Under the Tuscan Sun! Student Recalls Journey to Italy


By: Antonea Rufa, Staff Reporter

What comes to mind when one thinks of Italy? Beautiful surroundings, beautiful people, and, well, beautiful food. When you’re an outsider, you have no choice but to view experiences in Italy from the standpoint of a stranger. You really can’t fathom what it’s like just from another’s experiences. In my experience, I have found that photos and Rick Steves’s documentaries do it no justice.

Now, these assumptions are all quite true, and I certainly had them before I received the opportunity from Thornton-Donovan to stay in Arezzo, Tuscany for thirty days along with some other students. Although I lived in Arezzo, I travelled all over northern and central Italy during that month and experienced Italy’s unique and breathtaking views.

I’d never been to Italy, or any other country outside of the United States, before this trip. Even more so, I had never even been away from home quite that long, so, as one can imagine, I had no idea what to expect from a month-long stay. As anyone would, I felt anxious about staying away for such a long period of time away, wondering how I would keep up with all of my school work; however, once I arrived in Italy, all of those thoughts vanished. From then, I knew I would find a way to keep everything school-related in order, for this month-long trip would be worth all of the make-up work in the world. I was certain that it would be an experience that I’d never forget. I was right.

While I was there and even when I came back, the golden question was, “What was your favorite part?” to which my clever response was, “I really can’t choose.”

Sure, nobody wants to be given an uncertain answer, but I really couldn’t help it. During the first two weeks, I visited a few cities outside the town of Arezzo: Pisa, Rome, Florence, Venice, Siena, and Cortona. All were captivating, but each in a different way. Each city contained amazing architecture and delicious food, but like different cities in any country, they had their own definitive qualities that set them apart from each other. To give an example, Rome, the capital of Lazio, is even more grand than photos prove. Its entire essence centers around its history with all of the ancient landmarks that fills it. Then, there’s Florence. Out of all of the cities, this takes the description of most charming, what with all of its medieval architecture and the prominent rose garden. It’s the kind of place one can get lost in and not feel a need to return home. I found both cities equally mesmerizing, but for very different reasons. In a way, it kind of felt like a betrayal to say I liked one more than the rest; it just wasn’t true.

The way the trip worked, the other students stayed for two weeks; however, I stayed for four. The first two weeks were dedicated to travelling around northern and central Italy; meanwhile, the next two I spent solely in Arezzo.

In the midst of my trip, something I came to learn was that as fascinating as Italy is in all of its physical aspects, it’s the people you meet and the relationships you form with them that make your experience there worthwhile. That’s why I’m grateful my first time there was on a student exchange. It gave me the opportunity not only to make friends with kids my age, but also live with someone my age. I lived with my host, Sofia Lanini, for the entire month I was there and she became not just a host, but my sister. She’s truly part of the reason that my trip was unforgettable, and also why I can’t wait to return. Being so far away from someone after the trip is over, I did not expect the connection to last long. However, I still talk to my friends there very often, and I couldn’t imagine it any differently.

I learned so much in that month – like all of the possible ways to curse someone out in Italian – and I also learned that, yes, Italy is filled with beautiful scenery, beautiful people, and beautiful food. Yet, the culture is something you have to experience for yourself, for no documentary or article or movie can convey what immersing yourself in the Italian culture is like. When you’re there, the people and their lifestyles, from what they eat to how they spend their free time, is quite different than how it is in America. I suppose that’s why I find it so interesting, considering this was my first experience like this.

It seems that I’ve left a part of myself in Italy. I’ve fallen in love with the country and I miss the people I’ve met to no end. And, frankly, I have every intention of going back. I don’t know exactly when that will be, but che ci puoi fare?