I do not like surprises. I don’t like the dreaded anticipation, the ominous unknown, or the feeling of some outside threat closing in. But last weekend was all about surprises (maybe less of a creepy IT style scary and more of a happy, joyous kind of surprise). Last weekend marked my first real trip outside of Rome and its immediate province areas. One of my classes, Modern Italian History, had their three-day excursion; for this trip we went to Trento, Italy, but also traveled to smaller towns farther north, into the South Tyrol Region. Now, I know what you must be thinking: what is so special about Trento? It’s not Venice or Florence or Milan; big travel companies don’t give out brochures by the truck-full for places like Trento. All of this is true, but going off the beaten track could lead to some of the best moments of your life. And that is exactly what Trento was like for me.
Trento is located in the northeast of Italy and it smooshed into one of the valleys within the Italian Alps. I for one have never really been to any mountain ranges, so for the infamous Alps to be my introduction to such gorgeous views was beyond incredible. The air felt chilled and crisp as it constantly moved and shifted and I breathed in its fresh scent. The forests looked like seas of evergreen, reaching as far as I could see onto the horizon. Rivers and streams wind their way down the mountain sides and gather in pools of crystal clear blue. The hills and mountains towered and enclosed us on all sides, but I did not feel at all trapped or constricted. In fact, I felt more free and relaxed than I have been my entire trip to Rome. And this carefree feeling took me by surprise. Aren’t people supposed to have these experiences in top destination cities like Rome or Paris or London? Well the travel companies are lying to you, Trento can be one of those cities too.
This being a class affiliated trip, we had a jammed packed schedule of museums, castles, and local residents to meet, but the pressure of the classroom just seemed to melt away. Learning became more of an engaging experience than a droning lecture. I met groups of historians, linguistic minorities, and professors whom I would have never been in contact with had I not taken this one History class. And now that I have made connections with these talented and inspiring people, I cannot see myself having not gone on this adventure.
I had been hinting in my other posts that I really hate to travel too much; how the whole charade makes me a ball of nerves and takes away from me enjoying the atmosphere. But I was correct in guessing that it would be less stressful having a professor there to guide us around. The pressure is taken off my shoulders and I can just follow my instructor’s lead. Professor Borioni was extremely knowledgeable about the area and had really strong connections with the staff at each of our stops. Without him and my RA Rosie (who joined our miniscule class of four students), I think I would have been completely lost and would have taken for granted the wondrous sites I was taking part in.
This medium adventure really opened my eyes to the different types of places Italy has to offer; there is more to Italy than bustling cityscapes. You don’t have to visit just the stereotypical cities like Naples, Milan, Sorrento, etc., you can go to strange and hidden places like Trento or Moena or Val di Fassa. And these locations may end up being more meaningful to you than a crowded, metropolitan city. You can visit the ocean, spend a day at a farm in Umbria, visit medieval towns in the countryside, hike up mountains, and even explore the hidden valleys of the Alps.
In the end, I am glad I have not yet made plans for my Fall Break, because this journey has completely changed my outlook on places I want to go. I want to try to get out of the city more, and get to know the various “types of Italy’s” there are. And I encourage everyone looking to study in Rome to approach your study abroad experience in a similar way. Don’t be afraid to try something new and unconventional. Everybody goes to Rome, but why not go to Trento.