Alex Abroad is a mini-series by guest blogger Alex Migdal, an Arts student attending the spring term at the Faculty of Arts School in Cortona, Italy. This is Alex’s second entry.
A week and a half ago, I staggered, for the first time, up the steep hills of Cortona. But my aching calves mattered little when faced with the town’s beauty: its sweeping panoramic views, lush greenery and rolling hills, dotted with the warm pinks of Tuscan clay-tile roofs. I couldn’t believe I would be living here for the next month. I still can’t believe I get to live here. The town is tinged with a mythical quality, rooted in centuries of history and rich culture.
Thanks to my travel writing course, I’ve learned how to observe the details in my surroundings. Every Monday and Wednesday, 11 of us read the works of other great travel writers, pull apart their sentences, study the mechanics of effective writing and spill onto the street to flesh out our own stories. The class has been a highlight of my trip. It’s encouraged me not just to look, but to stare, to figure out the disparate bits that make a foreign setting so strange and enticing.
To travel is to integrate yourself in a locale, to stroll its streets just to be among its people.
I’ve learned, most pivotally, about the difference between tourism and travelling. Tourism is an endless bus tour of landmarks and trivia. I’ve indulged in a bit of that, so far. I couldn’t help but visit Rome for the day, where I fought off suffocating crowds in Vatican City. But the claustrophobia was worth it, just to gape at the splendour of St. Peter’s Basilica and the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.
To travel, though, is to integrate yourself in a locale, to stroll its streets just to be among its people. Italy is known for its simple, carefree way of life, and Cortona is emblematic of that attitude. While I’ve crisscrossed the country for hours just to photograph the angular Tower of Pisa, I’ve been happiest during simple evenings in Cortona’s piazza, among new friends, blanketed by the warm breeze and lapping at the overflowing edges of my gelato cone. To study in Cortona, I’ve come to learn, is to live la dolce vita.
For more information about the Faculty of Arts School in Cortona, click here.