Life in the Posh Lane: La Bella Vita

Devo lasciare? That’s Italian for: “do I have to leave?” I recently returned from a trip to Italy. In the course of eight days, I was able to travel to Rome (including Vatican City), Florence, and Venice. It was fabulous but also physically and mentally exhausting. I am fairly positive that I walked more in a week in Italy than I did during the last Intersession, which mostly consisted of me binge-watching all eight seasons of Dexter and nurturing a completely healthy addiction to hummus in my basement.

In all seriousness, Italy is no place for those who shudder at cobblestones, alleyways, hills, or ridiculous detours in what seems like a never-ending quest to find a bridge. I will say, however, that I was genuinely surprised to find that, in general, Italy is much more affordable than the United Kingdom. The food, the transportation, the lodging, and the goods are simply cheaper. Now, when you frantically buy all the souvenirs you can and rationalize this behavior because “I may not get back,” then Italy ceases to become affordable and you begin to contemplate what a kidney would fetch you on the Italian black market. Between the street paintings, Murano glass, Venetian masks, and miniature sculptures of just about everything (including a particularly lewd portion of Michelangelo’s David), I found myself running precariously low on Euros. When I finally got on the plane in Venice back to Newcastle, I had a whole ten Euros to my name.

The Colossuem in Rome (Nick DeMichele)
The Colossuem in Rome (Nick DeMichele)

But I regret nothing. I don’t regret indulging in a tour in Rome (twice) or the overpriced limoncello I sipped on my rooftop in Venice. And, yes, I had a rooftop terrace in Venice with a view of St. Mark’s Square. I know, I know – how beautiful. The red stucco roofs with the shimmering domes of St. Mark’s in the distance as the morning sun crests over the Adriatic Sea. And it was beautiful. But it was also hilarious. I had to climb up a very steep and very rickety flight of stairs to access the hobbit-hole of a door that leads out to the terrace, where you then find our very own lovely plastic reclining lawn chairs. That, of course, was after you climb the four elevator-less floors to get to Room 5. That is, with our over fifty pound luggage. Exceptional view, though.

I have always wanted to go to Italy. It has so much to offer: art, food, architecture, food, history, and much more – like food. And I took advantage of it all. I went to the best museums and ancient sites. I stood beneath Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam and Brunelleschi’s dome. And I brought back so much that I will have with me forever: books, souvenirs, knowledge, and about fifteen extra pounds.

Italy was magical in every sense of the word. I was graced with exceptional weather, my scrupulous planning (a result of my intense paranoia and eternal fear of “going with the flow”) eliminated waiting in lines for nearly the entire trip, and there was no incident to sour the trip in any significant way. I, being the practical realist I have grown to be, always expect some kind of setback while travelling. Whether it is a missed train or a lost ticket or a stolen wallet, I always brace for some unpleasantness. And I am very pleased to say that no such disappointment or mistake occurred whilst I was in Italy. I only hope that my luck continues on other trips.

I knocked a good many items off of my bucket list while in Italy. Gondola ride? Check. Colosseum? Check. Trevi fountain? Semi-check. The fountain was under construction but I still threw a coin in. I guess this means I’ll just have to go back to do it properly. Darn.

Me at the Spanish Steps. (Nick DeMichele)
Me at the Spanish Steps. (Nick DeMichele)

I left Italy on a travel high. In this sense, I may sound as if I’m contradicting myself. Do not mistake me. When I was able to feebly drag myself onto the Boeing 727 bound for Northern England, the last thing I was ready for was more travel. Another week in Italy would have left me broke and in a coma. Between the pasta and bread, I was overdosing on carbohydrates. At the same time, I was beginning to develop a taste for red wine that I knew I could not foster economically in the UK (much less legally in the US). However, I found (and still find) myself filled with what the Germans call “fernweh” – an internal desire to travel and explore. It’s insatiable, really. Haylee and I were recently discussing how much we both would love to go to Peru and visit Macchu Picchu. I can’t wait to visit Central Europe over Christmas and I’m frantically planning a trip to Paris in November. My Google search history features insane queries like “paragliding from fjord in Norway” and “shark cages versus safaris in South Africa.” Its utter madness but I love it. If I ever strike it rich, if I ever win the lottery, I don’t need luxury cars or a multi-million dollar home – a home worth a humble one million should suffice. If I ever have the means to do so, I would willingly and gladly spend my money travelling the world. I’m perfectly fine with being a nomad, travelling continents and countries in search of grand adventures and thrills.

Panorama from the top of Castel Sant'Angelo (Nick DeMichele)
Panorama from the top of Giotto’s Tower in Florence. (Nick DeMichele)

One aspect of my study abroad journey (and life) that I haven’t mentioned is the massive support that has been necessary from my family to make this happen. I cannot express just how grateful I am to have parents that encourage me to see the world. My parents have always made a point of, in their words, “exposing me” to places and cities bigger than the quaint abode that is Western Maryland. I like to think that they did a pretty good job. I do not consider myself a particularly sheltered person, and I’m grateful that my mother and father took the initiative to make me a worldly individual with national and global perspectives. But this trip was a bit different. I’m on my own (albeit with Ms. Wilson) in a foreign country for an extended amount of time. It was incredibly selfless of my parents to not only condone my trip, but to encourage it. I have derived my confidence from my parent’s trust and confidence in me. Because they have never hesitated to expose me to different places, I have never hesitated to seize a travel opportunity. For this, I am eternally grateful. Planning a study abroad trip is work. Real work. I can’t imagine doing it with uncooperative parents and I am thankful that I did not have to. And if you’re reading this, Mom and Dad, I was only joking about the shark tanks. Probably.

Haylee Wison and I on a gondola tour in Venice. (Nick DeMichele)
Haylee Wison and I on a gondola tour in Venice. (Nick DeMichele)
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