By Addison Markham
My first experience traveling across the Atlantic was in 2013 with a mother-daughter trip to London and Paris. After nine days in the most lively city of London with stops at Stonehenge, Bath, and ending in Paris, we fell in love with the cultures each city offered.
Traveling outside of the United States taught me how different things are. One trip wasn’t enough for us, so that next summer, we booked a trip to Barcelona. This trip was even more culturally educational than the first. We traveled through Spain, Andorra and Mont-Louis, France. Each provided different experiences through the towns with food, people, and an overall love for southern Europe. Little did I know, this would spark an interest in studying abroad just four short years later.
Rome, Italy is one of the most traveled destinations in Europe because of its culture, historical sites, and it is a large draw for many of the Catholic faith. Being Italian myself, a trip to Italy was a life goal. After traveling to two other European destinations and England, I couldn’t believe I had yet to visit Italy.
In the fall of 2017, I was given the opportunity to study abroad through the program LeadAbroad. Starting on June 29th, I departed the Atlanta airport with two large suitcases to spend the remaining five weeks of my summer in Rome.
In just five weeks, I learned more about myself and the world around me than ever before. I traveled all over, met many people, saw all the sights and ate the world’s best food. Here are some of the highlights:
Food and Wine Country
From the pizza, the pasta, seafood, and most importantly, the gelato, I was blown away by the flavors and freshness of their food. Every place you went served carefully crafted dishes. Food is such a huge part of their culture and all it entails, such as meal times, the formality of the dinners and how things are served. We even got the opportunity to take a cooking class and hand-make three different types of pastas.
One of the most shocking things for me was the difference in their coffee. Ordering a typical coffee like you would here would get you a small shot of espresso in any local cafe over there. They take little things, such as coffee, very seriously in preparation and quality. We were left with no choice but to only eat caprese salads of tomato and mozzarella, rather than the standard green, leafy bunch Americans are used to. Although there were some places you stumbled upon that weren’t as great as others, the opportunity to try them and step out of my comfort zone was OK for me as it was part of adapting to the culture around me.
Rome is surrounded with landmarks that have been around for over a 1,000 years. The buildings are famous for their Roman architecture and charm. The city is surrounded with ruins that hold stories of the past. One of the professors at the university where we studied explained that Rome is in layers, or as he would say, “like lasagna.” Years of ruins, buildings, and other landmarks lie beneath the busy streets of Rome. Although I spent my mornings in class, my favorite thing was to spend my afternoons walking anywhere down the street to find hidden gems of buildings or monuments only minutes from my dorm in the Prati neighborhood.
I found that almost every visit to a place was covered with detailed ceilings. I ended my trip with so many photos of ceilings. The ornate detail that dates back to time of the early Romans has been carefully restored throughout the years. One of the most incredible ceilings was the Sistine Chapel located in the Vatican Museums.
The opportunity to go inside the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica was one of the most beautiful areas of architecture I have ever seen. The detail that stood out on the walls and ceilings were seemingly uncanny in a way that fit the atmosphere of the chapel. It was the one place I didn’t bring my camera, but I took the time to instead take everything in and look at what was around me.
The beauty of our schedule while abroad was not having Friday classes. This allowed us to have long weekends to travel anywhere we chose. Our first weekend was to Florence and the Tuscan wine country. We were exposed to so much in such a short amount of time. We stayed in the heart of Florence and traveled to Tuscany for a long day trip exploring two different wineries. We were given countless glasses of wine to sample that were paired with the region’s meats and cheeses as well as home-cooked family recipes as a meal.
The next weekend, we were totally spontaneous and booked a last minute trip to Venice. After a four-hour train ride, we arrived in time to explore all of Venice and its canals before our 30-minute gondola ride around the city. The small, quaint city on water was everything I expected, from its charm, colorfulness and small scale pathways through the streets that guided you to each destination. After about five hours, we boarded our train back to Rome.
Week three became a little more anxious for me as I knew that at the end of the week, I would be leaving Italy and stepping outside of my comfort zone. The next destination was to Prague, Czech Republic. Although I was nervous about going, especially without my close friends I had made on the trip, I wouldn’t trade my experience for the world.
The city itself is a lot larger than I ever expected. Every building looks as if it is either still built as a fairytale or constructed as Communist Russian architecture. Within these building holds businesses that seem more Americanized and modern than most would expect. I captured the most beautiful pictures from the top of the clock tower and at the Prague Castle, which stood tall above the whole city.
Our fourth weekend was spent on the beautiful Amalfi Coast of Italy. You could say we really saved the best for last as this was, by far, the most amazing place I have ever traveled to. We started our journey traveling down the coast of Italy, through the cities of Naples and Pompeii, to end up at our hotel accommodations in Sorrento.
We spent our next day taking a boat cruise to the beach of Positano. The beach was lined with bright orange and red umbrellas that lay just beneath the view of the hillside cottage mountaintop. The next day on the trip was spent sailing to the island of Capri. This day was the most exciting of all my time away. After a trip around the island on a large ferry, and the chance to see the famous Blue Grotto, we finally explored the whole island. The island of Capri, as well, is in layers. It is split up into Anacapri, Capri and Capri town. We shopped, explored, and took the Mount Salero chairlift to see all that Capri had to offer.
Traveling to Italy this summer was the most incredible experience I have had in my life thus far that I could call and do all on my own. I saw the world, have seen the world, and look forward to seeing even more on my next adventure. Traveling, no matter where you are, can always come with challenges, but I quickly learned that it is those challenges that are the most fulfilling.