The year was 2012. I had just graduated from college. Like most other twenty-two year olds, I was not in any way ready to settle down. My mind was set on other things. I wanted to see the world.
On August 11th, 2012 I boarded a one-way flight to Europe. My destination was Rome. Instead of flying directly to Rome, however, I decided on another route. I would fly into Switzerland and board a train at Zürich Hauptbahnhof for Milan. From there, I would board the high-speed Frecciarosa for Rome. My reasons for taking this route were simple: I had worked in Ticino, the southernmost canton of Switzerland for a few years, and wanted to see it again. The Alps had left a powerful impression on my soul.
Before I dive into the story, I’d like to note my belongings. I carried with me a suitcase full of clothing, an Irish bouzouki (kind of like a mandolin) and $1900.00. Perhaps more importantly, I also possessed an Italian passport, thanks to my Calabrian great-grandfather. Giovanni Lafacia had decided not to renounce his Italian citizenship at Ellis Island, making it possible for me, one hundred years later, to reclaim my Italian heritage and all the rights that came along with it. This would prove to be very valuable, allowing me to live and work in Italy, and even vote.
As my Air France Boeing 767 descended through the clouds towards the German-speaking lands of northern Switzerland, my heart beat with excitement. Here I was, thousands of miles away from home, independently carving my way into the future. My teutonic ancestors came to life as I imagined them crossing the Alps toward the fertile plain of Lombardy and onto Rome, the Caput Mundi. I too was on my way to Rome. My goal was to find a job and learn Italian. I swore that I wouldn’t come home until this had been accomplished.”Fortune favors the bold” – the old proverb became my creed.
My soaring ambitions were swiftly met with a strong dose of reality. The day of my arrival in Switzerland also happened to be the day of a Switzerland’s largest public street festival, a city-wide rave. Public transportation was completely jammed and I quickly became desperately lost, boarding metro train after metro train in the wrong direction. Exhausted, I slumped down next to a group of loud youngsters and closed my eyes as the train drove off. I did not know what to do. When I opened my eyes, to my surprise, a young, intelligent-looking man was looking intently at me. He instinctively gave to me two metro tickets and told me how to get to the central train station. He told me to run, or I would miss my train. I immediately switched trains and headed back towards the station. I then pushed my way off the metro, ran up the stairs and onto the right platform, barely boarding the train as the whistle blew and the doors slammed shut behind me. As I put down my bags and looked for a seat, I could not help but think that I had just met my guardian angel. To this day I can not understand how he knew where I needed to go and why he gave me help, free of charge. Nonetheless, I attribute this happening to God and His providence. I will never forgot that young man in Zürich.
A day later I made it to Rome and since then my life has never been the same. For two full years I lived in Italy, working in different towns throughout the Italian peninsula and even on a Mediterranean island for a few months. I bartended and served tables, bought a Vespa and worked in the Vatican. I earned a Masters degree, made lifelong friends and deepened my Faith. Finally, I did learn Italian, which proved to be a difficult but most worthwhile endeavor. The entire story would require a bottle of wine and some great company to properly relate, so I will leave it at that for now. There is, however, one more thing to be said. Why ProRome?
In Italy I fell in love with so many stories about European history. The history of the Catholic Church especially intrigued me. I wanted to share everything that I loved with as many pilgrims, families, and young people as possible. So, I founded a tour company. ProRome is a tour company dedicated to telling stories. Since 2014 I have shared countless stories with hundreds of eager travelers. My lovely wife Rachel helps me to remember all of the little details.