While I find my classes interesting and love Avignon, (winding streets, Wizard of Oz like mistral (strong wind), and all) I was more than ready for the quarter’s four-day weekend. Some friends and I decided to take advantage of it by travelling to Lucca, Italy. It was most certainly an adventure.
In order to get to Italy, we navigated Europe’s vast network of trains. While I am a huge fan of Europe’s efficient public transportation system, it’s difficult to appreciate when your trains keep getting delayed or just decide to stop dead on the tracks, causing a vicious cycle of missing connections. We all practiced deep breathing and fit in some impressive cardio workouts in the train stations. However, after much stress and frantic checking of train schedules, we made it to Lucca and had a fantastic experience.
We were shown around by a man named Enrico, my friend’s family friend. He drove us through Italian roads that wound haphazardly through the mountains and we saw old monasteries, precariously placed villas, and, similar to France, seemingly endless strips of vineyards. I rolled down my window and absorbed the cool, floral scented air. He even took us to see the leaning tower of Pisa. Even though the place was almost as touristy as the Eiffel Tower, I have to admit that I thought it was fascinating. And yes, it does actually lean.
Enrico and his wife were incredibly generous and, in addition to allowing us to stay in the villa, made us authentic Italian pizza. While attempting to gracefully eat our pizza, we talked in French to Enrico’s wife, who could speak French and Italian, but no English. I couldn’t help but be impressed that, without knowledge of the French language, we wouldn’t have been able to properly thank her for her hospitality.
The weekend came to a close and we boarded our first train, bracing ourselves for thirteen hours of travel and trying to soak in some last fleeting views of the Italian countryside.
When we switched from Italian trains to French ones, I was struck with the realization that I could actually understand the conductor’s announcements. I realized how much I had missed French while I was in Italy and how much French I am now able to understand. In Italy, I usually had no idea what people were saying around me. But even just on the French train, I knew that the conductor was telling us that we were headed for Nice and that the men seated behind us were quietly discussing the results of a bike race.
Although going to Italy took us out of the French language for a while, it also allowed us a chance to appreciate our progress in French and to crave and relish all of our opportunities to speak French. It offered us a glimpse into the French with drawl we will experience upon returning to the United States.
I am starting to realize that the days left in the program are numbered. Going to Italy renewed my conviction to immerse myself as much as I can in French before I land in the Cleveland airport after the program. After all, June comes closer every day, and I doubt I’ll return to find that Ohio has a suddenly booming French population.