After our first 2 weeks in Rome, I would say many students are really beginning to get more comfortable and acclimated to our very new city. As someone who had never been out of America before this trip, this adjustment was not coming quite as easy to me as I would have liked, or as I had anticipated. There were many surprises with cultural differences, some of which I have already mentioned in the last blog post. Just walking around the streets and hearing no familiar language or words was difficult to get used to in and of itself. But, each day seems to be another stepping stone toward integrating myself in the Roman community. Right now I want to take it back to last Sunday when I had the opportunity to visit the hill town of Todi in the region of Umbria.
Todi is one of the most beautiful and picturesque places I have ever been. When I got off the bus, I really had no idea what to expect. We had heard that we were going to a so-called “hill town,” but what did that really mean? Nothing to me, since I’d never been to one. We maneuvered our behinds up the numerous flights of grassy stairs, attempting to avoid stepping on the enormous worms as we did this, and finally reached the top. The first thing I saw was this extremely old man standing in his window, which looked out onto the hills, staring at us. He looked…concerned. I could only imagine that his thoughts were, “Look out, it’s the invasion of the Americans.” He seemed displeased and frightened.
As we walked forward and entered the town, I spotted Gianni. I am always curious as to what people who are familiar with areas would suggest as “must sees,” so I inquired with Gianni on his thoughts about this. He suggested I see the church and all the little streets. So, that is exactly what I did. We entered the main square and saw the church ahead of us. But, before seeing that, I was lured down a quaintly breathtaking side street. I was almost speechless. As I walked along with a friend, I couldn’t believe the simple beauty of the buildings and the streets. Even just seeing the laundry hanging high about the cobblestones was beautiful in a way. As we progressed through the town, we got lost in the tangle of the small streets of Todi.
We finally stumbled toward the buses, but before which we landed at the bottom of an extremely steep flight of stairs. We climbed them, and at the top we turned around only to look out onto the most beautiful view. The fact that we were late to the buses and still weren’t quite sure where we were or where we needed to go disappeared. We were immediately enamored by the view. It felt like we were standing on the edge of the world with fog and clouds surrounding us. The view of the steep cliff on which we stood with a church sitting in the middle was all we could see. It was UNFORGETTABLE. I will always remember that moment in Todi, after wandering for a couple hours with friends on the small streets, finally finding the steepest set of stairs that we climbed (no easy task) and when reaching the top, the most epic view on which to look out. Above all else, this trip itself helped show me that the small towns and more “hidden” places in Italy are really what I should focus my next three months on, more so than just seeing big cities. Every experience like this helps to figure out our real interests here, and this was a very moving experience for me!