Siena has officially become what I consider home, as far as this semester is concerned. I have traveled inside and outside of Italy and had great experiences. After these weekend trips, especially the more recent ones, there has been a sigh of relief once I wake up in my own bed in Siena and have breakfast ready from my host mom. But after my 10 fall break, by the end of it, I needed to come back to Siena. I spent two nights in Rome, three nights in Sorrento, two nights in Florence and one night in Venice and by the end I was so ready to be back in Siena. 5 cities in 10 days is not something that I would advocate for, especially having to navigate cities like Rome, Florence and Venice, above all Venice, on one’s own.
I went to Rome with two friends of mine and really enjoyed the city. There is so much to see and for the two full days that we were there it felt like we sprinted around from 8 in the morning until we got back to the hostel at 8 that night.
We all parted after Rome, they for Spain, and me for Sorrento. I have traveled to Rome, Sorrento and Venice with my family 7 years ago but with the ten days that we had off, I really wanted to explore Italy because my heritage is here, and being able to travel around speaking the language is something I wanted to try out. So to Sorrento I went, all by my lonesome. And I continued the rest of the trip alone which made the travel experience as much about what I saw as what I learned about myself. I really wanted to go to Sorrento so that I could visit the Amalfi Coast, which apparently is where my family is from in Italy. I went to Atrani, a small village/town on the coast of the bay of Naples and asked around with very little information about my background. As a result, I didn’t find out much, but with the very little I knew, I wasn’t expecting to find much. Sorrento was great as a follow up of Rome because the pace was so much slower. I went from sprinting around Rome to lounging on the beaches, in November no less, in Sorrento.
From Sorrento, I went north to Florence. I liked the city, it struck me as a more monumental Siena, much of the architecture and other cultural elements are similar which makes sense given their proximity. After Florence, I took a quick train to Venice for roughly 24 hours. I didn’t have much planned so the brevity of the visit was by no means a problem. The highlights were finding a great, cheap bakery and attending mass in the Duomo, which allowed for a bit of a tour for free. It’s a very interesting city obviously, I like the character of it. I haven’t traveled A LOT, in Europe or otherwise, but in my limited experience, no city has character like Venice has character, at least for me.
Emotionally, I hit a wall in Sorrento and Florence. I was just done with traveling, with moving around, with the stress of having to find and do everything myself. But for no other reason than because I had to, I just kind of shook myself off and kept going. Ironically, when I traveled to Venice with my family, it was one of my worst memories of our trip and it was definitely shaping up to be a similar experience this time around but for a lot of different little reason, the pastry shop, the church, people that I met, it was one of my favorite places.
Getting back to Siena… What a relief. I can’t express how it felt to actually know without thinking about it where I was and what I had to do to get home or get food or get anything. Such a weight was lifted off my brain, and my feet kind of carried me to my house from the train station without much happening in my brain. Waking up the next morning too, was such a sigh of relief.
That’s when I really took stock, of myself and of my possessions. I came back in one piece, I didn’t lose anything, I made every reservation I had – train or otherwise- I didn’t run out of money, I didn’t have anything stolen. So many little successes that built up to a huge success of my traveling experience. So I guess the main takeaway was that I came out alright, I made it to the other side safe and sound. There were more, I saw the pope (no big deal), but I’m happy enough knowing I can handle myself. Oh, it was unbelievable to get back to my host mom’s cooking. I don’t know how I lived without it for 10 days.
Patrick is a student at College of William and Mary studying at Siena Italian Studies during the Fall 2013 term.