The beginning of the trip from SCSU to Montepulciano was one full of anticipation, nerves, and expectations. There were many factors weighing on my mind. Not knowing any of the students on the trip well, not knowing what to expect in regards to the travel itself, and most importantly how I was going to interact with the people of Montepulciano, having spoken virtually no Italian in my life. I was somewhat comforted by many who told me the language was similar to Spanish, with which I am familiar. I have always been sure of my ability to adapt to different environments and change, but this would certainly be an undertaking the likes of which I have never attempted before. The travel itself was fairly straightforward. We set out from JFK to Madrid and flew overnight as planned. There was a slightly hurried layover in Madrid, but overall the entire trip went smoothly. By the time we arrived in Roma and gathered our luggage and boarded the bus to Toscana, I was truly exhausted and ready to deal with anything if it meant getting to a bed!
We arrived in the early evening, and after a quick tour of our apartments it was off to dinner. The first experience that I had with true locals was meeting our waiters, Oliver and Scardi. The pace and accents with which they spoke were greater than I imagined; although I was able to pick up overall trends in the conversation due to their inflection, tone, and hand gestures, I was quickly seeing that—if I were going to reach my goal of functioning conversationally on my own—I had my work cut out for me.
Whatever my trepidations about the language barrier, they were second in my mind to the true beauty and architectural wonder of the city itself. They say in life that few things are truly as expected, and most things will not live up to the hype. But the city of Montepulciano is more original and authentic than I could have imagined: its blend of old-world feel with modern convenience and charm is an irresistible combination. Having the privilege of staying within these walls for a month will surely be one of the most memorable experiences of my life!
Already I have been picking up some small bits of conversations and other Italian phrases, just from ordering foods from vendors. This, coupled with my lessons, have me confident that I will be learning a vast amount of the language and able to make speedy progress towards my goal of being conversant in Italian!