Posted by: passagetoitaly | June 17, 2009

Making the Leap

Palazzo Ducale ad Urbino

Palazzo Ducale ad Urbino

Let me start by giving a little bit of background information on my history with Italy. During the summer of 2007, I did a study abroad program through the university I was attending, and have since graduated from. It was my first time ever traveling abroad, so it was a very big deal for me, as well as for my family. I had never stayed for so long away (it was only a month and a half) from them, and so far away.

One day while sitting in my Italian conversation class, a representative of the Italian department came in to do a presentation about the university’s study abroad program being held during the summer. Several times before, I’d heard this presentation, but never thought seriously about actually going, although I thought, it’d be a great experience. Other students in the class began to talk about going, and eventually, most of us had decided we’d go. After all, it would be much more fun studying abroad with people we knew. One girl in the class had already had her summer abroad experience, falling in love with one of the locals, and was then in a long-distance relationship. During one of our presentations we had to do, she spoke about how she met him and her experience in the program. It all seemed such a dream listening to her! But who would actually think it could happen to them?!

During the weeks before I was to leave, my mom and I raced around to stores preparing: buying luggage, shoes, outfits (well, how could you dine in a fancy Italian restaurant selected by the school and not have the appropriate attire?), and preparing a going-away get together with my friends. My mind was all set on the adventure! I had broken up with my then-boyfriend a couple of months prior to my leaving, which I thought was great. This gave me a sense of new found freedom! I was venturing off to a country I’d never been to (this was also my first time out of the country!), with a bunch of classmates, and I, for once, did not feel tied down. I would not have to worry about missing phone calls and being alone in my room waiting for one. My excitement to leave could never, however, amount to what I felt when we finally had landed.

From the airport in Bologna, we boarded our buses and were off to Urbino, one of Italy’s many important Renaissance towns. The Bolognese countryside left me speechless as we whizzed by house after house surrounded by their own vineyards. After about an hour of staring out the window in awe, I gave into exhaustion from not having slept on the plane. When I awoke, the bus was passing fields covered by a gold sea – sunflowers! This golden sea rolled its waves over the hills, eventually leading us all the way up to the Palazzo Ducale. It was as if I’d stepped into a fairy tale, as this monstrous palace came into view with its infamous twin turrets towering over its surrounding walls.

Since a few of my friends and I had arrived on the same bus, we were fortunately placed together in the same blocco, block. This would be home for us for the next month and a half. We quickly went into our rooms. I threw down my bags and took in the beautiful view I had from my bedroom window overlooking the valley below. Off in the distance a dirt road followed the valley’s undulating hills, every so often passing a house. Two of my friends and I decided to scout out the town. It only took 15 minutes to walk to the centro. Our mission – to find fans and plug converters! We had arrived on July 3rd, and well, as anyone who has been to Italy knows, most places do not have air conditioning, and it’s at times suffocatingly hot. Later I would find out that we were not only ripped off with the fans, but also the converters as well, because the man in the one store always has astronomical prices. We also managed to find the cellular store and bought cell phones. What a relief it was to feel connected once again to the outside world. My first phone call was of course to my family. I was not homesick, but just to let them know that I had arrived safely seemed like a good idea. My first announcement to my mom was that I wanted to live in Italy, as I stood at the cafe near our dorms, overlooking the valley. To my parents, my undying love for this country’s beauty is incomprehensible. I think they will never truly understand it until they have lived (or at least visited) and breathed it.

All photographs used in this blog are my own.


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