Tomorrow the 21st marks the first week since I landed at the Fiumicino Airport in Rome. And what a week it has been! It still has not hit me that I am actually living in Italy. It truly is surreal! Between the weeklong orientation schedule, starting with a pizza party upon the night of arrival, to the day trip in Umbria yesterday, and all the buzz of navigating a foreign city, the excitement of it all has kept everything from sinking in. These past six days have felt like a complete blur. So many questions have entered my mind since being here. Where do I go for groceries? I’m hungry, but what’s a good place to get lunch? Where do I buy a hair dryer? Even seemingly irrelevant questions like, “how do I cross the street?” have occurred to me. At first the answers to these were frustrating to find. There were definitely a few times I wished I didn’t feel and appear like an outsider. I was just anxious to understand Italian customs right away. But that just took a little time and I am quickly on my way to living like a true Roman.
I’d say that the six-hour time difference between Italy and the U.S. was the only hindrance to my adjustment. Almost every night of last week I had trouble falling asleep, and that sometimes kept me from enjoying some of the orientation events the next day. Even my roommate commented that she felt she couldn’t sleep because her brain was too busy translating between English and Italian. And thankfully both of us are Italian minors, so the transition to speaking Italian everyday was not as hard as it might have been for other students. Having five years of Italian under my belt has definitely taken me far already. I have the confidence to speak to locals and ask questions, which I was very surprised to see a lot of students do in English.
Yesterday’s excursion to the medieval hill towns of Todi and Titignano in Umbria was absolutely stunning. It was nice to see the “campagna” side of Italy, and experience something other than the business of the city. We were told on the bus ride there that Todi was reported as one of the most desirable cities to live in the world. Before ascending up the winding narrow roads, we could see Todi in the distance resting atop the highest hill, bordered by a stone wall. It was very picturesque and definitely very medieval, as it was built that way to protect against invasions. We were also told, however, that Todi’s location was chosen because of an omen from an eagle, which is featured on the Todi coat of arms. Once on top, we were given a map and the freedom to explore the ancient city on our own. I have never in my life walked on stone streets and in churches that old. It was amazing. The city was built between the III and I century B.C.! We ventured through the small alleys and archways to the Piazza del Popolo, where the 11th century gothic Cathedral is located.
At noon we were to meet back at the bus to head to Titignano for a traditional lunch at the Titignano castle. Once again, the views from atop were stunning. Since we were there until dusk, we also got a nice view of the sun setting over the river. There we were served a seven-course meal with locally made food and wine.
That lunch was the most fun I’ve had since being in Italy. I met a lot of people at our table, considering each sat about 25, and really enjoyed the fresh food. It was different eating over the course of four hours, instead of an hour or so at restaurants in America. Had to pace myself…dinners in Italy are a marathon, not a sprint!