More than 20 recently arrived members of the Vicenza Military Community joined Army Community Service for a free, three-day cultural Benvenuti class (Benvenuti is the Italian word for "welcome") on Italy, the land of culture and beauty, Oct. 15-17.
"Benvenuti is a three-day cultural integration program on Italian culture designed for spouses of active duty Soldiers and Department of the Army civilian employees," said Monica Cobbeldick, ACS Relocation Readiness program manager. "Classes occur monthly and are free; however, spouses need to pay for bus and/or train tickets and lunch."
But the payback is more than worth the price of the transportation, she said.
"Spouses walk away with a better sense of the Italian culture and a great awareness of how to use the public transportation. Understanding the cultural differences is the key to easing one transition from America lifestyle to living in Italy. This in turn will provide for a more positive outlook," said Cobbeldick.
ACS staffs the program with native Italian speakers to ensure participants benefit from an authentic three-day immersion in both the local culture and language.
Carla Torti, who has been leading the Benvenuti program since 2011, said she always starts off with a basic Italian language lesson followed by a cooking class, which is much appreciated by everyone. Torti then moves on to practical information such as how to purchase bus and train tickets, getting around the Vicenza area and ordering food at local restaurants, she said.
The October group finished their three days of getting to know Italy with a trip to nearby Verona.
Many participants said that the Benvenuti experience was not only an opportunity to gain valuable exposure, experience and practical knowledge of the basics of Italian culture, but also a chance to make and build friendships, which added to the overall satisfaction level.
"After the three-day class, many of the spouses are able to establish and maintain a friendship that continues after the Benvenuti class. They feel more comfortable getting around, and most of their fears have gone away. This makes me realize that I have accomplished my goals," Torti said.
Community members may already sign up for the next Benvenuti session, which will take place Nov. 19-21. Call ACS at 634-8525 or 0444-71-8525 for information and to register.