narni, italy – the flight & our first day

If you didn’t know, this past July I had the opportunity to visit Narni, Italy for two weeks. It was a trip run by the Italian language company IACE and the Narnia Music Festival. In the spring, with the help of my Italian teacher, I created a video that I submitted to IACE. I won the scholarship contest and was one of the twenty other students selected to go.

While making the video, I didn’t think much of the trip. I was only a beginner in Italian, and I knew there were tons of other students entering who were ten times more advanced and qualified than I was. I didn’t think I would win, but I tried my best anyways and attempted staying positive about it. When I found out I won, I was shocked, confused, and excited; it didn’t really kick in that I was going to Italy again until I was at the airport.

I’ll talk more about this as I continue sharing photos, but the main reason why it has taken me so long to write about it is because of how special it was for me. The two weeks I spent in Narni changed my perspective on life and opened my eyes in so many ways. I met the most lovely, intelligent, and special friends there, and I laughed (and cried!) more than I had in a long while.

So, you see, the reason I haven’t been able to write about it is that I don’t think I can translate into words how much it meant to me. Also, I feel as though many of the memories are more personal, you-had-to-be-there memories, and I don’t want to over-explain them because I don’t know if they’ll make any sense.

Well, I’m going to try my best to give you an accurate taste of the incredible trip I went on this past July. I hope you enjoy… Andiamo!

My trip begins at JFK Airport in New York on Monday, July 16th. My dad, brother, and I left home at around 8:30 to get to the airport around noon. Once we got there, we had about an hour and a half to kill before I had to meet up with the rest of the group. I ate a snack in the food court area, and my dad got some airport sushi which wasn’t actually half bad. Then, around two p.m., we walked to the check-in counter and met up with the group.

I knew no one in this group, except for the other student from my school who won the scholarship as well. He happened to be in my class, too, so we had the same skill level in Italian, which made me feel a lot better. Other than him, the only known commonalities within our group were 1) we all live on the East Coast and 2) we all are learning Italian. I hadn’t spoken to anyone else before the airport, and this was my initial fear about going on the trip.

Once we checked our bags, it was time to say goodbye to our families and head to security. The line leading up to security was awkward, and no one really spoke to each other. I find it funny looking back at that moment; while going through security on our way home, everyone was talking or laughing their way through the line.

We made it past security and were given free time to wander around until we had to board. There were some students from the same school who paired up and wandered off, but many of us didn’t know anyone. When the group split up, I didn’t know what to do, so I put on my shoes and slowly began to wander. Immediately, I thought that the whole trip would be like this and I’d be alone and awkward the whole time. Horrible thoughts swirled around my brain, but then I remembered I brought four books and would have plenty of time to read (more on that later…), so maybe I would be okay after all.

I quickly exited my negative frame of mind when someone walked up next to me. She said, half-laughing, “I’m not really sure what to do…” and I replied, “yeah, me neither…” (or something like that). From there, we introduced ourselves, and I made my first new friend: Maia.

We talked for a while and made our way to the gate where we continued our conversation. My negative thoughts ceased for the time being, and I was just so happy to have made a friend that early on.

We continued talking until we had to board the plane. Our seats weren’t near each other, so I met two new girls who were my seatmates. I didn’t talk to them at all, which, again, I find funny because the girl who sat next to me ended up being one of my close friends by the end of the trip!

On the eight-hour ride to Germany (where our layover was), I watched Green Book and Can You Ever Forgive Me?, two of last year’s Oscar-winners that were on my to-watch list (both were fantastic, by the way!). I also tried to sleep on the plane because I knew we’d be getting into Rome with a whole day ahead of us, but I was not very successful in doing so.

The eight-hour flight ended eventually, and we landed in Germany at around seven a.m. The Germany airport was super cool. We had some time to explore, so Maia and I rode down the moving sidewalks and checked out the little kiosks and shops near our gate. After about an hour in the airport, we began boarding the flight to Rome.

This flight was only two hours long, but it may have been the worst flight of my life. There wasn’t turbulence or anything: I just felt sick the whole time. I was constipated (TMI?), I was hungry, I felt nauseous, I was exhausted, my back hurt like crazy, and I was stuck in between two smelly men. I have never felt worse in my life. It felt SO. GOOD. to get off of that plane!

Once we exited, we found our bags and got to change out of our sweaty and smelly clothes. We walked to the tour bus, loaded our luggage, and then we were off!

Our first stop was Ostia Antica, an ancient archeological site outside of Rome. I don’t think this will be surprising, but this part of the trip was not easy to enjoy and appreciate. We were given about an hour and a half of free time to explore the site, but everyone was exhausted, hot, and hungry, so there wasn’t much learning that went on.

Maia and I walked through the site and made it to the food court which was, oddly, in the center of the site. We bought some watermelon and a bag of Cheeto-like chip things called Crick Crok.

I LOVE these trees.

This is an original 7th-century mosaic.

Here’s the theater right within the site. Apparently, they still do shows here, which is really cool. It reminded me a lot of the Greek theater I saw in Taormina, Sicily!

I kept saying this as we roamed around: I truly wish we had come here another day. I’m sure I’d have appreciated it after a good night’s sleep while wearing some clothes that weren’t drenched in sweat!

From there, we drove for about an hour and a half to get to the hostel in Narni. I had a surprisingly good nap on the bus which energized me for the insanity that was about to occur…

Once we made it to Narni, the bus dropped us off in the town square (since the streets are far too narrow for it to drive down). We took our bags out of the bus and began the walk to the hostel.

If you didn’t know, Narni is a medieval town, meaning that basically everything is made from cobblestone. The ground is all cobblestone, too, which is lovely… when you’re not dragging a suitcase. Uphill. In 90-degree heat.

I feel like we all deserve medals for making it to the hostel that day. For real, though, I can’t complain… I was in ITALY, after all! And once we got to the hostel, we enjoyed this view from the balcony! It was completely worth it.

Just thinking about the balcony at the hostel makes me so happy. My friends and I would stay up late talking out there as bats flew around us and lizards climbed the walls. The view was breathtaking, and I can’t believe I got to wake up to that every single day.

This is what you saw looking behind the hostel: rows and rows of mix-matched houses, all of which fit perfectly together.

After showering and relaxing for a bit, we got to explore the town as we headed to dinner. Remembering these little things makes me so sad and happy. I remember the big memories, the ones that everyone reminisced about the most… but the little things don’t always cross my mind as much. When they do, though, they always bring a smile to my face. I hope the little moments of this trip never escape from my memory.

This picture, for example… I remember so vividly sitting on the street staring up at that building. We were waiting outside a theater for a presentation to begin, and everyone was (still) exhausted. I couldn’t believe I was in Italy at that moment; it took quite a while for that fact to settle in. All the time, my friends and I would remind each other that we were actually there, but it took a couple days for it to hit me.

And here we have a photo of my dream car. Whenever I see Fiats here in the US while I’m driving, I am instantly taken back to Italy 🙂

Here’s a photo I took while waiting for dinner. I am still in awe at how preserved these homes and buildings are. Being in Narni truly felt like we were in a different century.

Ahhhh, the cats! This is the first of many cat photos.

There were tons of stray cats throughout the town. It was glorious, and we all made friends with them. I find it interesting that in Sicily I only saw stray dogs, but here I only saw stray cats. There were many dogs here that were on leashes, but in Sicily I saw very few dogs. Weird!

Here’s a view from the balcony, again. I would do anything to be there right now.

Cotton candy skies…

Here’s a photo from the hostel lobby. Lots and lots of religious iconography, here and pretty much everywhere we went. The hostel was lovely. It is designed specifically for students and teachers, so there were only a couple of other students who joined us (they were there for the music festival).

It honestly felt like a hotel. Our beds would be made every day and the bathroom would be cleaned, too. The breakfast was delicious: there was espresso, juice, fresh fruit (apricots especially!), and a myriad of pastries. I still dream of the chocolate croissant I would eat almost every morning.

Ahhh. Gelato. This is one of the two gelato shops we would visit daily. I preferred this one 🙂

This was the very first gelato I got on that trip. It’s cannella (cinnamon) and oh, boy, was it delicious! I wanted to be more adventurous with my gelato flavors, so I began that streak right at the start.

Another kitty!

I think this was actually the second night, but there was an incredible red moon we watched rise up while sitting on the balcony. It was so hard to take a picture of it, but it was absolutely beautiful. This whole trip feels like a dream.

That’s all for today. I was there for two weeks, so there’s still a bit more to share! Stay tuned… arrivederci e buon weekend!

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