Italy inspires English students while studying abroad

Anna Shay Wasden, left, was among several TROY students who took part in the Summer Arts Academy in Pietrasanta, Italy.

Anna Shay Wasden, left, was among several TROY students who took part in the Summer Arts Academy in Pietrasanta, Italy.

When one thinks of traveling to Italy, they typically envision the big cities and all they have to offer: colorful clusters of homes in Cinque Terre, historical sites in Rome, gondolas cruising in Venice, bustling fashion shows in Milan. But, anyone who has wandered upon a bloom of jasmine on an abandoned street or brushed elbows with a kind old man at the local market knows that the truest way to experience the magic of Italy is in the smallest of its cities.

Tucked away in the Tuscan region, lies a beach city unbeknownst to most. Pietrasanta is tucked between majestic mountains and the serene Mediterranean Sea. It’s home to all the amenities of a larger city while retaining its small-town feel. Whether enjoying the cabanas lining the Marina di Pietrasanta or window shopping in Old Town, there is no shortage of entertainment for travelers.

As Troy University’s summer home, Pietrasanta has welcomed a number of Troy University’s Fine Arts students. For these creative minds, a multitude of inspiration hides in the small town. It has a certain magic that makes even the tiniest of moments, inexplicably joyful: the smiling eyes of a pizzaiolo, an act of kindness by a stranger on the train, or young children dancing in a rainstorm. Dubbed the “Athens of Italy,” Pietrasanta’s art presence features traditions of marble and oil juxtaposed with modern interpretations of street art and graphic design. It seems that even the most abandoned of street corners is host to an artistic expression.

When traveling abroad, students must be constantly aware of their surroundings. Not for safety, but for enjoyment. There is a constant stream of new experiences in the change of scenery. Leaving the classroom and adopting a café among the bustling streets or a cabana near the rhythmic lap of water on the shore as places of learning makes seeking knowledge an even greater experience of pleasure.

To four English majors, stepping off into the unknown of Italian culture was the push we needed to step out of our comfort zones and strengthen our writing careers. Being taught in a “write what you know” world, any chance to grow in knowledge is welcome. With inspirations including the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Ezra Pound- we students worked to join the ranks of expatriate travel writers. But, the life skills we gained far exceeded even the practical writing skills we will translate into our careers.

The overwhelming theme of our Italian tryst was pushing past our fears. We soon became bold and relentless in our pursuit of new, exciting experiences. Our group grew to take on many new hats as we traveled through the two weeks in Tuscany: navigator, Iron Chef, translator, sommelier, cave explorer, and local. But greatest of all- trailblazer, paving the way for future English majors to experience the Summer Arts Academy.

We soon came to say goodbye to the small city of Pietrasanta, but not to its place in our hearts. An immersive experience that does not ever seem to be accurately described in words (even by English majors), the magic contained in our two-week excursion will propel our lives and writing for countless years. Thank you, Troy University!