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Amanda and her sister, Jackie, in Italy.
Blog: Spinner in Italy
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 09/06/2013

Rising senior Amanda Spinner reflects on her trip to Italy this summer and how it gave her a better understanding of life, adventure and family. Included are a couple of photos Spinner took while touring the country.

In an odd way, I felt at home in Italy. It sounds weird, but somehow it felt like a part of me belonged there, or that I even had some sort of connection to it.

Maybe I did.

There are certain people that will have an impact on your life without them even realizing. My grandma was that person for me, and I think part of me was looking for her on this trip.

To make things clearer, I am half Italian and my grandma grew up in Yugoslavia, or modern day Croatia. At the time, it was under Italian rule, so my grandma considered herself Italian.

My grandma had a love for adventure, people and life. She showed me that each and every day. The passion she put forth in everything she did was incredible.

Some people say you should always “live like there’s no tomorrow,” and when I think about my grandma, that’s exactly she did. She was passionate about her family and friends, and didn’t spend time on the day-to-day stresses that are so easy to get caught up in. She loved with an open heart, passing no judgment on others.

So on this trip I set out on an adventure, and on this adventure I would try to approach each day with a fearless attitude like hers.

As I made my way through Italy with my sister, there were a few things that stuck out to me. A love and passion for food was obvious in every place we travelled. The general respect and appreciation of fresh ingredients was apparent in the nicest of restaurants but also the smallest of shacks on beaches.

I had the best prosciutto and melon I have ever had from a beach hut in the town of Piombino. I usually expect to see a hot dog stand, so you can imagine my surprise.

Spending three weeks in Florence, I was able to walk to the open-air market to get the freshest of fruits and vegetables, cheeses, and breads.  We became regulars at various places, meeting some of the friendliest people.

Interactions with people were one of the highlights of this trip for me. There were certain people I had the pleasure of meeting that were simply happy about what they were doing, regardless of what that job may have been. Two being the workers that would sing to my sister and I as they gave us samples of their best salami and cheeses. They loved what they did and made friends with all who stopped by.

I never realized that I could sit at a dinner table for two and a half hours with a group of people that I had known for one week. I learned that in Italy that was very common among families. Living a busy life most of the time, it was refreshing to enjoy the company of others without a time constraint. This placed me back in time when my grandma would stop to speak with every person we met at a restaurant, airport, street corner, and everywhere else for that matter. Suddenly, it made more sense to me why she did it.

Family is the third thing I really came to appreciate while I was in Italy. As part of my Italian class I had to do a 10-minute presentation on a topic of my choice. I chose the importance of family and understanding where you come from in shaping your identity.

It was a bit difficult to write and present it in Italian, but I truly enjoyed writing about it. Family is everything to me and this trip opened my eyes to how important my family is in defining who I am.

Family is what I saw a lot of in Italy. I’ll never forget walking around the town of Viareggio and seeing families with their kids walking around at midnight. Or walking around Rome and seeing family-run restaurants still open late at night with all the members sitting at a couple of tables just talking. Sometimes it takes a new perspective and a change to open your eyes to what’s really important in your life.

Adventure is the final aspect of my trip I fell in love with. That’s what this trip was about: something new and completely different. It was a new city and culture, filled with many new people. From cliff jumping and kayaking in the Amalfi Coast to simply learning my way around Florence with a map constantly in my face, it was an adventure. An adventure I am so thankful to have been able to go on, especially with my sister.

This trip was everything I could have asked for and so much more.  I learned why my grandma loved certain parts of her life and how she made such a large impact on my own. She is my inspiration and to be able to learn more about her made this trip even more special.



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