LIFE/ Gli studenti USAC: Viterbo, An Enchanting Labyrinth


Before departing for Italy, very much of what Viterbo“should” be was left to my imagination.  I made an attempt to get to know the city but just as it guards itself with walls,Viterbo’s allurement isn’t fully revealed until it is experienced.

I’ve been more than content to find that Viterbo isn’t concentrated with tourists, but rather that tourists have become sojourners out of love for the Medieval town.  It is loved for beauty and people

. The sharp and narrow corridors provoke my curiosity, I feel free to explore and brave when I get lost. The streets are dressed uniformly in cobblestone from floor to ceiling, at times I think I am walking down the same neighborhood but then find myself in a new piazza.

I enjoy being able to roam because Viterbois a maze; I might not be sure of where I am but when I see the wall I know I am still in the realm of its confines.  It’s funny though, because I don’t feel confined; not by space, not by time.

Even streets that are just wide enough for the motorini, with apartment buildings almost kissing by the bridge that connects them, call me to get lost in the alleys and forget about time. I wander most of my days, imagining an Italian is taking me by the hand and saying “vieni con mei,” or a Viterbense woman or man will actually do so.

A resident of the city will be willing and proud to explain to you where the best gelateria is, or will finish their coffee and take you to it. Or I might be part of a conversation while ordering at the bar, the baristas are interested in my life too, asking where I am from and how long I’ll be there. Another couple people might join in and pretty soon we are laughing and enjoying conversation, not worried about where we have to go.

And that is what I’ve come to love about Viterbo, and Italy; that people invest their time in asking about each other, concerned for someone other than themselves. I enjoy a pace of life that places value on genuine conversation and can slow down for a moment to engage.

Maybe it is history that does this, serving as a constant reminder that there were people other themselves. Maybe every day passing through the 12th century Palazzo Dei Papi you are reminded that so many came before you and will continue to come after you, that there is more than just “I.”  No matter the reason, a transition from the fast-paced life in California to taking the time to enjoy interaction in Viterbo has been a relief. I’ve found a new appreciation for relishing the present, and in a town with streets I don’t mind getting lost in.

Hi guys! My name is Natalie Hutchison and I’m studying Communications with a minor in Anthropology and Journalism at California State University, Stanislaus. I’m studying in Viterbo after finding it to be good middle ground of Italy, and a small enough town I can get a true taste of life here. So far, I am in love.