America is a land of immigrants and their descendants. Seldom, however, do we have an opportunity to know our ancestral country or its people other than through a superficial tourist-style visit. In an unexpected, job-related happenstance, on the other hand, I became able to meet and get to know my own ancestral country, Italy, in a very deep, insightful way. In short, my work required repeated travel to Italy to participate in several space science programs. This required me to work directly with individuals in Italian industry, academic research, and government. I worked on project teams, negotiated contracts, and managed hardware development efforts.
During these times and later in visits with my wife, Sally, I came to know several families personally and experienced a wide range of Italian life. This varied from a romantic dinner on a Tuscan hillside to observing mass with Pope John Paul II and many other experiences in between. This unusual encounter with Italy is the subject of this book. It is my hope that it will deepen your understanding of this remarkable country and its people as living it did for me.