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This past summer, high school student Nicholas Gambino traveled to Italy to study Italian. His desire to study the language was inspired by his father, Thomas Gambino. Thomas, author of The Scattered Italians: Reflections on a Heroic Journey (read review here), has taught his son the importance of their Italian heritage.

Studying Italian at John Cabot University in Rome


This summer I had the great opportunity of studying Italian in Rome. Although I was only 16 years old, JCU, an accredited liberal arts institution, accepted me on a trail program based on my interest in my Italian heritage. Studying the language of my great grandparents in their home country was special for me. Although they have passed from the scene, I felt I was visiting with them through our shared culture.


Enjoying the city and speaking with the locals not only helped me with the language but also made me feel inclusive. There was a sense of belonging of almost like taking possession of the past. The program also included culinary arts and I found myself cooking many Roman dishes for my Dad who was sharing the apartment with me. I was able to shop for the condiments in the open market of Testaccio, close to our apartment in the Aventino, and then whip up tasty surprises for him at home. That generally followed a lively game of cards called Burracco and a few laughs discussing the day’s events.


These events, such as visiting the Vatican Museums, an audience with His Holiness the Pope, a black tie event at the Villa Borghese, viewing La Tosca under the stars at The Bathes of Caracala, side trips to Lago Maggiore and Spoleto and myriad restaurant visits underlined how very rich and intensive Italy is to all of us. As I matured with these experiences so did my pride and knowledge of who we are and where we came from. In my opinion, the language is the key to unlocking our history in a personal and profound way.


I plan to return to Rome next summer and continue my studies.  Through my Dad I have become a dual citizen and now armed with the language I foresee a fuller role to play in Italy. Italy is now not only the land of my great grandparents but it is now mine too. Viva Italia!


Nicholas Gambino

Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, 2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.