Last weekend was yet another amazing experience. Sometimes I can’t grasp the fact that I am actually in Italy doing amazing and unique things that so many people never even have the opportunity to do. We are so fortunate to be here and having such opportunities! Friday I attended the business trip to Umbria where we went olive oil and wine tasting. We visited two extraordinary facilities. Part of the charm of these visits was the authenticity. We were in the Italian countryside, and the presentations were translated between the expert, speaking Italian, and Aldo, our professor, translating to English for us. Watching these people share their area of work, expertise, and clear passion, in their own beautiful Italian tongue definitely added to the experience. We finished the day in Derut, a small town in Umbria that is known world-wide for their ceramics. Ceramics studios and specialty stores lined the streets. Aldo told us that children are taught ceramics from grade school on in the town, and there are special institutes and even high schools that teach the students how to become true experts in the craft.
One of my favorite parts of these trips to the countryside is the drive there and back. Along the way, you don’t go without passing a spectacular hill town or array of mountains that take your breath away. When we pass these little towns, or see a random home perched on one of the many hills, I often put myself in the spot of someone living that way. I can’t imagine the seeming simplicity of their lives, perhaps being detached from the big cities of Italy and living amongst the natural beauty of the country. I wonder how far the children have to travel to school, are there many other children for them to befriend, what the adults do for work, do they commute to the city, if they drink wine every night with dinner, and what it would be like to have the lifestyle I envision as we pass. It is so different from what I am experiencing in Rome, and I’m so glad I’ve been able to see these places.
The next day, I rose before the sun to catch a train. We were off to Firenze for the night! I was excited to see what this other Italian metropolis had to offer. It turned out to be a city that was my pace. It was much smaller than Rome, and I would say less overwhelming in that way. After walking around for one day, I felt like I had a decent grasp on the city itself. With this, I was honestly shocked at how touristy the city was. EVERYONE spoke English. I can’t lie; this was a little comforting to me when we arrived. Besides campus, I hadn’t been in a place where I walked around hearing English being spoken in close to three weeks, so I appreciated this break from my current reality. People in Firenze were also colossally nicer than Romans. They seemed much more used-to and accepting of Americans. Perhaps they like us because we bring a lot of business to their (many, many) shops? Regardless, their congeniality also came as a relief. I don’t find Romans particularly nasty to Americans, but I don’t find that they’re extremely nice either. It was undoubtedly pleasant to visit a city where they seemed to like me as an American. The trip gave me a good feel of the city, and I would definitely go back to see more of the museums and enjoy shopping when the weather is warm and agreeable.