“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
– Saint Augustine
I was lucky enough to have my first international travel experience a the age of 16. I accompanied my cousin on her school’s trip (using EF Tours) to Italy. The trip was a ten-day “best of Italy” experience. The term “best” is extremely subjective. Nevertheless, we were able to experience many wonderful places in a very short amount of time. We visited Rome, Venice, Florence, Assisi, and a small town called Lucca. All of this was in a ten-day timeline, so we were very exhausted. Despite being frazzled from being away from my family (except for my lovely cousin) for the first time (internationally), not staying in one place for more than two nights, and being unable to speak the language, I fell in love with Italy.
So, in college, I decided to minor in Italian. I could have been more practical and gone with Spanish, or Chinese (really, most other languages seem more practical now that I’m in the “real world”), but I was in love with Italy and was determined to be able to communicate with the Italian people next time I visited.
The opportunity came up for a study abroad program in Cefalù, Sicily, Italy. I saved up money, and with the help of my family, I was able to go. This was one of the best decisions I made during my college career. If anybody ever has the opportunity to study abroad, I highly recommend it.
We met up in Rome and stayed there for about a week. We saw the classic things that draw people to Rome (things that I had seen a few years prior in my speed-dating equivalent of sight-seeing). They were more beautiful that I had remembered. Then, we took an 11 hour train ride from Rome to Sicily. That is one part I would not recommend. I love the train rides in Europe, but this one was a little much. The had to take our train apart (while we were still aboard) and put it on a ferry-boat. Then, it was placed back together in Sicily.
By the time we arrived in Cefalù, I knew the obscenely long train journey was worth it. Cefalù is a beautiful, picturesque Sicilian town. We were there during the travel season, so all of the shops and local eateries were open and welcoming. We were split up into apartments. I shared an apartment with two of my already good, but soon to be best friends.
We learned more Italian in that time than we had in all of our other semesters combined. Even the locals would comment on our improving language skills. I was able to observe the business and marketing techniques of this foreign town, which is something you can’t just get from a text-book.
This will not be my only post about my time in Italy; it is more of a precursor to my extremely memorable and sometimes bizarre experiences there.