They say you can take a girl out of the small town, but you cannot take the small town out of the girl. I would say that the saying has some truth to it. I am a small town girl from the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania who enjoys stargazing, hiking, kayaking and walking barefoot through the grass. Oddly enough, I just happened to go to the big city of Philadelphia for college. Keeping with that pattern, I deviated further from my roots and decided to study abroad in Rome.
The city of Rome has so much to offer. It is a bustling place with people from all over the world. There are constantly new people to meet, and different things to explore. I could meander around for endless hours in this beautiful city as I discover ancient ruins, try new foods, attempt to have conversations in Italian and travel to the most popular local flea markets.
While Rome is an amazing place to be, as a small town girl, I felt the need for a break from the crowded streets, noise and cobblestone. I wanted grass, quiet and fresh air, so a couple of my friends and I hopped on a train to Cinque Terre for a weekend: a beautiful compilation of five small, colorful towns along the northwest coast of Italy. Not only did Cinque Terre offer the sweet serenity that I can experience in my hometown, but the five towns were connected by hiking trails that just so happened to have some of the most breathtaking views that I have ever laid my eyes on.
During the five hours of hiking, my lungs were screaming for air, my thighs were burning and my heart was racing, but I loved every minute of it. Well, okay, maybe not every minute. It was more of love-hate relationship, considering the fact that the stairs on this trail were never-ending, and my body was fighting me each step of the way, but it was worth every ounce of effort that I put forth to get through the hike.
After hiking to one town, we would take a break for lunch or a snack. For lunch, I had some of the best fried calamari that I have ever eaten. Seafood just so happens to be the specialty of the area, so if you ever visit, make sure to order some. Because we did not go during high tourist season, it was not busy. The only people we came across were the occasional locals walking their dogs, or older men playing chess outside of cafés. Many of the shops were being renovated before the tourists arrive in a few short months with their fanny packs and cameras; the lack of activity gave me the opportunity to truly look at the landscape and the architecture of the buildings. I could clearly hear the waves of the Mediterranean Sea as I strolled through the towns. A lot of times, we do not really get the chance to grasp the world around us because of the busyness of everyday life, but at that moment, I could truly appreciate everything that I was seeing and hearing.
The weekend at Cinque Terre was the refreshing experience that I needed. Now that I was rejuvenated with some physical activity and fresh air, I was more than ready to go back to Rome. My next challenge is to apply what I did in Cinque Terre to Rome: I want to look past the people, block out the sounds of car horns and mopeds, look at the city in a deeper way and see the bigger picture. Italy is such a diverse and rich country, and so is the city of Rome itself. Rome has so many different aspects that make it great, and this small town girl is ready to continue exploring.