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Under the Tuscan Sun a Pisa my heart was taken

Under the Tuscan Sun a Pisa my heart was taken

Adventures come in the most unlikely of ways and arrive you at destinations you never even thought of going to.  Some take you thousands of miles away, while others are within the comforts of your own home, both allowing you to experience the world differently. It’s a big world out there, one I feel the need to constantly explore.

The more my wanderlust grows, the more I find myself going back to the lessons that brought me here. I am who I am because of the person I was yesterday. My yearning for knowledge and sense of adventure has grown with me throughout the years. It’s something I continue to take with me. I was taught that you must leave every day learning something and that you can take something positive from everything and everyone. The lessons I’ve learned have come in the most unlikely of ways, at moments when I needed them most.

Similar to any day, between the hustle and bustle of classes and exploring the beautiful city of Roma, I was caught with a question brought up by my professor out of the blue, interrupting a lecture on Kant. “Have you experienced the aesthetics of Italy or taken in what it is that truly makes this country unique?” At a loss for words, in one moment, everything hit me. There are so many places I’m going to have the opportunity to see, but I have to appreciate what’s right in front of me.


I’ve become much of a jet setter, constantly packing my bags and hopping in the next taxi to Fiumicino Airport, but forgot just how big my new home is, within the walls of Roma and that of this amazing country. Due to this sudden awakening, I found myself spontaneously making my way to the library checking out every book on Italy. There is something you learn from everywhere you go, but the things you take with you are from the places you call home. Roma has become that for me and due to this, I made it my duty to find what is that makes it the place for me. Within minutes I transformed a graph paper into a bucket list, something I now constantly take with me.

Through this experience I’ve adapted to a life of looking at the beauty of the unexpected, so I look at my bucket list not as something I must complete, but as a source of motivation to live every moment and see where it takes me. My week was much like the others filled with an unnatural amount of wandering. I just go. It doesn’t matter when, it doesn’t matter where, but I allow it to be a part of my journey.

Now, living much like a local and not like a tourist, I’ve come to find my favorite spots when I need just a sip of Espresso, am in the mood for singing and dancing, or am craving the best pesto pasta ever placed on a plate. I spend much of my mornings attending classes, but due to this beautiful weather I force myself to leave and wander around my neighborhood of Balduina or make my way down to the center of Roma. I may continue to get lost, but my list of familiar places continues to grow each day. I never know where my every day takes me, but from this study abroad experience I’ve come to know it feels great to be lost in the right direction, that being any corner on the streets of Italy.

Through my long walks without a map and just a gut feeling, I have finally taken some time in my life to just think. I have come to realize how large of a difference there is between “I can’t believe I did that” and “I wish I did”. I’ve always wished to get to know and adapt to the place I live, grasping a life like those around me, while continuing to express my uniqueness from the memories I experienced prior to that moment. I realized there was nothing stopping me from making this wish a reality.

Italy is a beautiful country with so much to see, so while spending my week in my city of Roma, I realized it was my calling to make my way north to the architectural wonder city of Florence and enjoy the vineyards of Tuscany. One moment, one realization, is all it took for me to book my tickets to leave central Italy and explore the North. This experience allowed me to see first hand the differences within a country and how each city, with its people and culture, is unique.

Much of the cities in the North are smaller compared to Rome, allowing me to take the opportunity to put a lot into a four day, three-night trip. Five of my study abroad friends and I rented a flat in the city of Florence for the weekend, where we got to experience the beauty of it both during the day and at night. It was the one place where my ability to wander was of great value and my sense of adventure came into full effect.


Once realizing the advantage of my location, I planned trips to not only see and experience the beauty within Florence’s small city limits, but that of its famous surrounding neighborhoods. I reminded myself that life offers you a thousand chances and all you have to do is take one. I took the chance and landed myself on a tour bus seeing Tuscany in a day.

Not knowing what to expect, like much of my days here, I got on the bus with only the knowledge of my stopping points: Pisa, Siena, and San Gimignano, tourist attractions along the Tuscan Region. I began my day tilting my head at the breathtaking Piazza dei Miracoli, admiring the Cathedral and famous Leaning Tower, walked the streets Leonardo da Vinci once walked on in the small Medieval village of Vinci, learned the proper technique of wine tasting at a vineyard, visited the wonders of the hilltop town of San Gimignano, and ended our day on the country side of Siena envisioning Piazza del Campo filled with horses on race day. All it took was a day under the Tuscan Sun to truly appreciate its beauty.

This day trip gave me an answer to my teacher’s question, Italy’s beauty is found within its authenticity. Each city was miles from the other, but prided itself in something completely it’s own, whether it was raising a genius or having the greatest grape fields in the world. It wasn’t the attractions that did it for me, it was observing those around me. Walking around, I couldn’t help but get myself lost in their people, seeing how happy they were to be there. I’ve never seen anything like it, individuals being so in love with a place they live, that they stay for generations and go by their location over a family name. I started in the Square of Miracles, but concluded the day by witnessing the miracle of being in Italy. I was lost under the Tuscan sun and couldn’t get myself from stop enjoying it!


As if that trip wasn’t wonderful enough, I departed for the Verona in Love festival, only fitting for Valentine’s Day. Life had a funny way of working out and allowed me to go with one of my closest high school friends who happened to be studying abroad in Florence, Michaela. With her by my side, along with two friends from my program who spent time exploring Bologna and her college best friend, we embarked on a journey to not fall in love with someone, but a location.

Allowing the day to just see where it would take us, we walked for miles experiencing life as Juliet witnessing people write letters for love guidance and roaming the Piazza’s delle Erbe and dei Signori. We saw the preparations for the Romeo and Juliette Half Marathon taking place in Piazza Bra and entered a greenhouse for marriage ceremonies without even knowing it! We stood in line to touch the chest of Juliet following the legend that it will bring us love, and stood on her balcony waiting for our Romeo. Love was in the air and everyone could feel it.

Realizing that every city has it’s history, we went back in time to appreciate the Roman Arena, house of ancient art performances like Romeo and Juliet, walked along the brick bridge and crossed the river to set foot in Castelvecchio (The Castle of Verona), said a prayer in Duomo di Verona asking for guidance of our hearts, and went to Lamberti Tower. It was Valentine’s Day in its most perfect sense.

As if falling in love with two completely eventful trips wasn’t enough I spent the remainder of my time appreciating the wonderful antique city of Florence, visiting Michaelangelo’s David at Galleria dell’Academia, surrounded myself in gold at Ponte Vecchio, gazing at the detailing of Il Duomo Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, admired the works of Gallerie degli Uffizi, enjoyed Piazza del Republicca filled with young adults playing on the Carousel in the middle of the night, and admired Cattedral di Santa Maria as well as Basilica di San Lorenzo. Florence took me back centuries, but brought me to the realities of how a small city really can change the world.


 I may have stayed within the boundaries of my own country, but got to appreciate it in an entirely new way. The language and hospitality stayed the same, but history and culture showed me how different where I live is from the rest of Italy. Each place you go to has something authentic that makes the world a wonderful place. Italy continues to amaze me, making it harder for me ever planning to leave. How did I get so lucky?! Pinch me now, I really am living the dream!

Ciao Tutti!

Gabriella Lunich

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