I moved from Italy to West Virginia in 2004.  Many, many people assumed that I would have a huge culture shock problem.  They didn’t realize that West Virginia was far more like Italy than most people think.  In fact, in every major way, Italy and West Virginia were similar.  They didn’t look alike, that was true.  West Virginia is range after range of low, rolling mountains.  Italy has a ridge of mountains down the center of the “boot,” volcanoes in southern Italy and Sicily, a forbidding range in Sardegna, and the striking, spiky Dolomites in the north.  They’re mountains, though, and they help define Italy’s amazing variations in cuisine, culture and tradition.

 Here’s the comparision I promised a few days ago.

West Virginia

Italy

Lots of small towns connected by winding roads

Lots of small towns connected by winding roads

Most residents of small towns are related, at least distantly

Many residents of small towns are related, at least distantly

Everyone knows what you’re up to

Duh

Everyone knows your plans, often before you do

See above

Gorgeous mountain scenery – plan a visit to Seneca Rocks and find out for yourself

Gorgeous mountain scenery – been to Trentino/Alto Adige lately?

Geocaching is a big deal

There is a geocache in the Pompeii excavations, and several other caches are stashed around the countryside

Mountains define the state

Italy is far more mountainous than you would expect; the entire center of the country is a mountain range, and then there’s Vesuvio and the Dolomites up north

 When I explained my Italian experiences to my new West Virginia neighbors, they understood.  Some of the things I truly loved about Italy – the close family ties, the small towns with their unique traditions, and their fierce pride in their heritage – really resonate with West Virginia’s mountaineers as well.  I learned as much from my two years in West Virginia as I learned the previous two years in southern Italy.  It’s all to the good.  I grew up near the mountains of southern California, and I gloried in every day near Il Redentore in Lazio and in every sunrise and echo of Evening Colors on our base in West Virginia.  Time in the mountains is always time well spent.

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