Spesso Espresso: An Invite to Italian Culture

By ARIELLE GORDON

Every third Monday afternoon, the Elbert Italian House comes to life with the sounds of cheerful greetings and the scent of espresso brewing. The cause of excitement is the Italian Department’s blockly “Spresso Espresso” gathering. The event is open to all students, regardless of their connection to the Italian Department. Everyone is greeted with a loud “Ciao!” and offered a warm cup of coffee.

Photo by Daniel Sarché

“It is a time to take a pause from working to drink espresso with friends,” said Diana Battistella, the Italian Cultural Program Coordinator. “I usually try to bake, and we always have cake and cookies.” Battistella and Visiting Professor Dario Sponchiado were busy preparing and serving coffee with snacks while engaging in conversations in both English and Italian.

Sponchiado enjoys Spresso Espresso because it provides a time for him to see former students as well as converse with current students in a more relaxed setting. “A former CPC started this two years ago,” Sponchiado said. “It represents an icon of Italian Culture and it is a quick, informal break at the beginning of third week.”

This week, the event was attended by over a dozen current and former Italian students. Several first-year students from the joint Italian and Environmental Science FYE attended, along with students who are pursuing a minor in Italian.

“It is really nice to come to and there are always lots of food and espresso,” Maddie Strausser ’21 said. “People don’t realize that you do not need to speak Italian to participate.” The conversations varied from friends catching up over a snack, to an impromptu vocabulary lesson about the words necessary to describe food, led by Battistella.

“Before coming here I was not very open to sharing my culture, but now I enjoy describing my traditions and exchanging cultures,” Battistella said. Battistella, along with 20 current students, lives in the Italian House. They have held family brunches as well as a tiramisu making workshop.

In addition to Spresso Espresso, on Tuesday, the Italian department — along with the French and German Departments, the Dean’s Office, and the Butler Center — sponsored a showing of “BlaxploItalian: 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema.” The event also included a discussion with the director.

The Italian Department may be small, but it is definitely making an impact on campus. Three visiting professors teach the majority of the classes in the department. For the first time, this year Sponchiado co-taught the FYE: Slow Food in a Fast-Food Nation with Visiting Assistant Professor Tyler Cornelius in the Environmental Science Department. The course fulfilled an Elementary Italian 1 credit, but also focused on some of the environmental impacts of today’s food industry.

Sponchiado advocates taking Italian because command of another language can be beneficial to speaking and writing in English. Students can major, minor, or focus in Italian. “Italian is in some ways similar to English, and it can help with mastery of grammar,” Sponchiado said.

If you want to learn more about Italian culture, make sure to check out Spesso Espresso next block.

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