4 am… my alarm goes off. Surprisingly though I am not struck by my normal aggravated sleep deprived attitude that makes me want to throw my alarm clock out the window, but instead I smile. Today is going to be a special day, one that I have been looking forward to all semester long. I call a cab (mass transportation in Italy doesn’t start running until 6) and head for the train station which will take me to the airport, which will take me to Rome.
Now don’t get me wrong, I was excited for Rome, but the thought of seeing the beautiful city filled with historical sites, both beautiful and meaningful, was not what I had been dreaming of and longing for. But instead it was what awaited me in Rome that fueled by excitement… My mother, my father, my sister, and my best friend.
Italy has been amazing. I have experienced an incredible and brand new culture, I have met people different from myself from every corner of the globe, and I have traveled and seen some of the most amazing places the world has to offer. But even among all of the excitement, adventure, and incredible experiences you can never forget about home, and having a taste of home by spending time with the people I love meant the world to me.
A 10-day tour of Italy was filled with adventure, frustration, and all in all a lot of love. Now, every family vacation includes some kind of dysfunctional acts and my family is no exception, but I believe that it is how you handle those situations that defines what a family truly is.
Now after arriving in Rome, excitement and jet lag were in a vicious quarrel after the 10-hour flight, but for the most part excitement won out and allowed us to begin getting a feel for the busy city and seeing why it is considered one of the worlds greatest.
That weekend was phenomenal for a number of reasons. Rome is truly beautiful and the sites are breathtaking, but in all of my trips so far I have learned that much more than just seeing sites, the true value of experiencing them lies in who you share them with. While I will always remember seeing the sights, more fondly I will remember the experiences and memories that correspond with the sights. I won’t just remember seeing the Trevi Fountain, I will remember throwing coins into it, and paying a street vendor 2 euros and 1 dollar (in quarters) (which was all we had at the time) to take a Polaroid picture. I will not only remember the Vatican and Sistine Chapel, but also remember spending time with my family there, and helping my dad survive the number of monotonous stairs while attempting to keep up with our speedy tour guide. I will remember translating Italian into English in an authentic Italian restaurant, sitting at the top of the Spanish Steps and buying flowers on a romantic night, seeing the view from the top of the Castello San Angelo, and pretending I was starring in Gladiator while I was at the Coliseum. As amazing as Rome was, I know that most of my fondest memories of it are because of who I was with as opposed to what I was seeing.
A Monday train ride brought us to Milan where I delighted in showing my family the appeals of the city I have called my home for the past 4 months. I was proud to show off Milan, and was excited to finally be able to show them the places and people I had been describing since my arrival. I quickly felt like an excited tour guide and wanted to show them all of the things that have made me come to love Milan. A day trip to Florence (one of my favorite cities in Italy) and a few more days in Milan put everyone in a great mood and gave us some time to relax after the stresses of attempting to squeeze the large city of Rome into 2 and a half days.
Finally our journey continued to the beautiful and breathtaking Lake Como, which was a breath of fresh air and took us away from city life. Boat trips, Mountain-top views, and amazing dinners outlined this weekend, but again it was the memories of who I was with that made it all that more special. Como has a very special place in my heart having been in awe of it’s sights, having enjoyed its amazing food, and having experienced some truly romantic and amazing moments there. I won’t get into any deep details, but never have a padlock, an old rickety iron fence, and a swan ever made me feel so loved.
Most importantly seeing and spending time with the people I care about most in this world was an incredible treat that I will always be thankful for getting to experience. As great as study abroad and living in Europe has been for me, being able to get a little taste of home brought me a whole lot of happiness, and seeing those that I miss the most was something I desperately needed.
The sights were great, the memories were better, and the people were irreplaceable… I will never forget it.