I have been in Italy for a whole month now! My plane departs from Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome at 11:30 AM tomorrow and there are a million and one thoughts rushing through my head. I have had a trip of a lifetime full of new friends, challenging classes, and excursions I never dreamed I would be taking.
My first impression when I got off the plane in Venice could best be described by the word “wow.” As soon as I got off the plane, I met up with the CIS advisor and other travelers and boarded a boat with all our luggage to get to Venice. I was starstruck by everything around me and have about 100 pictures of the ocean view from the boat. It’s comical to think how many pictures I took then because now I’m so accustomed to Italian sights that I have to make an intentional effort to take photos.
My favorite thing about Italy is the architecture. Throughout the trip, I’ve seen Michelangelo’s David in Florence, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Duomo in Milan, in addition to many other sculptures and architectural beauties. In America, it seems like our buildings are more based on efficiency and simply building something as fast as possible, while in Italy they care more about how a building looks and spend years perfecting it so that it will last for a long time. The detail the Italian builders put into these structures was remarkable. The picture I attached is in front of the Duomo in Milan that took my breath away! It was the first thing we saw when we got off the metro train.
I’ve been on many excursions, but my favorite is visiting the Vatican in Rome. Even though I’m not Catholic or Italian, a couple of my friends and I attended Mass in the Vatican. It was an amazing experience, even though I couldn’t understand the Italian that was being spoken. I don’t speak any Italian, but I do understand Spanish pretty well and I found that the two have a couple of commonalities, so I tried to piece together the words I did know. After the service ended, Pope Francis went on his balcony and spoke to the crowd. I can’t believe I saw him and it was a once in a lifetime experience.
I am currently in Sicily after visiting Venice, Florence, Bologna, and Rome. I think Sicily is my favorite because the locals are friendly, the beach is beautiful, and the lifestyle is so laid back. I’ve enjoyed catching the bus every morning after class and going to the beach with my friends. I also love the food here. While I have enjoyed indulging in pizza and pasta in the other cities, I felt a little frustrated at times because of the lack of variety. Here, in Sicily, there are all kinds of seafood, salads, and the best cannoli I’ve ever had. A cannolo consists of fried pastry dough, filled with a sweet, creamy filling and topped with nuts or chocolate chips. They were invented in Sicily, so they’re pretty easy to come by at any local bakery.
On this trip, I have taken a world literature class and a class called “Following Shakespeare through Italy.” Both have been very interesting, but I especially enjoyed the Shakespeare class. Since most of Shakespeare’s works are based in Italy, we have read many of his plays while also visiting the places he discusses. For example, we took a day trip to Verona to see where Romeo and Juliet were set and traveled to the Jewish ghetto in Venice to explore where The Merchant of Venice was imagined by Shakespeare. The classes were a lot more challenging than I expected. I didn’t expect to spend about 2 and a half hours a day studying and reading for the following day, but that’s what it worked out to be. Our class time was discussion-based and it was necessary to comprehend the readings so that I could fully engage in conversation. While I took this class seriously and studied my hardest, I was gentler on myself with grades since I am in Italy. I didn’t allow school stress to take away from enjoying the world around me.
Italy has been so good to me and I will miss the beautiful beaches and monuments that I got to see every day. I will also the smell of fresh cannoli, the taste of Pistachio gelato, and friendly Italians greeting me with “ciao.” I am so glad I pushed myself out of my comfort zone in small-town Alabama. I would recommend this trip to any student looking to go beyond the classroom walls to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the world. However, I would also advise anyone who is studying abroad to have an open mind because the experience isn’t perfect. There were frustrating times when I lost something in my luggage or would get homesick, however, things like that seem so minuscule in the grand scheme of things. I can’t wait to see my family and friends so soon and fill them in as well. Ciao!