Since I hadn’t been able to upload photos until now, here they are. Looking back at them, I think they summarize the first three weeks of my trip well. That’s good for me because I haven’t had time to post as much as I wanted to on this blog. The Journey to Italy program is, by nature, go-go-go. I think if you choose to do a program that only lasts one month and then try to make free time for yourself, where you can sit inside and write a blog, you’re doing it wrong. There is way too much to see and learn for that.

So here I am, at home in Oklahoma, only now having the time to sit and think about my trip. I guess I might as well start with the photos.

This is something beautiful on the top of the Trevi fountain. One of the first nights that we were in Rome, most people in the group went to the fountain, a great people-watching spot. The fountain itself is gorgeous at night. The sounds of the water and people chatting keep the area buzzing with life. I threw one coin into the water, to guarantee that I would return to Italy someday. If I had thrown anymore, I would have risked falling in love with and marrying an Italian man, which is not part of my life-plan.

Top of the Trevi fountain

This is a view of Rome. I really loved exploring Rome. I guess I love Arezzo most, but Rome is a close second. It is a big city, full of people and food and art and history. There is no way to see it all. And no way to describe it perfectly. All over the city, there are fountains of fresh water to fill up your bottle. Since I am someone who won’t leave the house without water, I loved this. I bought three bottles of water on the trip back to Oklahoma because I kept having to go through airport security and am too neurotic to go without it. I couldn’t help but think about Rome.

A view of Rome

This is the Arch of Titus. I learned about it when I took my first art history class. I always liked it and never knew why. Now I love it and I still don’t really know why. That may not be the most fascinating thing to read, but there is something to be said for loving art without having a reason. I do a lot of that. Sometimes I find a reason.Sometimes I don’t.

The Arch of Titus

This is the Colosseum. And a topless man. I didn’t intend to take his photo, but it is an excellent representation of the way I experienced Italy. No, no, no, I’m not trying to say I spent time looking at ancient architecture and partially nude Italian men. The former -yes, the latter- not on your life. What I mean is that you can’t experience the beauty and history of Italy without also experiencing the culture of the Italians. Or, more accurately, you can but shouldn’t.

On the last day of class, my professor told us a story. She said she was standing in front of a big tourist spot, when a bus pulled up. Out of the bus comes a group of young Americans, looking worn out and like they’ve just been dragged all across the country. One girl turns to her friend and says “What city is this?” Her friend answers that she thinks they’re in Florence. Then the first girl says, in a completely sincere, awestruck voice, “Ah, Florence!” That would be .. oh.. almost ok if they hadn’t been standing in front of the Colosseum in Rome!

I got two things from this story. The first is that that’s no way to see a country. You should embrace the strangeness, get out of the tourist bubble, and try to learn about what you’re seeing. Attempt to order things in Italian. Failing is better than not trying. The second thing is that I am so glad my trip was not like that. If I had just wanted to see the famous art and buildings and then get back on my air-conditioned bus, I would have been completely out of luck. That is just not what this program is like.

The Colosseum

This is a photo I took of the floor of the Duomo in Siena. Not a whole lot more to it than that. Why don’t floors here ever look like that? Italy has beauty in spades.

The Floor of the Duomo in Siena

On to Florence. This is the ceiling of the Baptistry.

The Baptistry in Florence

Will you just look at that? Those colors, water, little boats? This was in Burano, a tiny island off of Venice. No matter how many times I look at the photos from my trip, I still can’t believe how many beautiful things I got to see. It was amazement overload.

Burano, an island near Venice

One day, we took a field trip to Michelangelo’s birthplace. It didn’t seem like that special of a place at first. There was a building. It was where he lived. And there was a small museum. I wasn’t enthralled until I saw the view. I have been in so many churches but I never felt so.. reverent as I did at Michelangelo’s birthplace. The nature that surrounded the house was so beautiful. The house was built up a steep trail, away from the town. It felt so peaceful and made me think. And take many pictures. Here is one.

View from Michelangelo's birthplace

This is a photo of my group, right before we went to our neighborhood dinner for the Joust of the Saracen. I had some definite team spirit, which is pretty unlike me.

My group for the Joust of the Saracen

This is my view of Piazza Grande from the stands right before the Joust, during some procession. Usually, it’s just a piazza. But that night there was a long packed dirt trail, many horses, and knights. There was more filler than actual jousting, but the filler was pretty impressive too. Who knew flag-throwing could be so masculine? Even in tights, those guys were a little sexy. A little.

Before the Joust

I took many pictures while in Cinque Terre. It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. The pictures I like the best are the ones I took to document my hike. I hiked! Really, I did! This is a picture of a trail I just conquered, on the way from Montorosso to Vernazza.

A view from my Cinque Terre hike

This is from the end of the hike. We made it to beautiful Vernazza. We were hot, sweaty, and in great spirits. See those rocks down there by the beach? That’s where I sat to soak my hot, aching feet for awhile before exploring the town. Perfectly cool, blue water. I even saw a crab, starfish, and a sea urchin.

Looking down on Vernazza at the end of the hike

The last field trip we took was to Cortona. For one of our classes, we read the book Under the Tuscan Sun. It was set and partially filmed in Cortona. Our first stop was a local vineyard, where we got to tour the Barrachi winery. I saw tiny grapes and barrels of wine. Then came the tasting. It was a long, relaxing, late-morning wine tasting. I wouldn’t suggest 11 am as a good time for a tasting, but it was excellent nonetheless. I am certain it was the best wine I’ve ever had and they were very generous with the servings. The winery is a small, family-run operation, so the son spoke to us about his wine. He told us how it was made and how to best enjoy it.

The vineyard

This last photo is a view of Cortona. It is so exactly what you’d imagine a Tuscan town to look like. I expected for the stereotyped ideas I had about Italy and Tuscany to be broken down, but they weren’t. They were reinforced. Fortunately, I had no negative stereotypes before going. I just thought Italy was all food, beauty, and culture. And it is. Of course, there are many other layers and definitely plenty that I did not discover.

A view of Cortona

The lessons I learned while in Italy are still surfacing. For the most part, I had personal discoveries. That was a big goal for me in going abroad. I wanted to learn, but I also wanted to learn about myself in a foreign situation. And I did. I learned that I can fail and fail and fail at something and be embarrassed and be confused, but still be ok. I wanted to be strong and fearless, but I am not always. I can’t be. But there is one thing I can be: resilient. Call me a stupid American all you want, I’m going to keep trying. I learned many things about myself, including the fact that I will never get tired of pizza.


And that’s it! I’m home now. As little as I’ve blogged, I still enjoyed  sharing my experience. I’ll be the billionth person to say it, but studying abroad is worth every moment, every cent. Do it. It was only for a month, but it did something for me that I can’t explain. I came back with a new and improved perspective. I’ll leave you with a photo of my first attempt at baking focaccia bread at home:



Leave a Reply

Skip to toolbar