Day 35

THEY’RE HERE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Mom, Jessica, Elaine, and Carol made their way to the wonderful city of Firenze to visit and I basically tackled Mom when I found them across the street from my apartment. Similar to my arrival, we had to rush to their hotel to check in and then over to the school to meet everyone for the grape festival. The grape festival…oh my. Within the small Tuscan town of Impruneta, the Festa dell’ Uva will forever be a memory I cherish. Taking our seats in the piazza, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect but for the next two hours I was in complete awe. Four teams (red, green, white, blue) set out to impress the judges and show their love and pride for their city, country, history, and grapes. Each team built three extravagant floats designed around themes and decorated them in elaborate art consisting of the varied colored grapes. But the real show began as hundreds of locals performed different sets of dances with the whole production choreographed to come together and convey a message. While the language barrier created some brief confusion, the story unfolded and was understood by all. It was beautiful and powerful. And then sitting with the locals brought a whole other aspect. Seeing them cheer on their loved ones, square filled to capacity, people lining every window and balcony, the authenticity and pure joy felt by all filled the air along with the music, balloons, and confetti. Experiencing it with my family seemed surreal, and then one of the teams had a dance to Cotton Eye Joe and Summer of 69 and for a second I thought I was back in Indiana. Once over, we made our way to another piazza where the floats awaited with grapes for all to take home. By far the most delicious grapes I have ever tasted.

I was brought to tears at church this morning. I randomly decided to attend mass at San Lorenzo and as soon as I entered, I could feel something special in the air. The church was beautifully bright and a low chatter of cheerful greetings bounced wall to wall. I began watching all the interactions between everyone attending and couldn’t help but smile at how much it reminded me of Navilleton. The family aspect surged through with every excitement and kiss on the cheek. I think I could have sat there for days and watched. Varying family members participated in the mass and when it came time for Peace, the love was so overpowering between all and combined with reminders of home, I had to wipe away some tears. The priest was adorable as well. A tiny, frail man but feisty and a jokester at heart. I could have listened to him all day even without understanding a word he said. While I didn’t think the mass could get any more emotional, a couple renewed their vows. More tears glistened my eyes. Seeing the whole family, friends, and all ages come together to celebrate love, moved me to my core. I left beaming and beyond excited to see my family.