The first month of my semester abroad in Rome, Italy are coming to a close and I’m amazed at the amount of memories I’ve already gathered. Of everything I’ve experienced so far, I feel obliged to share the following to anyone interested in the study abroad experience.
A few weekends ago marked our first excursion outside the city of Rome since arriving January 15th! We woke up and boarded a bus at 8am to head to Todi, a medieval town about an hour and a half north. This TU sponsored event was amazing and made us keener on attending more organized trips (we realize now were silly to dismiss them in the first place). Our bus leader, Professor Huber, gave us a brief lecture on Italy’s current regionalism and political climate along the way; it was an added bonus and contrast to learning about the medieval history of Todi.
Todi is located in the rolling hills of the Umbria region; with the actual historic city enclosed behind massive stonewalls. The streets are incredibly narrow and despite the nasty weather, the views and atmosphere were picturesque. My favorite sites were easily the three massive churches we toured. Tempio di san Fortunato was entirely made of stone and absolutely freezing inside. The original Roman Catholic artwork is still vibrant and truly stunning. The next, called Concattedrale della Santissima Annunziata aka Cattedrale, was my favorite. Inside there was a beautiful statue of Mother Mary that I was able to light a prayer candle under. Mary is my girl, so I was extremely pleased to offer my prayers to her so directly (this later came in handy…).
Of course, when it comes to my roommate Casey and me, nothing goes strictly by the book. After deciding we should split from our group and meander down our own path, we ended up climbing over four hundred steps (forget the Stairmaster, Todi is the most intense workout available), walked throughout a residential area, and eventually landed outside the city walls. We wound up at the most breathtaking church in Todi, Tempio di S. Maria della Consolazione. This church features a stunning domed ceiling and is massively beautiful.
We were completely captivated by it’s beauty, and then equally horrified when we realized we had about seven minutes to get back to our bus stop and depart for lunch at Titignano. We were under the impression that we had been walking in the correct direction since 11:35am, a full 25 minutes before the mandatory meet up time. This was horribly, horribly wrong. After consulting our map, panicking, calling our friend Avery (only to be scolded), and speaking with Professor Huber, we realized we were on the wrong side of the hill. With no one able to give us accurate directions, including those back at the bus and a Czechoslovakian circus worker (I’m serious…though we did manage to snag free tickets to the Circus), I logically began to run randomly ten feet in one direction, turn around, and then run twenty feet in the next while Casey watched. To Casey’s credit, she did prevent me from beginning to literally climb a mountain that I deemed to be a “short cut” over the hill. At 12:03pm, we found a store and by the grace of God, bumped into two beautiful Italian women that spoke English. After explaining our situation and asking for directions, they actually offered to drive us around the hill to our bus! Completely in shock to their generosity, we climbed into the back of their tiny fiat and they drove us around the hill to our bus!
After refusing to accept our ten-euro thank you, they kissed both our checks and sent us on our way, only seven minutes late! Our advisors looked on in shock as we ran from a random Fiat screaming “Mi dispiace! Mi dispiace! (I’m sorry!) We were so blown away by how kind those two angels were, although most Italians do seem to have this trait. I have to offer some thanks to Mary as well, who instantly answered my prayer for peace and protection to those I was traveling with and myself. In the end, we were not the only lost students (there were three others…) and we were on the road by 12:15pm! We were lucky things worked out in our favor and will keep this in mind the next time we think about throwing caution to the wind. Everyone was a bit mad at us, but it is probably my favorite study abroad story yet!
Titignano can be summed up in the following phrase: food coma. We experienced a traditional Sunday feast made with entirely local produce! I sat at the Vegetarian and Gluten Free table, which sort of resembled a hipster gang. I was so grateful that Gianni and the faculty organized a menu that accommodated tricky eaters like us, without making us miss out on the delicious experience! The food was fantastic and so fresh! My favorite part would have to be the sweet local wine and exquisite blue cheese. I’ll post more info about our multiple courses in an additional blog on food (it’s important enough to warrant an entire individual entry…yum).
As I traveled the two plus hours back to Rome with Ed Sheeran playing through my headphones, I was struck by how exceptional my first month has been. So many of us have been anticipating these moments for a year or more and I think we’re all indulging ourselves in a dream come true right now. In just two weeks, we’ve met wonderful friends in the Trastevere from all over the world (Australia, South Africa, London, and across the US!), tried new foods at authentic restaurants, and hitchhiked in Umbria. There’s no other way to put it: I just love it here. Here are a few photos of beautiful Todi and our activities so far: