The Year of Santa Rosa
I have always loved Italy. My heritage drew me in, but the food got me hooked, and the language made me fall in love. The natural next steps were a trip, and more classes, and a semester abroad. My semester in Lazio was everything I could have hoped for, from out-of-theclassroom programs to my incredible host family, and my experiences as a real member of an Italian community were the initial inspirations for this project.
From there came the books, what everyone else thought about foreigners in Italy and surviving culture shock and the why of traveling. But for all I love Ernest Hemingway and Alain de Botton, none of these sources really captured the way I felt about Italy, and the small communities of Lazio in particular. I adored every moment of my stay in Italy, enchanted by the culture and the people, but I will admit to sometimes being simply overwhelmed by the Italianness of it all – days when I was exhausted from spending eight hours at the kitchen table or just wanted the man in the tabacchi shop to understand which stamps I was trying to buy.
But I didn’t want to write just another book about culture shock or being a stranger in a strange land, so I drew particularly on my experiences as an agnostic in a Catholic country, the strange things I felt visiting the great cathedrals of Italy. Barely a week into my semester, I had the fortune of witnessing the Macchina di Santa Rosa just down the road, and I latched onto the strangeness and wonder of it. What could it be like, to be one of those people, so caught up in all the legend and lore of these traditions?
I realized I could never know, because I could never be from Viterbo, and that was of crucial importance. And so Cal Benson was born.