Visiting the region of Tuscany was something that I had been looking forward to the entire semester. For some reason, in my mind, I knew that the Tuscan countryside would be everything that I had pictured Italy to be…and I was right. This photo was taken from the top of a tower in San Gimignano, a small Tuscan city. After a decent climb to the top of this old lookout, the view of the city and the surrounding countryside was so rewarding. There is just something about those rolling hills that are so special about this region; they have the ability to give you everything you ever wanted out of Italy.
All of the Italian campus students set out on this Tuscan excursion together, being led by the directors of our program and some of our professors. We started the weekend off in San Gimignano, where we were taken through the city, visiting the burial site of Saint Fina and enjoying a delicious lunch, before making our way to Siena later that afternoon. While in Siena, we were taken on an extensive tour of the unique black and white striped Siena Cathedral, complete with its impressive artwork and library of illuminated choir books. We enjoyed our evening in Siena before moving on to Lucca the next day.
Upon passing through the walls of Lucca, you can immediately feel the charm of the city. The narrow cobblestone streets lined with boutiques, bakeries, restaurants, and markets make up the heart of the city, while the city walls themselves provide a trail of beautiful scenery and parks. Many of us started our day off in Lucca by renting bikes and riding along the trail atop the city walls, enjoying the picturesque fall views. After strolling through the city for the rest of the afternoon, following the roads wherever they led us, we ended the day in Lucca with Mass and a group dinner.
Our final day in Tuscany, of course, was spent in Pisa. Upon entering Pisa through the archway, everything seemed disproportionate to me and was much closer together than I was expecting it to be. There is one street that leads you past all the important tourist attractions, a street that also lends itself to a significant amount of humor. I will never forget the sight of people lined up along this street– regardless of age, gender, country of origin– taking the most ridiculous pictures with the Leaning Tower. Setting the humor aside, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is extremely impressive. There have, in the past, been efforts to correct its tilt, yet the tower continues to lean. Although the weather was less than ideal on the day we visited Pisa, we still made the best of our experience there, enjoying our tours through the cathedral, baptistery, and museum, and sharing a lot of laughs as we attempted to hold the tower up or kick it over for pictures of our own.
From the view from tower of San Gimignano, to the architecture and artwork Siena Cathedral, to the quaint street of Lucca, to the downpours of Pisa, the weekend was a success both for our minds and our free spirits. Each city we visited has its own personality, connected by its location in, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful regions in Italy–Tuscany.