The Journey So Far…
I can’t believe that I’m actually in Italy! I’ve been so excited about this trip for months, and now I’m finally here. This whole trip has been such an experience. It was my first time on a plane and I loved it. I watched two movies and ate every snack that was offered to me. I was basically living the life.
It was incredibly hot when I arrived in Lecce for the E.C.CO summer session, but I adjusted to the climate pretty quickly. The city is beautiful and, of course, the food is delicious. Anyone who knows me is aware of my obsession with ice cream and now, with gelato. The gelato here is beyond amazing, and I’ve been indulging in it far more often than I care to admit. But hey, you only live once right? With flavors such as cannoli, nutella, and hazelnut, it’s pretty impossible to resist. My favorite gelateria has to be this cute spot in Gallipoli called Martinucci. If you ever find yourself in the heel of Italy, make sure you take a trip to this lovely coast town, stop by Martinucci, and get a huge cone with at least two different flavors. I hate to say this, but I actually went there twice in one day. It was just that good.
Of course, I haven’t just been eating gelato all day. I’ve also been checking out some of the coolest spots that Lecce has to offer. Gallipoli is a coast town famous for its fresh fish and lively night scene. On the night I visited, there was some sort of music festival going on, and I was able to watch some performances in the city center. I also loved Matera, which is basically a whole city carved from rock. No one really lives in the older stone houses anymore, but some people have moved back into the recently renovated ones. It was amazing to see that the whole area is holding up well. Matera is also famous for its bread, which my housemates and I had to buy before we left.
The beaches here are beautiful, with white sand and pristine waters. Italians love the beach and spend most of their summer near the water. Recently, my study-abroad program went on a boat ride to some grottoes in the Adriatic Sea. We got to climb through the caves and swim in the deep blue water. It was probably the most memorable experience that I’ve had here so far.
Between all of the gelato-eating and sightseeing, I still have to make time for school. I have class for three hours every weekday morning. In that time, we review Italian conjugations, practice our conversational skills, and learn as much about Italian culture as possible. My professor is actually from Lecce, and she has given my class a ton of recommendations on everything from which groceries to buy to which restaurants to visit. She was the one who recommended that I stop at Martinucci when we went to Gallipoli. Needless to say, I now listen to her every word.
As much as I love Lecce, I am still excited to get to Bologna later in September. There, I will take courses at the University of Bologna, one of the world’s oldest colleges. Taking four classes at this university is kind of intimidating, but I know that it will help me improve my knowledge of the Italian language. I also can’t wait to meet my Italian roommates and explore the northern region of the country. I have never been to Italy before, and definitely want to stop at all the touristy sites as well as at the local favorites. I am ready to settle into a normal routine in Bologna and finally unpack everything in my suitcase. However, before I even arrive in Bologna, I get to stop in Rome. The E.C.CO group has four days to get to Bologna, and we all have to coordinate our own travel plans. I knew that Rome would be the perfect place to visit during this time, not only because it is on the way, but also because I’ve been dreaming about visiting the city for such a long time. There are so many sites that I want to see, with the Vatican and the Colosseum on top of the list. I can’t wait to experience everything!