When I applied to the Italy Intensives program last spring, I was excited to finally have an opportunity to expand my horizons and see the rich history and culture that Italy had to offer. I had never traveled by plane, and the farthest I had ever been from home was Florida, I must admit. This trip was not just about exploring a culture; it was about maturing and discovering what I could do on my own. On September 15th, I finally arrived in the fast-paced city of Rome, and within that first week I was blown away by the ancient historical buildings, which amazingly, were still standing. The Pantheon, the Coliseum, the triumphal arches, the Vatican, and Saint Peter’s Basilica were the first places we visited, and there was much more to come!
We lived and studied in the quiet medieval Tuscan village of Certaldo Alto, about a 45 minute train ride from Siena or Florence. The next three months consisted of weekly art history classes in various Italian cities actually viewing the masterpieces for ourselves as we talked about the artists and how they made the artwork. I took a book arts making class and we even had the opportunity to learn the trade of jewelry making. Every night our entire group of students ate family style at a local Italian restaurant and shared our awe at how beautiful the Tuscan hillside was and our disbelief at being able to experience it. We visited Monterroso in Cinque Terre and swam in the clear cool Mediterranean waters, we hiked Mount Vesuvius and toured Pompeii, we saw hand-carved alabaster in Volterra, toured the Amalfi coast by boat, saw The Birth of Venus in person, toured the Vatican, and so much more.
Even so, perhaps the most memorable portion was sitting down with the local Italian people and just talking to them and socializing like I never had the opportunity to in America. In America, we’re always living in a fast-paced society surrounded by technology. I learned to unplug and relax and cherish the stories of those around me while sitting in the local Piazza (Plaza). My time there will never be forgotten and it is a time in my life that I believe I’ll cherish forever. When I left Italy, I not only left with a better understanding of the history that the world had to offer, I left touched by the people I had met and become close to in Italy. I left behind a new family, and I know that one day I will go back. This program opened my eyes and has encouraged me to want to travel more and to get in touch with those around me because I learned that a culture is not just its history, but also the stories of its people.