I’m finally here! I made it through the airports, flights, and baggage claims with no difficulty (other than sitting in the wrong seat accidentally on both flights… travel amateur). When I arrived in the airport in Rome, I had to sit and wait for an Umbra staff member for about an hour and got to watch all the Italians pass by me. I saw a couple where the man was continuously speaking animatedly to his wife and she, totally not paying attention, was on her phone. I saw young Italian girls with designer shoes and men that looked like they stepped out of a fashion magazine. Everyone seemed to be talking fast and jovial Italian except for the one little old man who had fallen asleep on the seat next to me.
Once the Umbra staff member came up to me, I had already found some girls who were also going to Umbra, one of which I knew from Richmond. We all got on a bus that was to drive us to a hotel right outside the city center of Perugia to spend the night. As the first group to go to the hotel, we were the first to experience the gorgeous drive! I’ve never been in Tuscany, but that bus ride had scenery that looked like it could be on a postcard of Tuscany. I couldn’t help but snap a few pictures between taking naps to kill my incredible jetlag.
So when we got to the hotel, some staff members Mauro and Laura talked to us about orientation type stuff, and we got room keys for our hotel rooms. After settling into my quaint little triple (with two of my soon-to-be apartmentmates), I went with some newly made friends to a little pizzeria for some good old Italian pizza! It was 100 times better than any American pizza I’ve had. The sauce was the biggest change. It was so sweet and yummy compared to American sauce, and I’m not usually one for red sauce. We split two margherita pizzas between the seven of us, and we still had four slices no one was able to eat. After changing, taking a nap, getting a cheap international phone, and going over my class schedule, we all met in the restaurant area of the hotel and had a welcome dinner with everyone from the program.
Every dish they brought out was absolutely amazing. The first dish was pasta with the same yummy sauce from that pizza. Then they brought out salad, chicken legs that were perfectly seasoned, fried potatoes that were like the more elite, more yummy version of French fries, and for dessert was a dark chocolate mousse with nuts sprinkled on top. The one weird thing is that in Europe they drink seltzer water as much as regular water, so wherever there was water, there was also just as much seltzer water available.
Some other weird things: instead of a ground floor, they call it -1 or 0 in the elevators. And the “first floor” is actually the second floor, which got a little confusing. Also Italian drivers are actually insane. All the roads have lanes, but they don’t seem to notice and just float into each other’s lanes. Every car is a FIAT pretty much, or another small car, and there are a lot of mopeds. They drive on really narrow streets and you have to be extra careful as a pedestrian because they drive super fast.
After sleeping like a log last night, we got up and got breakfast that was provided downstairs. It was continental style except super yummy. I got a cappuccino, a chocolate croissant and another chocolate pastry. Can’t go wrong with that! My apartment-mates and I were the first to move into our apartment. And let me just say how amazing it is!! We are right off the main piazza and have a grocery store and pizzeria right on our street and have an amazing view a short walk away by the minimetro. On the first level of our apartment is a courtyard and a music store. We have to walk up three flights of stairs to get to our apartment, but it is so worth it. I have four apartment-mates and there’s a single and two doubles. My roommate Jessica (from Charleston) and I seem to get along well so far, and my apartment-mates Meg (from Chicago), Kirti (from Northern New Jersey), and Emma (from DC) are great as well! Each bedroom has a full bathroom attached, there’s a living area/kitchen, and then a laundry room with a washer. Our kitchen has a full oven and a gas stove, and came stocked with dishes, silverware, pots, and pans. We went to the grocery store and bought some food for lunch (mozzarella, salami, baguettes, tomatoes) and some toiletries for myself. Then we walked around the city center for a while.
Walking along the streets is so amazing with all the people all around. There’s a fountain in the piazza with steps that people sit and socialize on. Everyone seems to move at their own pace, there’s older people and their’s younger people. There’s plenty of dogs, gelaterias, pizzerias, and children. There are tourists too, but not that many. There are street performers and merchants all over. We spotted a man playing an accordion and a man playing some instrument that looked like a xylophone. The music played in restaurants is always American oldies. I heard Queen and even Madonna at one point. Every clothing store looks like a literal hole in the wall, there are restaurants hidden in back alleys, and the views we saw were phenomenal. Me and my roommate both enjoy hiking so we are excited to start hiking the trails around us, as we’re surrounded by mountains and valleys.
After our self-guided tour around the city center, we went to take the language placement test in the Umbra building. It was pretty difficult for me, so hopefully I don’t have a tough time trying to communicate here. I’ve been kind of relying on people around me to speak for me, or I just go silent and use my hands a lot. I just feel awkward trying to speak Italian since I’m not Italian, and to be honest, I kinda feel like a poser if I do. I need to get past that barrier soon so I can become better at speaking it. Talking about that, I need to go take my oral exam now, so hopefully that goes well! Tonight we’re having a pizza night with everyone at Umbra, and then tomorrow is just more orientation stuff and walking tours. I hope to keep you all updated!