Back in June, Marisa Romano (‘19) traveled to Italy with Central Michigan University’s Music Department. She had the opportunity to study in a small town named Urbania up in the mountains in the Marche region. In addition to playing music, she also learned how to speak some Italian and experience the country of Italy. “I spent four weeks studying in a very small town in the mountains of the Marche region called Urbania, then another week visiting Florence, Venice, Rome and a few other tourist-y cities,” said Romano.
The culture that Romano experienced was much different compared to the United States.
“I noticed a lot of differences between the United States, Urbania and the larger cities. In Urbania, recycling was a huge deal. In our apartment, all of the buildings and on the streets there were several bins for recycling different types of materials. In our house we had glass, plastic and paper recycling. Pretty much the only thing that was thrown away was food.” Romano reflects on her time traveling within Italy.
“After spending four weeks in the pleasant small town of Urbania, traveling in the larger cities was a bit of a culture shock. I had to be a lot more wary of pickpockets, scams and being overcharged. The food was also not always as good as I had experienced in Urbania. The larger cities were dirtier than I was expecting after spending time in Urbania, and they were very crowded. The people in Urbania were more friendly than in the larger cities as well.”
This is not to say that the large cities were not a good experience.
“They were extremely beautiful and some of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever been,” said Romano. As you may have noticed from previous articles, every country’s cuisine is different. The food in Italy follows this trend.
“Everybody raves about the food in Italy. I really can’t stress that enough. In the United States, I have to stay away from gluten and dairy as much as I can, so I was worried about being in a country known for their bread, pasta and cheese. However, I did not experience any of my normal symptoms while I was there. I still daydream about the pizza and gelato that I had in Urbania. It was some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life.”
When asked about the wine, Romano said, “And of course, the wine! The first thing we learned in our Italian language classes was how to order wine. Our teacher said it was essential to our survival while in Italy.”
Romano recalls her favorite memory from Italy.
“While studying in Urbania, my class took a day trip to Florence. My roommates and I were looking for a place to get gelato and sit down for a few minutes. We were looking through the window at flavors when a man from the restaurant next door asked us if we’d like to go up to the roof. We had no idea what was on the roof, but we said yes. We found ourselves in the cutest rooftop bar, with mismatched seat cushions and long flowing curtains. It was like a scene from a movie. We were a couple blocks away from the Duomo and had the most breathtaking view of Florence.”
They ate desserts and took in the view from the location. “It’s one of my favorite memories from my time in Italy. It was so beautiful and relaxing.” We have all seen photos and paintings from countries abroad. How accurate are these representations of other countries? Romano gives us her ‘two cents.’
“The scenery was definitely my favorite part. People tend to romanticize foreign countries, especially Italy, and I was worried that my expectations were too high and I would be let down. But the country really exceeded my expectations. Everything I saw looked like a painting – rolling hills covered in soft grass and poppy flowers, lanterns lit along the edges of the mountains lighting up in the evening, cobblestone streets with mosaic street signs… everything was so gorgeous.”
Romano gave us some advice on Italy if one were to travel there. “If you have the option, go to the small towns in Italy. It will give you a much more authentic experience and the small towns really show what the country has to offer. The small towns have the best food, the best views, the kindest people, the most relaxed environment. It was cool to see the tourist spots and monuments, but I felt a lot more inspired by the small towns I visited. But if you go to Urbino, bring good walking shoes. The roads can get very steep!”