“This is Sarah, she studied in Italy for 9 months.”

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

Now that I have been back in America for a pretty solid amount of time, I realize that the rest of my life is going to go something like this: every time there is an introduction-like situation, I am going to forever be “Sarah, the girl who studied in Italy for 9 months.”

I realize this because it is happening.

Two weeks ago I started volunteering at the Denver Library and the very nice woman there introduced me to each of the other volunteers. “Hi [Todd], this is Sarah. She studied abroad in Italy for 9 months.”

When my managers at that phenomenal clothing store I work at introduce me to other co-workers I am “Sarah DeNapoli and she just got back from 9 months in Italy.”

And now I am doing it to myself. When the doctor I met with this morning asked me to tell her something about myself I started with, “Well, I just got back from 9 months in Italy.”

As I sit now in my beautiful little kitchen, craving an afternoon macchiato, I wonder if the rest of my life is going to be like this. Future job interviews (“I have done only one thing worth mentioning in my life: I lived in Italy for 9 months”); potential dating situations (“Will you eventually be rich enough to take me to Italy? Because I studied there for 9 months.”); and all future acquaintances (“I hope we have something in common … do you like Italy? Because I studied there for 9 months.”)

There was a scene in Bridget Jones’s Diary when her friend insisted that she introduce each of her friends & co-workers accompanied by a fun fact. This scene just keeps playing through my mind and I realize that I have inadvertently labeled myself with one, single fun fact: Italy.

But I guess there could be worse things. I could be Sarah who didn’t study abroad at all for 9 months, or worse, Sarah who studied abroad in France for 9 months.

So all I ask is this … remember there are a few other, interesting things about me … I still harbor a fierce hatred for Josh McDaniels, I am slowly becoming a real-live baseball fan, and I love to sing in my car. So maybe remember some of those fun facts next time you’re showing me off to your friends. Mix it up a bit? Just a thought.

This is potentially my last blog here (seeing as I am not even in Italy any more) and I guess it’s better late than never to mention this, so if you want to know what I ACTUALLY did over there for 9 months please check out my blog for the University of Denver’s Admissions Office.

un bacio.


Old Italian People

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

As I told some of you, though maybe not most of you because I have checked out of life and stopped caring about keeping in touch because my internet situation is so bad, I went to Sicily over Easter weekend. I flew down from Roma and spent Friday – Tuesday in Siracusa. I’ll skip out on all the boring details but I will tell you that this was by far my favorite place I have visited since being here. It was a beautiful city, the people were extremely welcoming, and the food was UNBELIEVABLE (which is really the only real reason why I liked it).

Sicily also introduced me to some of the best old Italian people I have met thus far, so I decided to make a collective list.

1. The Nonna who attempted to teach me how to make orecchiette in Mola di Bari. God bless this woman, because I know how much of a hopeless case I was. I never knew that rolling out pasta with a knife and then doing a perfect pop – flip from your thumb to your pointer finger was so incredibly difficult. Nonna smiled at me a few times, but mostly she whispered legitimate directions in my ear and I know that the dialect she was speaking were not actually words of encouragement, but something more along the lines of “this girl has absolutely no life skills whatsoever and I would never marry her to my hot Italian grandson.”

2. The old crazy in Ricigliano. This character spoke in some sort of backwoods, top of a mountain dialect that I don’t even think was a real language. After being harassed by my father for 20 minutes to ask someone in this “town” (strip of 5 houses) where his cousin Gina lives, I finally broke down and began a “conversation” (neither of us understood anything that the other said) with this man and tried to retrieve directions. Seeing as I couldn’t formulate anything he said into Italian, I told my parents a made up answer (past the trees, on the left) and continued walking. However, this was not the last I would see of this man. After we did actually find the house (I had to speak to a younger person who spoke real Italian), the old crazy came up to our car and started yelling something through the window that I think had to do with Gina and her whereabouts, but I cannot be positive. The encounter ended with us rolling up the windows and driving away, so I would say that this old Italian person is one I would look out for in the future in case he is still angry.

3. The old man from Catania. Upon my arrival in Sicily I went to get a pizza pocket from a little shop. There was an old man in there eating a large plate of spaghetti and a glass of wine. After I finished my pizza pocket and left he came out on the street, ran through the crazy Italian traffic like only someone with a lifetime of experience would do, and started yelling at me about how much his wine in the pizza pocket shop cost. This then led him to tell me how bad quality the wine was and that I should never have eaten in the aforementioned pizza pocket shop. Grazie, il vecchio.

4. The Nonna on the bridge in Siracusa. This Nonna was GREAT. It was Saturday of Easter weekend and she was walking around handing out pamphlets like there was no tomorrow. When she approached me and my roommate and told us directly that we were stranieri (foreigners) I knew we were in for a treat. She spent the next 10 minutes enlightening us about how Jesus is not God and then made us take home some well worn Church booklets … from 2003.

5. The old man of paradise from the same bridge in Siracusa. He was passing out little pictures of God’s paradise and explained to us that if we created love in our families, this is what our lives would look like. I wanted to ask him how a grizzly bear playing in the middle of a meadow with a 5 year old was considered to be paradise, but I couldn’t remember the word for grizzly bear and I really didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Currently, the list stops here, but I am going to do everything in my power to meet as many old Italian people as I can in the next 15 days. They are really the greatest part about this country and I am scraping my memory to make sure that I haven’t forgotten about any of them. Also, I really want one to cook for me and introduce me to their extremely attractive grandson who has the life dream of moving back to America, living on a beach, and contributing a lot of money to our new life together while I read books for a living. I’ll keep you posted.

Italian Gym Culture Shocker

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

A few days ago my Italian professor took me and one of the other girls in my class to her gym with her. Seeing as I am lazy and have chosen to eat my way through Italy rather than exercise through it, I had only heard tales of Italian gyms. It was different, it was awesome, and it was Italian.

10 things I learned:

1. Despite the 80 degree temperature of the gym, it is illegal to wear clothes that show anything but your forearms and your ankles. So you can imagine how much I stood out in bright yellow shorts and a Denver Pioneers t-shirt.

2. Italians don’t sweat. This could be due to the fact that by working out they mean taking a stroll on a treadmill and lifting 1 pound weights for 3 minutes, but I was the only person in there in dire need of a towel.

3. Something by Blink-182 is considered to be a work-out song. No Yung Joc or Spiderbait blasted through those speakers.

4. Makeup is a prerequisite to exercise. Can’t tone your body without a beautiful face! And since Italians don’t sweat they don’t have to worry about it melting off.

5. Standing on a giant vibrating block and feeling your fat buzz all over your body is considered exercise.

6. Italian scales weigh in kilos, so Italian women appear skinnier from the get go. They never have to be intimidated by 3 digit numbers so they automatically think more positively. I was probably the first person in this entire country to step on that thing and make it enter the three-digit-zone. Ok, I kid, but I was up there.

7. I must stop eating. Today my 10-year-older-than-me Italian professor kicked my ass. And, as seen from the result of standing on an Italian scale, I have gained an obscene amount of weight.

8. It is not socially acceptable to leave or enter the gym wearing the clothes you worked out in. We have locker rooms and we’re gonna use ’em.

9. “Free weights” is pronounced in such a way that I would have never understood what was going on if I wasn’t simultaneously reading a piece of paper.

10. The post work-out snack room is an espresso bar. Surprising? No, not really.

This had to have been one of my favorite experiences thus far. I never knew that working out could be so enjoyable while speaking Italian and trying to look as good as you possibly can. Seriously, my levels of self-consciousness were blown to all-time high and somehow I loved every minute of it. I love this country, its people, and even its gyms. And when I have to leave here in one month and one day I am going to cry about it.

I am a foodie.

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I’m not exactly sure what the textbook definition of a foodie would be, but I know now that I am one. I have had suspicions about myself ever since entering Italy and being more excited to take a picture of my Tortellini than the Coliseum. However, I officially discovered that I am in fact a foodie after I felt truly euphoric feelings twice during my week in London. These feelings didn’t come from the first eyebrow wax I’ve had in 6 months or even from seeing my mom for the first time since Christmas. No, these feelings came after the consumption of BBQ Sauce and an aged Scottish 7oz Angus Fillet – eaten separately.

Upon exiting the Tube station near the Tower of London, The General and I stumbled upon Bodeon’s BBQ. I would like to clarify what I am sure you all are thinking at this point – that I hate condiments. And I do. However, BBQ Sauce is someone’s glorious gift to the world we live in. It is often mistakenly classified as a condiment, but this is wrong. It is actually a sauce and anyone who places it on the same level as ketchup & mustard, or, God forbid, mayonnaise, should never be allowed to eat again. So, after eating probably half a bottle of BBQ Sauce (something that has been missing from my Italian diet), I realized that I was wearing one of the biggest smiles this dark sided girl has seen in months. Albeit semi-frightening, it was an amazing feeling.

And then I went to Boisdale’s. Boisdale – the Scottish steak house just around the corner from our hotel in London. I had no idea that I would be sitting down to the best meal of my entire life. There is no way to describe the gloriousness of this fillet; it was just too delicious. All I know is that the feelings I felt afterward were extreme gratification & satisfaction, such in a way that I have never felt before.

When I get back to America I am going to begin a pilgrimage to find out who invented BBQ Sauce. And then I am going to thank them every single time I spread it on a chicken sandwich or dip my extra crispy french fries in it. And I am going to start home-raising some grass fed cows and then hire some Scottish men to cook them up for me on a regular basis.

I love food. And a true love lasts a lifetime.

change #1

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I’ve decided to post about the ways in which I have changed since being in Italy. I know I am getting way ahead of myself here, but despite what I am about to write I am still an organized plan-aheader.

Before I came to Italy, a wise woman told me to leave my planner behind because they are virtually useless in Italy. Did I listen to her? Of course not. Instead, I wasted valuable space transporting over a planner that I didn’t open ONCE.

Before I came to Italy I was OCD about everything. I color coded my classes, work, boring tasks, and even fun & had various post-it notes to match (in case of uncertainty). I kept my planner in my left hand, my cell phone in the right, and I was never unsure about what I was doing 3 weeks from now at 3:29 pm. However, then I came to Italy where schedules don’t exist. Everything and everyone is always late, nothing goes according to plan, and trying to figure out some sort of concrete schedule is pointless.

All fall I was so busy with craziness that I didn’t even stop to think about the fact that my planner was collecting dust on my Bologna book shelf. It wasn’t until I got to Mola that I really understood the change that had overcome me. Before Italy I would have been infuriated when Angela changed class time from 2:00 to 3:00 and I probably would have had a total meltdown when she changed it from Wednesday to Thursday. But new Italy Sarah reacted to this miraculously; I simply scribbled out a million dates and times on the printed-out month of December paper I was given and rewrote them with a hidden flexibility that I realize I now possess.

While visiting Florence I again went against the advice previously given to me and bought myself a fancy, 2010, Florentine leather planner. Have I used it? Maybe a few times. Seeing as I am in real school here in Perugia I find it semi-important to at least know when my midterms are. But the point is that when I accidentally leave it at home I don’t have a minor freak out. I no longer find it necessary to write 2:15 – drink a Jamba Juice, 2:24 – go to the bathroom before class … you get it. And the real symbol of change here? I use one pen color: black.

socialist & socialized are two different words

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I accidentally called an Italian a socialist last week.

It did not go over well.

So every other Wednesday night we have this thing called Tandem where American and Italian students all meet up to practice their language skills. I was happily chattering away with some Italian guy for quite awhile when he started telling me how he liked America better than Italy because our taxes were lower. I told him well, yeah, that’s because Italy’s taxes are socialized. Well, I thought that’s what I told him. What I actually told him is that he was a socialist. To which he stood up and yelled, in English, “I AM NOT A SOCIALIST.” He then proceeded to explain to me the difference between the words socialist and socialized for quite a few minutes.

I don’t know why it is that the words I manage to screw up are the ones that are truly offensive. And furthermore, I don’t know what kind of dictionary I bought from the University of Denver bookstore, but I am seriously considering buying a new one.

What will be my contribution to the the DU Study Abroad programs? A dictionary: what NOT to say in Italy.

note to reader: this post contains no complaining

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I have failed to write these past few weeks because my life has been so …. normal. Yes, I am in a foreign country, speaking a different language, learning a new culture, but everything just seems so familiar now.

I have 5 wonderful roommates and we have a big, gorgeous apartment with a huge kitchen (where I have been happily cooking non-stop). We have water pressure and hot water … we really couldn’t ask for more.

I am taking 4 classes, 4 days a week (it’s just like being at DU!). Italian, Art History: Michelangelo, the study of life at Pompeii & Herculaneum, & an independent study in which I do a ton of readings in Italian and then talk about them one on one with a professor here. Being the nerd I am, I am loving being back in class, learning, studying, and having a routine every day.

I have learned how to survive without internet … we don’t have it except for at school & I have come to realize that sitting around the kitchen table, talking with my roommates every night is a way better waste of time than stalking NFL.com (though I still find time to do this, don’t worry).

Perugia itself is beautiful and I love it here. The town is just gorgeous and every time you turn a corner you think you might stumble upon a castle or some other epic part of history.

I am very content here & so glad that this is where I am able to spend my last few months in Italy.

Oh, and the sun has been out almost every day since my last post : )

See how boring it is when I am happy?

welcome to Perugia

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I have to be honest — Perugia, you have welcomed me less than ideally. However, the brand new, Italian, sometimes happy Sarah DeNapoli has decided to address this nicely.

Just kidding.

The rain. Oh, the rain. Hi, Perugia, do you never want to see the sun’s wonderful face shining down on your beauty? Even for a second? Do you prefer to have constant puddles that I always seem to step in & consequently curse the second I opted not to bring my $15 Costco rain boots? I don’t mind the rain, especially at night when I enjoy listening while trying to fall asleep in my little tomb of a temporary apartment. But all day, every day? Seriously Perugia? I just want to go outside and not be wet. And I really wanna see some blue skies over those beautiful, Umbrian hills that I know the fog is hiding.

Secondly, horse meat. Ok, this one could go out to Italy in general. But it was here, in Perugia, that I was so unknowingly tricked into eating some sort of delicious looking kebab stuffed full of a mystery meat. Do I need to elaborate? It’s not okay to eat horses Italy. And news flash — they don’t even taste good.

Ok, Perugia, here’s a statement for you: It’s January. It is January. So why, WHY, are there still mosquitos here??? When all I want to do is let in some natural, fog-rain light through my window and maybe get a little fresh air instead of breathing in old apartment smells, I cannot. The other night I discovered 10, count them, 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, mosquito bites around my wrists, ankles, and neck – all the places not preciously covered to protect me from these venomous creatures. I don’t understand Perugia … I am a sweet girl of a mosquito magnet and you are taking advantage.

And finally, Perugia, you have been the place where I witnessed the appalling, horrendous, extraordinary thing that was the Broncos Breakdown. It was in a little apartment tucked into one of your streets that I watched as the prodigy of the Sith Lord ripped apart my team one non-ex-Patriot player at a time; as he benched a player for saying what everyone else is thinking. It was here that I saw my fantasies of Bowlen, crawling on his hands & knees, begging Shanny back to my beloved team, shot down as I read Redskins news on NFL.com via your Perugian wireless internet. I was with you, Perugia, when I gave in to the realization that I am going to be stuck with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named for a very long time.

Perugia, we both know I’m going to love it here. So why not let go of the tough love welcome? Invite Mr. Sunshine out for a caffe, frost-kill the mosquitos, switch over to chicken, & please, I beg you, offer me so much fun that I forget about the existence of Mr. Josh McDaniels.

Un bacio, Perugia, can’t wait to see what you’re going to offer me these next 4 months : )

Part 2: A DeNapoli Family Christmas

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”

I have to say that I welcomed the moment I found my family parked in the main piazza of Mola with a bittersweet feeling. I was beyond ecstatic to see them (I didn’t sleep for at least 2 nights prior), but I was also extremely sad to see my program in Mola come to an end. However, as you can probably gather from everything mentioned by Jimbo, I didn’t really have a lot of time to be sad about anything. We were in The Amazing Race version of Christmas Break, the million-dollar prize being that we didn’t all kill each other by the end. Spoiler alert: each member of the immediate DeNapoli family is safe and sound.

Sorrento welcomed us with a downpour, consequently forcing me (the “restaurant Nazi”) to resign quickly and accept dinner at a restaurant in the middle of the main square of Sorrento. I have spent the last 4 months here trying to find the sketchy, back-alley restaurants; they are always better & cheaper, but when The General is the one with the credit card, who am I to complain where we eat? The food was fine, but the dinner was memorable solely because of the 90E bill (outrageous for 4 pizzas) and the twerpy little waiter who literally begged for a tip at the end of the meal and then scowled at us as we walked out without giving him even more money.

From Sorrento we drove around the coast over to Herculaneum where we were guided through the ruins by Giuseppe, an Italian man who spoke English with an Italian-British accent. The man was a genius and I loved him because every time Jimbo dared to ask the beyond stupid question “is this the original?” he simply replied, “yeah, ok” and kept walking. Herculaneum was beautiful and the history there is astounding, but I have to say that the real highlight of the day was watching my father transform into an Italian driver. Once he realized that the Peugeot was in fact bigger than 3 SmartCars and a Vespa combined he just started laying on the horn and busting through intersections. This was accompanied by The General gripping any surface she could reach while gasping dramatically and Nick and me laughing in the back seat. Needless to say, it was entertaining.

A long and windy road brought us to Montalcino: town of beauty, Brunello, and monks ringing church bells every 29 seconds. Nick ate wild boar (manly), but the next evening sipped on a Bellini (chick drink); Jimbo slept in the crack between our 2 beds every night for a few hours after a few glasses of wine; and The General enjoyed the quiet, calm of its quaint atmosphere … all while knitting a pair of socks. After a few nights there and some good, hearty, Tuscan food (bye bye fish), we had to leave, but not without a minor crisis when some members of the family felt that the Peugeot was going to blow up… don’t worry, it didn’t.

Finally, we made it to Perugia. The final leg. I think Nick and I definitely received the better end of the deal on this one – just ask Jimbo about his “crack room.” Upon arriving here, Nick and I checked into our little apartment that we have until the 8th. J + G asked for a room in the same hotel and were placed across the hall from us. In a smoker room. On a cot bed. On their 25th anniversary. I could see the problem, but I am still scarred by the horror that was the Sunflower Hostel in Rimini, so I am not really a fair commentator. However, I think that a 60E a night, run down, smelly room, was probably not their ideal way to spend their final night in Italy. Unfortunately, nothing of much excitement happened while we were all here together; it poured rain from the sky, from the ground, and from sideways and when it finally stopped the fog was so heavy that we couldn’t see much of anything.

The time went by too fast and when Nick and I shut the doors on our beloved Peugeot from the outside and watched as they drove away I think everyone was a little bit sad. But at this point Jimbo is back in Littleton, working his crazy hours and probably trying to figure out his new espresso maker, while The General is most likely recovering from the stress of it all … by knitting (ps. Mom – Nick & I love the slippers you made us).

So not only did we complete the race, but we also won the prize – everyone made it out alive. Well, “baby Nicky” as Jimbo likes to refer to him as, is actually still in Perugia, soaking up his last few days of legal drinking, lazing around, and just in general being a 17 year old in Italy, but he will be home soon enough. I think our survival though wasn’t really the best thing that came out of all this. I think it was the fact that I was lucky enough to spend my 20th Christmas in Italy with my family. But that’s just me talking.

Part 1: A DeNapoli Family Christmas

Note: this post has been migrated from my former blog “Parliamo dell’Italia – una ragazza fortunata a Perugia.”


Well, I had been waiting most anxiously (or maybe not) for my trip to Italy to see my daughter Sarah. My initial trepidations, including dogs in the kennel, being gone 14 days, missing out on work projects and missing my otherwise planned prime rib dinner on Christmas were all overcome by the excitement of Italy – right? And let’s not mention the extreme anxiety caused by the threatened British Airways strike. So I dropped off the dogs at the kennel and politely asked the man not to use my pets for any medical experiments while I was gone and went home to wait for the limo (while I checked my CrackBerry over and over). Well British Airways called promptly and advised our flight was delayed two hours. Great start right? So I hurriedly searched for the contact info for the limo company that I so irresponsibly lost (mistake #1 with The Genral) and told them to hold off.

We left eventually and took off around 8:30 from Denver. I squeezed myself into the straight jacket like coach seating configuration and eventually enjoyed a two or three hour neck snapping nap with that great hangover feeling when you wake up. I then dined on some rubber beef and patiently waited to get off the damn plane while I watched The Genral try to kill the oaf in front of her who had his seat on full recline. We got to London and, lo and behold, we missed our connection to Italy. A three-hour wait in line to rebook with severe jet lag after a four day, 60 hour work week was exactly what I needed to start my vacation off right. We eventually made it to Rome where I enjoyed a couple of days of no sleep and more jet lag and where I proceeded to famously tip wait staff American style without knowing the tip was already included in my bill.

Then on to Mola di Bari, land of my paternal grandfather. To get there I had to pick up our car in Rome, a stick shift, full size, Peugeot minivan parked in a garage built for Minis and baby Fiats. Does anyone know that you have to pull up on a stick shift before you put it in reverse? And who builds stick shift minivans anyway – only the French apparently? I eventually got out of the lot without taking anyone out and got on the Autostrada. There are only two speeds on the Autostrada – illegally, extremely fast and ridiculously slow. There is no in between and either speed invites major trouble that the Italians simply don’t recognize. More about driving later.

Arrival in Mola where we hooked up with Sarah – finally. We toured the town, found a place to park our bus, and settled in to our room. Shockingly, Sarah cooked Christmas Day dinner & it was delicious, but the greatest meal we had was on Christmas Eve. Gina, owner of our B&B and an Italian energizer bunny, invited us to dinner with her family. We earned our 4 seats at the table by learning how to make pasta, by hand, with her family members. After the feast, we had a Baby Jesus festival parade right at midnight where we were given a Baby Jesus to place in the manger, after four processions around the dinner table and lots of Auguris! Upon leaving Mola, we came close to wedging the minivan between a building and a few parked cars on a street meant for scooters which caused a major Genral SFOM that required a significant recovery period for everyone.

We took a quick trip to Modugno, hometown of Rocco DeNapoli, where I almost killed everyone by driving the wrong way down an Autostrada exit ramp as a result of a minor glitch in our navigation system. Not a problem at all.

So after Modugno, to fulfill a promise to my mother, I went on a pilgrimage to my maternal grandparents place of birth in Ricigliano. Never been there before and never going back. We exited the Autostrada (already in the middle of nowhere) and climbed a mountain to this little town of glory – not. This place was in the middle of nowhere perched on a mountaintop inhabited by sheepherders. No shops, no restaurants – nothing. I searched in vain for family members, only to find an old man who spoke dialect that Sarah could barely decipher. The place looked surprisingly like West Virginia and at that point the realization set in that I am an Italian hillbilly. We peeled out and looked for the highway – on to Sorrento.

I am leaving the rest of this blog to Sarah as this is a joint effort. I leave here today to seek sleep and solace in my little ranch house in Littleton, while we abandon Nick and Sarah in Perugia. Nick is staying an extra week to keep his sister company before her classes start. I am concerned that when I left him he was drinking a beer and making origami. Mamma Mia!