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8 Reasons why it’s worth having an experience in Italy

So you’ve hit the pinnacle of your university years, what’s defined as the most exciting period in your career as a college student: your time to study abroad. 

Whether you’re an undergrad or a university student, it’s an important era in your study years, one that those who have come before you have always described as the best time of your life. And so it is, indeed. But if your destination is up in the air and you find yourself googling the beaches of Australia or the pubs in Germany for foreign exchange inspiration, stop yourself right there and book your ticket to Italy

Here’s eight reasons why you should be enjoying your abroad experience in Italy:

1. Killer landscapes

Like to ski in the winter? Italy’s got you. Bask on the beach? Italy’s your place. Chill in some hot geysers? Italy’s got those too. Go sailing, scuba diving or hiking? Well, you get the picture.
Italy is a fascinating country full of diverse and (might I add) gorgeous landscapes all packed into a nation that’s just shy of the size of California. You can easily spend one weekend eating polenta in the mountains and the next eating fresh fish by the seaside, making your leisure time when you’re not studying or working that much more fulfilling. And because mostly all of Italy is well-connected by train, it’s just a matter of deciding where to go to next.

2. Food 

I wanted to wait a little farther down in the list to declare the most obvious of reasons. But I just can’t. Because it is THAT good.
Everyone says that eating in Italy is an experience and they’re right. But much more than that, it will be an education for you.
The Italian cuisine is based on the fruits of the land, made with products that are cultivated with that Mediterranean soil and sun. And for this, Italians learn (and will teach you) to enjoy their dishes for the simple flavor of the base ingredients. You may find your first couple of meat dishes that you order in Italy a tad bland, devoid of flavor. But what it’s really devoid of is the crappy sauces and condiments you’re oh-so-used-to slathering all over your Grade A meat.
So just eat it. Enjoy it. Then go home and be a food snob for the rest of your life.

3. Patience is a virtue

It sure is. It’s also something you’ll need to pull out of the closet and dust off before you come here. If you don’t have patience, Italy will surely teach you it. For all of its beauty, Italy lacks one thing: organization.
If you’re living in a city like Milan or most places farther north, you’ll find the situation better. But I’m a firm believer that anything south of Rome is just a three-ring circus. You’ll wait in line at the post office for an hour only to discover you’ve been waiting in the wrong line and now the post office is closing in 2 minutes. Or nobody at the city hall can quite give you the correct answer of where you have to go to do what. Even though… THEY WORK THERE.
Do you feel your blood pressure rising just reading this? Try living here. But you’ll learn after a while not to pull your hair out and not to sweat the small stuff. It’s a very small price to pay for such a wonderful place and you’ll be all the better for it. And just think how easy it will be to deal with chaos and confusion when you’re home!

4. People that rep their region

If you go live in Italy, it will be like going to live in 20 mini countries. Italy is made up of 20 regions, all with their own exclusive dishes, habits, traditions and language even. A person from Rome literally would not understand a person speaking their dialect from Calabria. And Rigatoni con la pajata is only eaten and found in Rome. Either you eat it in Rome, or you don’t eat it at all. You can take in these little diverse culture pills popping from one region to the next by train. It’s truly amazing to see people so linked to their home town through these little things rooted in culture and tradition and it will amplify the sense of fulfillment you have from spending time in this country.

5. Breaking stereotypes

As a westerner, we think we’ve got a great handle on Italian culture. We’ve seen the movies and we know everything there is to know. Then we get here and it’s a whole different ball of wax: people are not fat, the menu is not just pizza and pasta, they’re not all tan with dark hair and a gold chain. Surprise! It sounds silly, but since you probably already have these stereotypes engrained in you, you will immediately get over them once you come here. And you just may approach every foreign travel experience after this with a more open and enquiring mind.

6. Aperitivo

What is that, you may ask. It’s essentially Italians doing happy hour. Except that for us, happy hour means as many drinks as possible for a cheaper price while in this classier and more refined country, it means a cocktail and snacks. But like, really good snacks. In and around the region of Lombardy, aperitivo has become somewhat of an evening staple, with some places serving an entire spread of deliciously prepared food. In some places, you can technically go and make an entire meal out of this.

7. Scootin’ about

It’s not everyday you see a Vespa buzzing through Manhattan. I don’t know, something about that seems quite dangerous (and deadly) to me. But over here in the magical land of scooter heaven, they’re everywhere. It’s the best and most common way to get around and as opposed to trying to take one around some busy US cities, drivers in Italy are used to sharing the road with them so you can feel safe. And really, what’s better than buzzing about the historical monuments of Rome for the day on a Vespa? So either rent one for the day or make friends with someone who’s got one.

8. Park bevies

I’m from the States, where drinking on the street is illegal, so this took some getting used to over here. But nothing’s better than enjoying a couple of cold beers with friends in the park. Or if you’re classy like us, Prosecco. You’ll constantly see people hanging out in the piazzas or on the stairs of the Duomo with a couple of cold ones. So on a night where you don’t quite feel like doing anything but feel like doing something in Italy, pick your favorite square and meet your friends with your favorite cold beverage. 

I hope I had you by number two. If you’re still contemplating, however, just know that Italy is one of the most dynamic and beautiful countries with plenty of surprises in store for the curious traveler. Whatever you’re looking for in your experience abroad, you will find it here, in Italy.

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Heather Di Maio

Originally from Rhode Island, I was drawn to Italy almost a decade ago and just couldn't stay away. I currently work in Milan as a writer.

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