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That is the way I see Italy
A photography contest by Intercultura’s students from all over the world
You probably already know that Intercultura is a worldwide non-profit organization that coordinates school exchanges and foreign learning opportunities for middle and high school students. Today we’re telling you about “Così vedo l’Italia” (i.e. That is the way I see Italy), a photography contest developed by the volunteers of the Local Intercultural Center of Ivrea for students from all over the world who take part in the annual and 6-monthly hospitality programs. We’ve already written about it on our website. The focus is on everyday life in Italy and Italians. People and connections, actions and gestures, customs and folklore, national history and paradoxes, as well as the host city’s landscapes and landmarks, should all be preserved for future generations. Along with the winning photos commented by the authors, here you find some of their thoughts about the perception of Italy and Italians, starting from the time they spent here since September. The girls – like the other 500 students from the annual and summer programs welcomed this year by Italian families with an Intercultural program – will come back home at the beginning of July. As always, just as many will arrive in Italy starting next September and Intercultura is right now looking for volunteer families to welcome them in one of the 160 Italian cities where it is present. You can apply at this link!
Vespa in the Italian scene
by Stephania Potochnyak from Canada to Northern Milan – 1st place
The Vespa binding people together in daily life is the main character in this picture. I think this image captures the culture and sociability of every Italian. This traditional mode of transportation is renowned across the world for its beauty. Because freedom is so essential to Italians, the Vespa makes it easy to get around small Italian places while taking in the scenery, visiting friends, going on walks with others, and feeling the wind on your face. The Vespa is an Italy’s famous symbol. This image caught my attention since it looked like a beautiful painting, the stunning sunset added charm.
Nowadays, Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world. We all have some visions about Italy, and some specific panoramas, food and gestures come straight to our mind. The beautiful architecture, pizza and the famous hand movements Italians do while talking are all indeed part of this country’s culture. Every 50 km offer us a new city or “paesino”, in other words little city, with distinctive architecture and charming little streets. A new specialty waits for us to be tasted. History floats around us between those ancient solid walls, and all the urban sites are surrounded with peaceful nature. The transparent sea, the high and bold mountains or the colorful little houses boarding along the coast will all take your breath away. The inviting pizza from Naples and the delicious pistachio ice cream will make you want it even more. You’ll be mesmerized by the way Italians express themselves, with so much intonation and emotions brought into their words along with particular gestures. I can confirm you that most of these stereotypes are true to this culture, but it is so much more. In fact, it changes every 50 km you travel. A new dialect might come out, one that even Italian themselves might not understand. There will be new traditions and a new history behind the old cities. Not to mention that the lifestyle and the people will completely change from north to south. In Milano, everything is chaotic, people seem to always have a billion of things to do and they mostly remain in their own bubbles. Every part of the city is reachable with public transport and is filled with a new unique restaurant or bar to try out. Fashion thrives in the main streets of the city and models are seen here and there. Modern neighborhoods are growing and buildings are reaching the sky. On the other hand, in the south, the “dolce vita” reins. Everyone on their vespas going around the little cities, the elderly people sitting outside a bar drinking their espresso, and the warm and fresh breeze from the sea is reaching to you through the narrow streets. People are more opened and seem to enjoy every day one by one. Their calm lifestyle is certainly influenced by the beautiful calming sea they are surrounded by. Nevertheless, the school will always bring a touch of stress to the teenagers as much in the north as in the south, since Italian school is hard and exhausting. Education is one of their most important values, along with family, friendship and traditions. Without a doubt, the Italian culture truly gets more appreciated if you soak in it just how you should, and at the end, the famous red vespa will always remain the most important symbol on the surface of this culture since it is a traditional pleasure of life that reunites Italians together.
Marsala’s salt marshes
by Samia Pineda from Honduras to Marsala in Sicily – 2nd place
This photo is one of the best I’ve taken in my life. I went with my host family and they explained to me that salt is produced there and that it is one of the most touristic places in Marsala because of the salt and also to go and see the sunset at the point where this windmill is located. Watching the sunsets in Italy is a dream.
How do I describe Italy to my compatriots? This is a very good question and very difficult to answer. I think I can start by saying that it would be offensive to try to describe Italy in a few words, because, for me, this is such a unique and special country, full of diversity, history, art, landscapes, with a very good gastronomy, full of so many emotions and well… I think most can understand that it’s an endless list. But how can I describe Italy to my fellow Hondurans? The first word that comes to my mind (aside from pasta and pizza) is diversity. Italy is a country where each region, each city, is different and has its own traditions, its own essence. Most people, for example, know that the northern, central and southern parts of Italy are very different… But I can dare and say that only those people who live it in their own flesh can really come to understand every difference. Personally, I will focus more on the south, on Sicily, since it is here that I am living my experience of intercultural exchange with AFS. Sicily is the pure essence of the Mediterranean, a unique island and well known for its mafia, which over time has become its best-known stereotype, thanks to which it is believed that all people are mafia. But in reality it is quite the opposite. Sicily is a diversity of natural landscapes, movie villages, pastas and desserts that completely alter and please our palate, but what distinguishes it is the character of the Sicilians. For me, there is no more Italian than a Sicilian. Sicilian people are full of life, full of a sense of humor. They are very welcoming, hardworking and sincere people, just as we Hondurans are. For them, being surrounded by people they love always comes first. In Sicily, the most important thing is the family. My photo was taken in my first days in Italy, in the Saline di Marsala, when I went to watch the sunset with my host family. At that moment I felt the unique connection between us and I knew that, although I would be away from my family for so long, they would receive me as if I were just another daughter. That photo not only represents a tourist place where families and friends go to meet, but also represents an activity that can be described in one sentence: “Dolce far niente”. For me, that is the true essence of Sicily, of all Italy. Even with their diversity, in the end all Italians seek the same thing: to find that moment of their day, of their lives in which only to be themselves, with people they love, enjoying the sweetness of doing nothing. Just enjoy the unique moments that life gives them.
Fields as far as the eye can see
by Sarah-Maude from Canada to Alessandria, 3rd place
We may get lost in this landscape, I think. The best possible ambassador for the place I stayed. The photo’s foreground has gorgeous mountains, almost all of the open spaces are covered in rice fields, and the Po, Italy’s greatest river, flows directly alongside the city. You may get a sense of some of the Italian culture in my area from this picture, which was taken on the hills overlooking Trino. Italians take great pleasure in their agriculture and bring their goods in all the local markets as a method of income.
The beautiful Italy is a country really rich in its culture. When you look at it from the outside you can see that it has everything that someone could ever wish for like mountains, rivers, seas, camps and of course cities. But it is when you look really closely to the frame that you realize that Italy is a lot more. The cities are all masterpieces by the architecture and the story behind every place. Every monument is important in the heart of the Italians who are really attached to their art. The camps watered by the multiples rivers are hardly worked by the population who likes to sell their products with a lot of pride at the little markets through the villages. Those products are then cooked into some delicious typical dishes like agnolotti (pasta stuffed with meat typical from Piedmont), pizza or tomato pasta. Italians make big dinners with all the family to share a nice moment all together, because family is a value really important for them. Also, my city in Italy is completely surrounded by rice camps which I adore because it is a colourchanging painting all year long. They change from yellow in autumn to blue in spring due to the water needed for the production. The risotto made from the rice in my region is my
favourite plate in Italy. As for the mountains and the sea, they offer plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities for the Italian people who like to escape even for a single weekend. The mountains stand majestically overlooking the entire territory which remains me of the Italians that are just so proud of their country, their language and their traditions. The playground they procure push everyone to go beyond their limits. To finish, the sea can be a relaxing place to spend a nice moment in family or also be the host of sports like sailing or surfing.
People with a volcanic nature are born in volcanic areas
by Sara Popovic from Serbia to Southern Syracuse, Instagram prize
The basic elements of earth, water, air, and fire take on a special essence in Italy. People have unlimited energy, which is why in Sicily, people are the fifth element rather than ether. People and nature are intrinsically connected, and this needs to be understood as soon as possible. Taking in the entirety of existence while continuously being conscious of how little man is in comparison to the greatness, power, and beauty of nature.
When I first arrived in this country, which is rich in history, culture, a desire to meet new people, and customs associated to those people, I was overcome with feelings of love and affection and felt welcomed. I understood the value placed on time spent together, the past, and lasting memories. These memories are indelible, etched in our minds like wrinkles on the face. Signs that bring back memories and faces with tales to tell. This nation’s spirit can be found in its gestures, traditions, vivid language, metaphors, whispered news, and unspoken things. I would describe these people as having a huge heart and being brightened by the sun’s rays.