, and the company was greater. Everything lived up to my high expectations and made me wish that I’d gone olive picking. The atmosphere at the dinner party, complete with older friends and newer ones, was something that I hadn’t yet experienced in Rome–it felt like a home away from home, with something that wasn’t too far from family. It was the last time we’d see these great people, and I have to admit, things got a little bit sappy.

A similar moment happened at Thanksgiving dinner. A giant group of us did a potluck, and I volunteered my roommate John and myself to cook the turkey. It was an exercise in caution, but by the end of our cooking process, the main dish had turned out beautifully. Everyone contributed something Thanksgiving-ish to our dinner, and when all of the food was set on the table, it looked like quite a feast. I’m happy to report, too that it tasted like a feast as well. The 25 of us ate our tasty dishes, talked, and enjoyed each other’s company, knowing that the opportunities to do so were quickly running out. As I looked around at the picturesque moment happening around me, I just couldn’t help but think of the awesomely cheesy line that a friend had conjured up after Tuesday’s dinner:

This is the Italy that you hear about at the Olive Garden: when you’re here, you’re family.