If you meet with Lorenzo, the CEA CAPA Director of Program and Student Services in Florence, before coming to the city or after arriving, he will likely recommend you spend your time in Italy visiting all of its cities and towns rather than venturing out to other countries because it gets expensive. If you are like me, you will feel tempted to dismiss his advice immediately; a large draw for studying abroad in Europe is that it allows you to travel to many countries with extreme ease in comparison to traveling from the States. I completely understand that appeal, but I encourage you to heed the words of the wise Lorenzo.
Italy's cities and people are really unlike any other. Florence alone has such a warm energy and feeling. People greet each other with vibrance and they walk around with indescribable energy. The quality of the food is truly unparalleled-all of my roommates and I are in agreement that the food we've eaten in other countries has made us feel slightly queasy at one time or another. In Italy, however, we haven't had any issues with the food affecting us negatively. Of course, that isn't to say that you have zero chance of eating poor-quality food in Italy, but it's pretty hard to find.
We did a lot of larger excursions to other countries during our fall break. We visited Paris, Lisbon, and Barcelona before returning to Italy. We detoured to Venice to ride the train from there since it was cheaper to fly into Venice from Barcelona than Florence (a key travel tip is to look at flying into Bologna or Pisa instead of Florence).
While every place we visited was gorgeous and we had so much fun exploring the different attractions, returning to Italy after everything felt like a breath of fresh air. Our Airbnb ended up being extremely far from the actual city of Venice, requiring us to take multiple buses to get there. Figuring everything out was ultimately no issue largely because of the generosity of locals guiding us every step of the way. While there are plenty of incredible people in France, Portugal, and Spain, we didn't feel the same commitment to kindness.
As of now, in Italy, I have visited Lucca, Bologna, Milan, Pisa, Dongo, and Venice of course. Each has offered jaw-dropping scenery, delicious food, and rich history. If I were to recommend just a couple of those I have had the privilege of experiencing, I would have to say Dongo (Lake Como) and Bologna are my suggestions. Lake Como offers some of the most picturesque natural landscapes on the planet. If you can actually stay in Como I would recommend that, as it provides easier access to restaurants and attractions. Bologna is the food capital of Italy so I think it would be a travesty if everyone who studied in Italy didn't go for at least a day. If you do, definitely visit Mo Mortadella Lab for an incredible sandwich.
All in all, I have still yet to see much of Italy but I'm excited to continue experiencing everything each region has to offer and continue meeting its people.
William Lammons is the Content Creator - Blogger.