This weekend, my study abroad program had our first academic excursion! This means that the staff and our teachers take us to cities around Italy to teach us more about Italian history and culture. This academic excursion was called the Medieval Tuscan Excursion, and we visited four cities in Tuscany in three days! This trip was definitely a whirlwind of travel and learning, and I loved it!
The first city that we visited on our excursion was San Gimignano. From the second we arrived, I was blown away by the beauty of the tiny town. As we walked toward the center of the city, we could look out and see the rolling hills and mountains of the country side. Then, my art history professor took us on a tour of the most prominent church in the town. After that, we were free to explore for about an hour and a half. My friends and I grabbed a quick slice of pizza for lunch before climbing one of the fourteen towers that are still standing in San Gimignano. The view of the town from the tower was truly amazing! I couldn’t believe the sights were real – I felt like I was in a movie! My friends and I had the top of the tower to ourselves so we stayed up there for as long as our schedule would allow to take it all in.
Right before we needed to meet back up with the rest of the group, we grabbed some gelato. There’s always time for gelato!!
Then, we piled back on to the bus to head for Siena!!
When we arrived in Sienna, we quickly began touring! My art history professor first took us to the church where St. Catherine’s head is kept. Then, we toured the Palazzo Pubblico and the Battistero and Duomo of Siena. These tours taught us a lot about the history of Siena and Romanesque architecture.
Next, we checked into our hotel that we were staying in for the night. After that, we were free to go get some dinner and explore! I had a delicious, cheesy gnocchi for dinner and then – what else? – gelato for dessert! Bright and early the next day we were back on the road headed for Lucca!
The first thing we did when arriving in Lucca was walk to the center of the town. It was a great way to start to learn the city. Lucca is known for the fact that it’s medieval city wall is still in tact, so after walking through the city, we walked all of the way around the city on the wall! It was about a four mile walk. Along the wall, there are tons of small parks and benches. We saw so many local people enjoying the outdoors, jogging, or walking their dogs. It felt like we were really seeing a slice of Italian life because it was not very touristy.
Then we stopped in a cafe and had some panino for lunch before walking around the town and window shopping. Next, we met up with the group to check into our second hotel for the weekend. While we were there, we got dressed up for the night! We went back into the city and attended Mass at St. Martin’s Cathedral in Italian! This was the first time I have been to church in Italian. It was very exciting because there were parts of the Mass that I could follow. Then, we went to a delicious four course meal with the whole group to end the night! The next morning, we were back on the bus headed for Pisa!
When we arrived in Pisa, we quickly headed toward the Camposanto to tour the church and baptistry. They were both very beautiful! Then we had free time to take all of our touristy pictures with the leaning tower and to climb the tower! Being at the top of the tower was very scary. You can really feel that the building is leaning! The view from the top made it all worth it, however! Too soon we were back on the bus to come back to Rome, ending a very exciting weekend!
In all, the highlight of my weekend was walking around the city wall in Lucca. This town was so tiny and beautiful. The walk around the wall was so peaceful and you could gaze off into the beautiful mountains that surround the city from every angle. Watching Italian people go about their routines in the parks and on the path around the city made it feel so livable. I really felt like I could picture myself living there! The low point of the weekend was definitely how quickly we moved around from city to city and the structure of the trip. For example, we were only in San Gimignano for about three hours. I loved it there so much and there was so much more to see, but we did not have time. I really wish that we could have stayed longer! It’s ok though – it gives me an excuse to come back one day!!