Having bid my folks a teary farewell, Jess and I threw the bags on our backs and took the train to our final stop in Italy: Vicenza. Jess's third cousins live in Vicenza and she had seen them on her previous trips to Italy. I had heard so much about them and was keen to meet them. There was Lina (Jess's Nonno's first cousin), her daughter Loridana and her husband Stefano. Loridana and Stefano also had children of their own - two girls named Martina and Giulia.
Stefano took us on a guided tour of Vicenza and its many Palladio designed buildings. Who is Palladio you ask? He was a famous renaissance architect who resided in Vicenza and was responsible for designing many of the region's most iconic buildings. The jewel in Palladio's crowning achievements is the Teatro Olimpico. A cosy theatre that evokes the grandiosity and creative passions of the Roman Empire. The backdrop of the main stage is designed to look like a three dimensional, never ending Roman street that ventures off in the distant horizon. In fact it is only 15 metres long.
Following our tour of Vicenza, Stefano brought us to his newly built home for a family lunch with Lina and Loridana. In somewhat of a rarity for Italians, Stefano and Loridna's house is a rather large double-story family home - much like what we're used to in Australia. It felt surprisingly familiar to be in a nice big house with a backyard and a warm loving family. Even though Jess' part of the family had migrated to Australia many years ago, it seemed that the remaining family in Vicenza had adopted and incorporated a little slice of Aussie mentality into their family abode.
The tour continued after lunch with a visit to the neighbouring towns and cities. First up was Rotzo - a tiny town in the mountains from which Jess' family originally hailed. We even visited the house where Jess' great grandmother was born. And we could now boast that, on this trip, we had managed to visit the towns and places from which both our families had originated.
From Rotzo, we continued further north to Asiago, a town famous for its cheese and towering World War I memorial. Being so close to the Italian and German borders, Asiago bore more resemblance to a German town than an Italian one - much like Sanremo seemed more French than Italian. The pointed roofs designed to counter the snowfall and the general feel of a town in the Alps reminded us that we were very close to bidding farewell to Italy.
After a day of family fun, Jess and I savoured one last day in Vicenza on our own. We strolled the streets and soaked up our final dose of Italian life before heading back to the hotel to pack our bags for an early train to Germany. After 6 amazing weeks in the world's most chaotic and intriguing country, we were beginning to feel like locals. We knew we were in for a bit of a jolt to the system as we ventured to unfamiliar terrain with the return of the language barrier - albeit not as badly as we had experienced in France….and Scotland!
Ciao Italia. Speriamo di vederti ancora. Un giorno…
Next stop: Fussen, Germany