Lauren Graziano: Ciao Viterbo, Ti Adoro

At the base of the Cimini Mountains, situated just north of Rome lies the ancient Etruscan city of Viterbo. Despite its prominence as the papal residence during the thirteenth century, Viterbo has remained for the most part, one of Italy’s hidden treasures. It is sought by few as a traveler destination in comparison to the infamous tourist cities of Rome, Florence, Venice, or Naples. It is shame though, Viterbo’s twelfth and thirteenth century architecture that survived the destruction caused by World War II remains an authentic display of the city’s medieval era. Fortunately (especially for me), Viterbo has been discovered as an ideal location for a study abroad host city. Through the study abroad program USAC, students from all over the world are able to experience the rich Italian culture Viterbo so proudly embodies. Prior to researching various study abroad programs in Italy, I had never heard of Viterbo; how lucky I am to have stumbled across it. This medieval city has more to offer to a curious minded student than you would imagine.
I can’t explain how grateful I am to have lived in Viterbo during my time abroad. The months I have spent in this city have been full of wonderful people and precious moments. I was so fortunate to have received a homestay with two amazing Italians who welcomed me into their home and their lives. Making time to take me and my fellow housemate, Ashlynn, on exciting adventures around Viterbo, including Terme dei Papi, Bagnaia, Montefiascone, Corviano, and Parco dei Mostri in Bomarzo. Not to mention the fantastic homecooked meals we enjoyed in the charming Italian kitchen of our home—they will be greatly missed when I have returned to Colorado. My homestay made my semester abroad an incredible experience and one that I wish didn’t have to end. I will always be so grateful for la mia famiglia italiana and everything they have done for me. Grazie mille, Fabiana e Matteo!
Viterbo has taught me so much despite only being here for a short four months. Here, I learned to make coffee, cannoli, pasta fatta in casa, and homemade pizza. I also learned that I cannot make it to school from my apartment in three minutes and I will be late no matter how fast I race down the stairs or walk down the street; I need at least five minutes. Most especially, I have learned as much as I could hope to learn of the beautiful Italian language in the limited time I’ve had here in Italy; I have my fantastic and patient insengnante, Morena, to thank for that. She never failed to answer my endless questions during class and even took us on outside classroom excursions to practice our newly learned Italian phrases and conversation. I wouldn’t love Italian as much as I do now without her passion for teaching and care for her students. Grazie mille, Morena.
My heart aches when I think about how much I will miss the cobblestone streets of this city, the history that the city itself embodies, the local Viterbese, and the sweet little Italian apartment on Piazza Vittorio Veneto that has become my home. Late night tea parties and study sessions have taken place in our happy little kitchen before big exams and I have so many fun cooking memories to look back on. I will miss the delightful local Italians who were so kind when I wandered into their shops and cafés, the wonderful bartender at Al Settantasette who made the most exquisite and delicious drinks. On Via Cavour a short ways before you reach Piazza del Plebiscito there is a lovely little shop full of Viterbo mementos and the sweetest Italian woman. She is always there, ready with a warm smile and bright eyes, encouraging my attempts to speak Italian; she is the kind of person you know has a good heart. Viterbo is full of them.
My time here wouldn’t have been the same without the incredible experience I have had writing for TusciaUp. I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to write for this brilliant online magazine and share my adventures abroad. There are many little things that I would’ve missed had it not been for my writing. You can learn so much about yourself and the people and places around you when you pick up a pencil and piece of paper. I have grown to appreciate Viterbo for an endless number of hidden things because of my writing—little things, but wonderful all the same. It has been an exciting and memorable journey, developing my writing through this internship. Grazie mille, TusciaUp.
While I look forward to the future and the new and exciting things I’m certain to encounter, it is with the greatest reluctance and a very sad heart that I bid Viterbo arrivederci. I will be back one day, in this medieval city I have called home, and maybe one day I will be able to call it home again. There is a villa up a hill on Via Monte Pizzo, just by the Regional Nature Reserve dell’Arcionello, and I think I could be very happy living in that villa here in Viterbo. For now, I only hope that life will have a way of bringing me back to Italy very soon. La vita è bella. Life is beautiful. And my life in Viterbo has certainly been that.
Grazie mille, Viterbo.