Experiencing Cultural Immersion in Italy Through CAPA's 'Ganzo!' Program

Sep 28, 2018 10:07:46 AM / by Payton Meyer

In this week's post, Payton gets together with a local Italian family through CAPA's 'Ganzo!' program to help them practice their English and experience for herself what the day-to-day life of a Florence local is actually like!

Ciao! I just got back from one of my favorite experiences I’ve had in Florence thus far. CAPA offers a wonderful program called ‘Ganzo!’ which translates to ‘Cool!’ in Italian, that gives students the chance to immerse themselves in the Italian culture by meeting regularly for dinner with an Italian family. I chose to participate, as it sounded like a truly invaluable opportunity that no CAPA student should pass up. I got to meet the family that I was paired with for the first time this afternoon, and can already tell that this is going to be a life-changing experience.

The view from the rooftop terraceThe view from the rooftop terrace.

I was lucky enough to be paired with a family that speaks great English, and want to practice. They want to spend the summer of 2019 in London, so my host mom, Sabrina, thought that this would be the perfect opportunity to improve all of their English speaking skills in order to do that. Sabrina, a journalist, and her 13 year old son, Gregorio, picked me up from CAPA and brought me to their home in Bagno a Ripoli, a suburb on the outskirts of Florence.

Sabrina gave me a tour of their authentic Italian home that was filled with cute decorations and cozy furniture. They have a beautiful terrace overlooking the Tuscan countryside that is lush with trees and green grass, a sight that I’ve been missing in the city center. Sabrina asked if I wanted to help her prepare dinner, and since one of my goals for participating in Ganzo was to learn how to cook, I gladly agreed.

CAPA 'Ganzo!' HostessSabrina in the Kitchen.

We spoke about many things—given her fantastic English speaking skills—like the interesting differences and similarities between the Italian and American school systems, as we chopped veggies together. I told her that I was interested in learning Italian, so she taught me the Italian words for all of the ingredients we used, and said I could practice with their family anytime. Gregorio, her son, doesn’t know English quite as well, but wants to learn so that he can spend a summer acting in London.

After getting to know my host mother and host brother, my host sister, Bianca arrived home from the city center where she goes to high school. We instantly bonded, as she is 16 and reminds me a lot of myself when I was younger, something I found quite surprising given that we grew up in very different cultures. She told me all about where she and her friends hang out, and the best places to grab a coffee or a gelato. We exchanged numbers, and agreed to meet up in the city center and bus over to their house together for my next gathering with them.

Payton's Host Sister BiancaBianca!

Dinner was a penne pasta with a saffron sauce and veggies, salad with salt and oil, fresh mozzarella and cherry tomatoes, and 3 different kinds of bread. It was incredible, despite Sabrina insisting all night that she “wasn’t a good cook.” Everyone made sure to speak in English at the dinner table so that I could participate in the conversation. I felt right at home with their family, which I was not expecting going into this experience. Afterwords, I sat with Bianca for a while in her room, and she told me all the best shops in Florence, and the books that she’s currently reading, until it was time for me to head back to the city center. Sabrina kindly drove me home, and promised that next week she’ll bake a cake for dessert!

Payton's Host Family Eating DinnerBuon apetito!

We plan to meet once a week or so, and they’ve offered to take me to Chianti, or on hikes in the countryside, or whatever it is that I want to do with them. I can’t wait to spend more time with them, and am already so glad that I took this opportunity to meet and befriend some locals here. Not only am I learning more about Florentine culture, but I am forming relationships with a wonderful family that I predict will be lifelong. I can’t wait for next week!

Thanks, Payton!

Payton Meyer

Payton Meyer is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2018, sharing her story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A Strategic Communication major at  University of Colorado Boulder, she is studying abroad in Florence this semester.

Payton's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned.


Learn More about the CAPA Florence Program

Topics: Florence, Italy, Local Culture