Italy. Italia. Where do I even begin? This trip was such a blessing, and I thrived as an artist and individual. I expected to learn new things and be immersed in a new culture, but I didn’t expect to be woken up and changed by my experiences. I feel like a new person and my time in Italy has had an impact that will affect me for a lifetime.
When I arrived in Italy, I was blown away by the beauty and simplicity the country had to offer. It was stunning, and I sat in awe on our bus as we traveled to Pietrasanta (the town where we were staying) from the Milan airport. The mountains and gorgeous countryside were echoing hellos as I sat reflecting on how lucky I was to be there with my peers and teachers. We stopped at a little marketplace for lunch, and I ordered my first meal in Italian! Now, it took me about 15 minutes to figure out the process and how to correctly order it, but hey I did it! When we arrived in Pietrasanta later that day, we hauled our luggage up the hill to the convent where we were staying, and when I saw the view from our room I was in shock. It was breathtakingly beautiful! Because we were staying on the top floor, we had a view that overlooked the whole town! Every day I would wake up to that view and be captivated by it. Pietrasanta is a town full of art, wonderfully kind people, jaw-dropping sights and views, and scrumptious Italian cuisine. And do you want to know something crazy?! That town stays awake all night! I’m talking about restaurants, gelato shops, souvenir shops, jewelry stores, clothing stores, book stores, and even furniture stores. They’re all open so late! We were walking around close to midnight our first night there, and I was completely taken aback by all those places being open. If you have a sudden urge to buy a couch or a painting of your dog late at night, you can do it in Pietrasanta! My night owl soul finally found its home.
I not only got the pleasure of enjoying Pietrasanta, but I also got to enjoy Florence, Forte di Marmi, Marina di Pietrasanta, Rome, and Pisa. Being able to experience these historic and culturally captivating cities filled my soul with an invigorated appreciation for the arts. There is nothing that compares to standing inside St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City in Rome and being surrounded by so much beauty that you begin to cry, or witnessing the great Michelangelo’s work in Florence (the David is absolutely breathtaking and a lot taller than I imagined!), or experiencing the beauty of nature while swimming in the Mediterranean Sea! I was truly blessed to be able to experience these things, and we were so lucky to have our amazing and knowledgeable teachers and the Chancellor’s wife with us! I spent some time with our Chancellor’s wife, Mrs. Hawkins, in Florence and she bestowed upon me so much knowledge and history of the cathedrals we visited and of Michelangelo’s life. I was able to fully experience the art and history I was taking in because of her. And we would not have gotten to fully experience another great city, Rome, if it was not for one of our professors, Tommy Newman! He mapped out an entire route for us that allowed us to see the Coliseum side of Rome and Vatican City! Our phones told us we walked almost 11 miles in Rome, and we got to experience so much of the history and architecture Rome had to offer. I could write a whole series of novels about the sights and culture I was able to soak in while I was in Italy. There was so much to see, but one thing that really stood out to me was the beauty of it all. There’s something inspiring and revitalizing about being in a country that values preservation of history over something new and shiny.
As I mentioned earlier, I was deeply affected as an individual and an artist on this trip, and it was because of my experience of being immersed in not only Italian artistry, but artistry from all around the world. Each night we got to experience dance from different parts of the world and each afternoon me and the other theatre students were immersed in the world of commedia dell’arte for the first week, and musical theatre for the second week. It was an experience I will never forget, and I learned so much. I learned how to let go and not be afraid to play and try new things, and it was so freeing as an artist to be completely vulnerable and open. This kind of learning and acting allowed us to grow as artists, and become closer as peers. We learned new things about one another and got to fully appreciate the talents each one of us has. I get emotional thinking about the talent I witnessed, and how each one of us got invaluable experience in our different areas of expertise.
I wish this trip would have never ended. I’m so grateful for the lessons I learned, people I met, history I experienced, the glorious Italian food, and for our wonderful professors who were always there for us and who also took on the roles of caregivers to those of us who got sick, including me. They deserve an infinite amount of grazies (thank yous)! A “thank you” needs to be heard around the world for Tori Lee Averett (our Theatre and Dance Department chair), Mrs. Janice Hawkins (our Chancellor’s wife), Deborah Hicks, Tommy Newman, and Dominique Angel (what would we have done without these amazing teachers?), Giancarlo Suave (our “papa” whose restaurant fed us each night and who was there every time we needed him for absolutely anything), Laura Soave (papa’s daughter, who was our guide and savior throughout the trip), and everyone involved with the DAP Festival (the international dance festival we attended) and the city of Pietrasanta! Grazie! This trip would not have been possible without all of you!
Ciao for now, Italy! I hope to be able to visit you again!