orvieto: l’ultimo giorno.

L’ultimo giorno.
Our last full day.
Sunday, July 28, 2019. 

Wake up, shower, eat breakfast, head out.

The same routine was completed on this day, but it felt different. I knew, in the back of my mind, that it was our last full day. (Actually, I’d say it was in the middle of my mind because it was so hard to push away.) I did everything I could to stay present. I just couldn’t believe it was almost over.

It was Sunday, so going to mass was an option. Since I had gone last time, I decided to pass and instead wander around Narni for a few hours. Up until this point, we didn’t have too much time to explore the town on our own because the schedule was so booked. It was really lovely discovering things that had been right under our noses the whole time, even if it was on the last day. 

I was also kind of stressed about buying some souvenirs, so I found a few little things as the mass went on. All I had bought thus far was a scarf for myself and a little homemade bowl for my mom at the art market.

After we shopped a little, we got gelato around 10:30-11 a.m. Of course! It’s never too early (or late) for gelato. This was the final cone I had in Narni, and I enjoyed it inside the gelateria of the main piazza, hiding from the light rain.

I got stracciatella, cioccolato, and caffè. 
The street leading to the main piazza. We’d walk this way every day to get to the hostel. 
Another slice of the town, right above the Farmacia. 

After our shopping and gelato, we still had some time to kill. There was a pathway (pictured below) that we passed every day during this trip but never walked down. I was so curious to see what was down there, but we never had the time to explore it until this day.

One of my friends and I decided to check it out, and it was better than I expected.

The mysterious stairwell.
As you walk down the narrow stairs, there are a couple of restaurants and houses that face the view of the whole town. 
How did we miss this?! I would have been devastated if I got home and realized that this view was literally right in front of us the whole time. I’m so glad I got to see it. 
Further down the stairs, a jungle of plants and flower bushes sits neatly along the edges. 
Hello, baby pomegranate!
Mary and Jesus, surrounded by leaves. 
Dewey pink flowers from the rain. 
More pomegranates. 

And then, just as the skies began to clear up, we started walking back up the stairs and stumbled upon a cat. It placed itself in the most picturesque (and somewhat camouflaged) location possible.

One of my favorite photos I took.
And another one…
Really neat red chairs. 
Sitting on the steps of the church, waiting for the mass to end. The view here is of the main square in Narni where we’d catch the bus every day. 
Another dream car. 

Then we ate lunch. As we ate, we probably reminisced about our favorite parts of the trip or began planning our reunion. There was a universal feeling of gloom hanging over the group over the last few days, even if some didn’t show it.

After eating, we hopped on the bus and headed to Orvieto, one of the biggest and more well-known cities of Umbria.

A horrible photo, taken through the bus window. This light was absolutely stunning. 

The next few photos are of the Duomo di Orvieto. This church was so unique. Check out this article that explains the artistic choices inside and on the facade.

Let’s just be honest: anything involving mosaics has my heart. 

The interior. I’ve probably seen twenty or so churches in the past year on my two trips to Italy, but I have never seen anything like this one. The horizontal black and white stripes contrast so beautifully against the detailed stained glass and frescoes. 
It was so hard to get a decent photo of the glass! Here’s an okay one. 
Outside the Duomo with flowers in the foreground. You can see the stripes remain on the outside, too. It’s very kitschy in comparison to many of the strictly Romanesque churches I saw in Rome, but I think that makes it even more fascinating. 

After we watched a concert (yep, another one) in the Duomo, we had about two hours to shop. Orvieto is the place in Umbria to do your souvenir shopping, so I’m really happy we got time to spend there.

Ok, I had to share this. Look how big these dogs are!
I was thiiiiis close to buying one of these Keith Haring Moleskine notebooks, but it turns out, Moleskine is just as expensive in Italy as it is in the US ;). I love his quote “Art is for everybody” and have been thinking about it a lot lately. 
And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: my LAST gelato. I know, I know. I’m trying to hold back tears, too. But of course, I somehow managed to take the most unattractive food photo of all time… sigh. Despite its ugliness here, it was quite delicious. 

I hadn’t used many of my euros up until this day, so I had a good chunk of them to spend on gifts and things to bring home. We were allowed to split up for the two hours, so I kind of drifted between each of my friends and ended up hanging with two of them for the majority of the time.

As we were shopping, we got sidetracked and lost track of time, so we began to walk fast to make it back to the bus. We passed by some others in our group who were still shopping, so we stopped worrying and lowered our pace. Apparently, we got a little too confident because literally right as we passed them, we took a wrong turn. The streets slowly grew quieter, and the crowds diminished, so we knew we were going the wrong way.

At this point, it was exactly the time we were supposed to board the bus. We got a text from our WhatsApp group saying that the bus was leaving and got very nervous that they’d leave without us. Eventually, we ended up asking a local (in Italian!) how to get to the Duomo. He showed us (grazie mille, signor!) and we ran so fast — seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever run that fast in my life — and made it back to the bus. That was definitely one of the most exhilarating times of my life, and my friends and I still laugh about it today.

On the bus ride back to Narni, I ate some Haribo gummies, put my headphones in, and took a short nap. I knew the day was ending, and no matter how much I tried to push the thought away, I couldn’t. On the bus, I kept my sunglasses on as I shed a couple of tears. I didn’t want this to be over.

When we got back to Narni, we enjoyed one last dinner as a group. Marco and Benedetta, our two group leaders, prepared homemade pizza for us. My friends and I had our final conversation circle as we ate. After we all finished, we were asked to meet up in the hostel’s downstairs common room to have one last group meeting.

Everyone got into a circle, and we went around sharing what the trip meant to each of us. Five minutes in, nearly everyone was crying. We passed around a roll of toilet paper to use as tissues as we listened to each other’s special stories and memories. I’m finding it kind of hard to share this because it was such a powerful moment. But I do believe that the difficulty of saying goodbye truly proves just how important it was to all of us.

After the crying circle, we went around and gave hugs to each other before dispersing and heading back up to our rooms to pack. I took a shower that night and stayed up until around midnight. And then, bed.

I woke up the next morning — our day of departure — with a sick feeling in my stomach. It wasn’t so much nausea; it was a feeling of nerves and grief and sadness all mixed into one yucky feeling. I tried to eat something for breakfast but could barely finish an apricot. I had no appetite.

After eating around 7:30-8 a.m., we rolled our suitcases down the marble stairs and waited in the lobby for everyone. We turned in our keys, said goodbye to the owner, and made our way to the bus stop.

Remember when we first got to Narni and I told you the walk to the hostel was brutal? Well, it was just as brutal this time. I walked up the cobblestone hills under a literal blazing sun, already ruining my last shirt that wasn’t drenched with sweat.

Our view as we waited for the bus. 
The last photo I took in Narni. 

We loaded our souvenir-filled suitcases and boarded the bus to Rome. I listened to some music on the ride, talked with my friends for a bit, and took a short nap.

Once we got to the airport, we said goodbye to some of our friends from another group who stayed in Narni and had tagged along with us nearly every day. Then, we headed to security (which is an absolute BREEZE compared to the US security) and had free time for an hour or two before our flight to Germany departed. Of course, there were a ton of places to shop in the airport, so I bought a couple of snacks and last-minute gifts.

The first plane ride was only two hours. Compared to the ride from Germany to Italy two weeks prior, this flight was a dream. I felt so miserable last time. Plus, I didn’t know anyone then. This time, I got to sit with my friends for two hours making jokes, looking at pictures, and chatting. Plus, the flight attendant gave out Kit Kats! Best flight ever.

Once we got to Germany, we raced through the airport to get to our gate. When we got there, though, we realized that we had around thirty minutes to spare. I walked down the airport hallway a bit, reflecting on how different I had felt at the German airport just two weeks ago. In so many ways, I was a completely new person.

We boarded the flight and successfully traded seats to be able to sit together. This one was eight-ish hours, so I’m eternally grateful I got to be next to my friends; it just meant we had even more time to spend together.

But as I watched the time on the screen in front of me slowly decrease, I couldn’t help but wish I could stay on this plane forever. I definitely missed the comfort of my own home (especially the bathroom), but I didn’t want to leave this group. I had been with them for two whole weeks and could not imagine my life without them.

Eventually, we made it to JFK. We went through customs and security, trying not to think about the impending goodbye. After baggage claim, we did one last group count-off which is where many of us (including myself) lost it. We hugged each other, took our bags, and walked.

Once we left the baggage claim, we were greeted by rows and rows of family members waiting to see us. I spotted my dad and brother, said one last goodbye to my friends, and headed towards the parking lot.

And, just like that, it was over.

Oh, wow, was that painful! But there ya go. That was my trip!

At the time, my friends and I had a scheduled reunion for September which was nearly two months away. That made the goodbye even harder for us. But thankfully, some of us met up just a few weeks later in August. Since then, we’ve had three reunions in the city (which you can check out here) and I’ve been able to spend some time with them.

I truly never thought I’d have the experience I did. Like I mentioned in the first post, I was really anxious about the trip which led to me not being too excited about it. I was terrified to leave home, but I’m forever glad that I did.

I’m only seventeen, but I know that this trip and the people I met on it will have a lasting impact on my life. It already has! I’ve become a better, more curious, and accepting person because of it. I’ve become more willing to leave my comfort zone, and I’ve become less afraid of change.

I am so grateful to my Italian teacher, Signora M., and the IACE company for presenting this opportunity to me, and to my Aunt Rosanne & Uncle Nino for helping with the plane fare. Grazie mille!

I will never forget this trip, and I can only hope everyone gets the chance to experience something this special in their lives.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading this super long post. I got back from the trip in July and it’s now the middle of November, so… it took me long enough to get these up! I hope you enjoyed the series. I cannot wait for my next adventure.

Arrivederci xo

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