The Italians are well known for their hospitality. Some years ago, my American-born cousins went to a mountain village in Sicily in search of our late grandmother's relatives. My cousins spoke no Italian, so when an elderly woman answered the door, they mimed their reasons for coming. There was an emotional hugging session, and the guests were invited in to share a bottle of local Etna wine and the simple supper the woman was preparing for her husband.

My cousins were thrilled to have finally uncovered the family's roots. Two hours later, the doorbell rang. In broken English a woman explained that she was in fact the relative my cousins were seeking, but she lived farther down the street and had not been home when my cousins arrived. Her neighbors had invited the two young Americans in, not knowing anything about the reason for their visit. They had not wanted to leave her guests waiting in the street.

Top photo: A plate of Italian aperitivos. Credit: Carla Capalbo