FERRARA IS THE REAL DEAL
Ferrara is the ideal city for students looking for an authentic Italian experience. We were stationed in the very center within the city walls. Every day, a walk down Via Mazzini (AKA Umbrella Street) quickly led us to the Castle, the Cathedral, and the Community Square.
The Ferrara community is largely made up of a college to 30's aged crowd, as opposed to Ravenna's young kids and family crowd, or Rome's party tourist crowd. On Wednesday nights, everyone would usually congregate in front of the Cathedral. It was definitely interesting seeing a bunch of young kids drinking and smoking on the Cathedral steps.
The locals speak Italian so students are forced to pick up some of the native language if they don't know it already. This is ideal for students really looking to emerge themselves in Italian language and culture. In more touristy cities, speaking English is all you need.
This city is ruled by bicycles, and for a couple of euros you can ride like a local too. If you don't want to rent a bike, walking and navigating your way through the Ferrara streets is still incredibly easy. In fact, walking from one city wall to the next may take less than 40 minutes.
Despite the homey feeling of Ferrara, the city's Castle, Terraviva Farms and history of the Estense family can still be a tourist's dream.
ITALIAN DINNERS NEVER END
Italians are famous for taking their time at meals and enjoying the moment. While it would take me maybe 45 minutes to eat dinner in America, it would take me closer to 4 hours to eat dinner in Italy.
It was nice at first. Everyone was happy to slow down, and chit chat during the long breaks between courses. However, after the fourth day of endless dinners, I was SO over it.
I am a busy body, and chilling while waiting for the next course in a long dinner after an already long day killed me. All I could do was think about all the other things I could be doing: homework, editing, sleeping, or watching a performance in the city square.
Long dinners made me anxious.
I understand that there is value and significance to experiencing food as opposed to only using it as a fuel stop to your next destination, but the never ending dinners were a bit excessive for me.
The next time I go out to eat, I will gladly meet in the middle of American quick stop eating and Italian leisure eating. Buon appetito!
H-TOWN IN THE HOUSE
As I previously wrote, traveling alone's pretty cool...but traveling with friends is even better.
I am so thankful that I was able to experience Italia with such an interesting group of individuals: Marcelo, Mandy, Nikki, Priscilla, and Lady Chad. Between us, laughter was contagious, energy was endless, and the fun kept coming.
Now if a picture's worth a thousand words, what is a video worth?
Certainly it's not enough to give the full experience, but it'll do, packed with Ferrara, Rome, Ravenna, Comacchio, Venice, Florence, Siena, and Verona goodness.
A 5 STEP GUIDE TO CAPTURING SUPERB SNAPSHOTS
AS LEARNED AND OBSERVED IN THE STREETS OF ITALY
1. THE CAMERA
2. THE SUBJECT
3. THE WAITING
4. THE SNAP
Don't take too much of their time, and as implied by the Golden Rule, offer to take a picture of them too.
5. THE MEMORIES
Make your memories and remember how everything looked, sounded, smelled, tasted, and felt because the camera won't do them justice anyways.
FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAYS
At 21 years old, I definitely don’t consider myself an “adult.”
In fact, this trip to Italy is probably one of the most “adult” things I’ve ever done. I bought the plane tickets by myself, got my passport by myself, traveled across the country by myself, and even stayed a night in a city that speaks another language by all myself.
To say I was pumped was an understatement. I was inspired, absolutely invigorated with the excitement of a new environment, a new culture, and a new language. I was going solo, taking on the world, and proving to everyone just how capable I am. I promised myself that I would make the most of this and REALLY experience Italy.
But slowly, after some 18 odd hours of flights, layovers, and transfers, after checking into my hostel, and after the time came to actually venture into the city, apprehension and mild panic may have begun to creep its way in.
I was in a different environment. And a different culture. With a different language. Alone. Flashbacks of any time I watched the news about women traveling alone that ended with death, injury, or theft flooded into my head. Top it all off with the fact that there was an official Travel Alert on Europe by the U.S. Department of State, and I was done.
But I was in Italy. I made it on my own, and I was determined to explore the city stag! Despite the spike of fear and uncertainty that shocked me, every step I took from my second floor room to the hostel front doors turned the panicked fear into excited fear, and excited fear into excitement. I know that I am a smart, confident, and friendly young woman. I was not, am not, and will not be a person you hear about in the news. “Taken. Tricked. Victim.” I think on alert, I find solutions, and I know that nothing is unconquerable in my life…even with language barriers.
Honestly, these flashes of thoughts and feelings passed through my mind within seconds, before I was out on my way, exploring the city. Regardless of how short a time it was that I reflected, it was an eye opening moment for me that helped shape the rest of my trip as well as how I view my independence. In the future, my wide-eyed appetite for adventure will take me to places I have never imagined before. At the same time, my instinctive caution will calm me to fully think through, understand, and appreciate each and every action I am able to take.
Italy was the perfect test run of my journey around the world. Go me!