It’s time to take to heart the words of Fleetwood Mac: You Can Go Your Own Wayyyyy. Studying abroad revolves a lot around meeting new people in your program, but sometimes you want to take a break from making friends. You don’t have to make plans to travel with 10+ people, you can go on adventures all by yourself, like I did.
I’ve talked a lot about escaping the crowds of the city in previous posts, and this time off for Fall Break was my moment to completely break out of Rome. But I didn’t want to just go with a big group from school, and act like a tag-along. I wanted to focus on myself and what I wanted to experience and see. So, I ended up planning to relax and unwind in Rome for the first part of the week, but also take a few trips to Umbria, which I hinted at in my last blog post.
With all of the stress from Midterms week, I knew I didn’t want to just jump right into a huge, elaborate trip all across Europe; I was already burnt out from studying, I didn’t want to burn myself out with travelling too. I took a few days in Rome to explore the city and get to know some of the remote areas; places tourists wouldn’t know to go to. This was really different from what I had experienced at the beginning of the semester; I felt like this week I was able to stop and take a moment to think or read or draw without having to keep up with the hustle and bustle of the city and the tourist attractions.
At the same time, I didn’t want to be confined to only exploring the Rome. I spoke with one of the professors at Temple about where to go in Umbria, as I had enjoyed the trip from the beginning of the semester to Todi. She was so excited to help me out. She emailed some of her friends who live in Umbria for advice and suggestions for which cities I should visit and where I should eat or stay at. I received so much insight from them! They told me about what some of the best food and wine to try in each of the major cities, any events happening, some of the best museums and galleries to visit, and which places had the best views of the countryside. From their information, I decided on going to Orvieto, Perugia, and Assisi.
I am very happy with these choices because the few days I spent there have been some of the best adventures I have had thus far in Italy. On Wednesday, I went for a day trip to Orvieto, taking the train from Termini Station. One thing everyone should take advantage of while studying in Rome is Trenitalia, Italy’s train system. It is really easy to access and navigate, and it is inexpensive to get from Rome to places like Umbria, Florence, or Venice. For Orvieto, I was able to go to so many cool and interesting places and sights that I would never be able to fully experience in Rome. I went to the Duomo di Orvieto, Pozzo della Cava, il Museo Etrusco, Pozzo di San Patrizio, and so much more. I got to learn about the Etruscans, the local foods, went to local artisan shops, and had fun going up and down the funicolare (that’s like this lift system that takes you up the side of the hillside to get from the train station to the top of the town). It was also very refreshing to be surrounded by nature. Being in the city for so long, you start to yearn the simplistic, calming atmosphere of the country. So, I definitely recommend trips like these for those who want to balance out their city time with some country time.
In Perugia I was mainly interested in the International Chocolate Festival that was taking place, but I also did some sightseeing. I am really glad that I spoke with someone who knew the area before going, because without them I probably wouldn’t have known that this festival was taking place. Don’t be afraid to talk to the faculty and staff to find out more about Italian places to go, they are your best resources! Especially in Perugia and Assisi, I felt like I had that authentic Italian movie experience (you know, like walking through the narrow hilly streets, restaurants built on the slopes, buy food from sweet food vendors, meeting little old ladies calling you Signora and asking how you are doing). I felt like this was a great place for my photographer friends to visit. They would love all of the quaint touches of small town life. In the hotel I was staying at, the woman and her husband were extremely kind to me, always so happy to see me. To them it didn’t matter that we couldn’t speak the same language, she just wanted me to have fun in her city and make me feel at home.
Even though I was travelling alone, I never felt unsafe in these places. I was always confident and comfortable asking someone for directions or for assistance as everyone I met was very friendly and patient with my broken Italian. I have found that people are more kind and accommodating than we give them credit for. I also had a strong sense of freedom in traveling on my own around Umbria. I didn’t have to worry about getting separated from my friends, or going to places they want to go to; I could focus more on what I wanted to get out of my adventure. As self-centered as it sounds, it was all about me. Sometimes it can be nice to only have to worry about what you want to accomplish.
Don’t be afraid to go off on your own adventure. You shouldn’t have to define your travel abroad experience by what others want you to do. You should always try to go your own way.