On the last day of our orientation weekend, we boarded a bus destined for Todi, a hilltop town about two and a half hours to the north of the city of Rome. The medieval town overlooks the Tevere Valley, offering a spectacular view of the Italian countryside. As the town sits on a hill, there were options to either hike up or take a cable car. My group decided to hike, and the view was most definitely worth it. You could see the stone buildings from the town wrap along the hillside and sit over a sea of forests and plains. After staring in awe at the view before us, we headed into Todi to explore the town. It was quite the change of pace from the bustling city of Rome. Since the town sits quite a distance from major roads and cities, there were far less tourists than anywhere in Rome. There were many beautiful churches and colorful potted flowers scattered throughout the narrow stone alleyways and hanging from ornate iron railings. Instead of the noises of cars honking and scooters zipping past, Todi was filled with the sounds of birds chirping and the ringing of church bells.
Our first stop in the magical little town was Tempio di San Fortunato, a Roman Catholic church constructed in the seventh century. The outside of the church looked a bit plain because the façade was only halfway completed, but the front steps leading up to Tempio di San Fortunato was covered with beautiful flowers, much like the rest of the town. The inside of the church contained many frescoes on the walls and the tomb of Saint Fortunatus, the patron saint of Todi. After visiting Tempio di San Fortunato, we made our way through the winding alleyways to the Todi Cathedral, a Romanesque style church with a large rose window on the façade. The church sits at the heart of the town, and the view from the top of the steps offers a great view of the beautiful city of Todi.
After spending a few hours exploring the histotic hilltop town, we traveled by bus for around another 45 minutes and arrived at Tenuta Di Titignano, a castle overlooking Lake Corbara. At Titignano, we celebrated the end of our orientation and the beginning of our semester with a traditional Italian meal. Outside on the patio area, we enjoyed appetizers of breads, cheeses, and meats while admiring the view of the lake and the surrounding mountains and forests. Once we entered the castle, we sat in the beautiful dining area where we were served cheese quiche, risotto with asparagus, pasta with wild boar sauce, lamb with mushroom sauce, chicken and venison with potatoes, salad, tiramisu, biscotti dipped in sweet dessert wine, and finally, espresso. Every part of the meal was delicious, and all of the ingredients were from the surrounding area and prepared fresh at the Titignano estate.
I’m very thankful that part of our orientation included a visit to these two breathtaking Italian sites. I don’t think Todi and Titignano are places that students would have known to visit on their own during their time abroad, but they showed me just how much beauty and culture the Italian countryside has to offer.