As more people from diverse backgrounds move to Charlotte, they bring a variety of cultures with them. There is an assortment of culturally based groups in the area. One such group is the Italian Social Club.
The creator of this club is Nada Vergili, 35, who is originally from the Florence area of Italy, but has lived in the SouthPark area since 2001. She originally moved here for love, but when the relationship ended, she realized that she loved living in Charlotte and wanted to stay here.
Having been a graphic designer in Italy, Vergili expected to continue in that line of work here.
However, when she moved here, the economy was still suffering the recent events of 9/11 and she could not find a job in her field. At the same time, people started approaching her about the idea of teaching Italian.
She found that many people were drawn to her Italian background and wanted to learn more about her culture. She started by teaching Italian in small, informal groups that met in coffee shops, bookstores, etc.
In a short time, the classes grew and students were asking her to gear her teaching to language skills they could use during travel to Italy.
Vergili, who is warm and engaging, is also business savvy. She developed a more structured and comprehensive language workshop to meet the needs of those who planning upcoming trips to Italy. The classes focus on language skills that would be useful to travelers, such as ordering, asking directions and common conversational words and phrases.
She also realized that many people who had no personal connection to Italy had a fascination with the culture.
Vergili saw an opportunity and in 2002, started the Italian Social Club. The club, which does not require any official membership fees, celebrates all things Italian. Members, meet at events that Vergili organizes. They might be an Italian wine tasting, dinner or a Sunday brunch.
Participants have gone to Italian movie screenings, operas and attended the local Italian festival. Other events included a language practice hour and Italian cooking classes.
Through the connections and relationships she built within the club and her classes, Vergili started getting requests to lead tours to Italy. Her insider’s knowledge of the area, the cuisine, the wine, the culture and the lifestyle made her ideal to lead travel tours, which she started doing in 2004.
Vergili’s tours are different from most travel tours. In fact, they are for people who would not ever typically consider a tour. What differentiates them, to start with, is the size. Her small groups are limited to 12.
Because the groups are small, travelers have a less hectic, more leisurely experience. They have a home base from which they take local day trips. There is a large focus on the culinary aspects of Italian life, which includes trips to local family owned farms, vineyards and cheese makers.
Vergili puts a lot of effort into picking an interesting place to stay, rather than a large hotel chain. It might be a villa, a farmhouse or a castle – somewhere with historical significance.
Interestingly, it was other people’s interest in Italy that brought about a greater love of her home country.
“I don’t think I could have appreciated Italy as much until I lived here. Now, I appreciate so many parts of both cultures. It’s been an interesting journey to discover the differences,” said Vergili.