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Walking in the Footsteps of his Ancestors

Anthony (right), with his Sicilian cousins,  Domenico and Pietro.

Fall break: a time for Umbra students to take a much needed breather from the rigors of academia. While many students set off to various corners of Europe to explore the unknown, see the sites and meet friends, Santa Clara University student, Anthony Balistreri, headed south. South to Sicily to explore the island of his ancestors.

His heritage was one of the main factors in his decision to study abroad in Italy. “I always dreamed of coming here and seeing what this part of the world is like,” he commented. “As a second generation Italian-American, I wanted to see how I fit into the culture, how much of it I already was familiar with and how much was completely different.”  

Anthony’s aunt, who relocated to Sicily in the late 80’s to start her family, graciously opened her home in the fishing town of Aspra, allowing for a taste of Sicilian life. He found life there to be slow paced and enjoyed meeting numerous extended family members, fishing for poupu (Sicilian for octopus), and sampling a wealth of Sicilian culinary delights.

A fairly new language learner, Anthony surprised himself by his understanding of the Italian language. “I had full conversations with friends and family in Italian, which until a year and a half ago, was only a dream I could say I wanted to accomplish. Now, that dream is becoming a reality.”

One of his trip highlights was an impromptu trip to Mazara, the city where his great grandparents were born. The night before his daytrip, Anthony spoke with his grandmother to tell her about his plan. “I was thousands of miles away from her and yet I could see her smiling through the telephone. She told me that she had never seen photos of the city and asked if it was possible if I could find the church where her parents were married.”

Aspra beachfront just after sunset.
Aspra beachfront just after sunset.

“I would have paid 50 Euro for that train ride. The morning was clear and beautiful, the southern part of the island filled with rolling hills of farms and quaint coastal towns. I arrived in Mazara and headed in the direction of the duomo, the tallest thing I could see. Thus began my four hours of walking the streets, camera in hand, taking a photo of everything I could, especially every church I could see.”

“Now I can say I have been where I come from. I can say I have walked in the footsteps of my ancestors. It’s an awesome feeling,” said Anthony.

To read more about Anthony’s Fall Break experience with his family, you can visit his blog here.

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