I must admit, it has happened… I have fallen in love while in Italy. Now before your mind starts running wild with questions and disbelief, I should clarify that my heart belongs to a place rather than a person. I should also take a moment to warn you that the following is incredibly cheesy, BUT… I have fallen in love with Reggio Emilia.
Now to be frank with you all, I hadn’t even heard of Reggio Emilia up until I had stumbled across it on my study abroad program’s (USAC’s) website. And it’s a very weird feeling, to call a place you had never even of heard of your home.
Even at this very moment, as I’m simultaneously sunbathing in the middle of one of my favorite piazzas and typing this out, I am so completely thankful I can call this place my home.
Before arriving, I had the mindset that Reggio would only serve as a place of rest during my weekdays and during the weekend the rest of Europe would be my home. I had mentally planned that as soon as Friday hit I would try and check as many countries off my ‘bucket list’ as possible – but now I’m finding myself equally as excited to explore Reggio (and Italy) as I would anywhere else. Reggio is authentically Italian and I’m convinced it is one of the best places Italy has to offer. This isn’t to say that I will be limiting myself to one city for four months, but I have come to realize that this small region in Northern Italy has made me fall in love with the Italian culture and the simplicity of Italian living more than I thought possible.
Without further ado, here are some of the reasons Reggio Emilia has captured my heart.
When you imagine Italy I’m sure it’s something along the lines of never ending pasta, gelato, sun shining on the rolling hills, and (of course) good-looking Italians. I am the first to admit that I had all of these stereotypes before arriving in Italy, and while I will say these have been true (except the sun – which has just recently begun to exist) experiencing these things first-hand is incredibly different. The authenticity of Reggio Emilia has captured my prior thoughts of Italy and transformed them into a beautiful reality, one that has greatly exceeded my expectations. Everything from the food to the weekly markets has shown me such a unique aspect of Italian culture I couldn’t even think to imagine. Something else I (surprisingly) ended up loving, is that not many people speak English in Reggio. And call me foolish, but I was anticipating most people to speak something close to fluent English. With that expectation being immediately shot down, I was forced to dive straight into the culture and was lucky enough to miss out on the catering to American tourism that a larger city would have provided.
Reggio Emilia is Small(er)
Not that Fresno is an incredibly large city, but it is significantly larger than Reggio. Whenever I need to run across town in Fresno, there isn’t a second thought that I would take my car. Here is much different, given the fact I can’t drive here (and probably shouldn’t be allowed to). Thankfully, Reggio does cater to walkers… and even during the “less than enjoyable” weather I enjoy taking 15 minutes to walk to the center of town. I also couldn’t begin to imagine the things I would be missing out on if I was focused on the road, instead of the simple beauty that occurs on even the most “average” walks.
The Coffee Culture
WOW DID I HAVE A TOUGH TIME WITH THIS ONE.
If I had to pick three words to describe the coffee culture in Italy they would be: Quick. Efficient. Delicious. If I had to pick three words to describe American coffee culture, they would be: Prolonged. Expensive. Decent.
About three months in and I am equally in love with Italian coffee culture as much as I am with Italy, but the adjustment was hard. I’m the type of girl you can’t get to shut up. Seriously, if you let me, I can talk about the color of the sky for hours. That being said, COFFEE DATES ARE MY THING. In America, I can get coffee with a friend and not even realize the day has passed me by. However, in Italy, I was shocked to find out that people hardly ever sit down to enjoy their espresso… and rarely with any company! It took me about a month and a half to get used to the Italian coffee experience, and now I don’t think I can go back. That’s a lie… I totally could. But I have a newfound appreciation for the mentality behind solo espresso trips. Even if just for five minutes, taking that time out of your day to enjoy yourself (and maybe a friendly chat with the barista) allows for a fresh mindset for the rest of your day. Something that is greatly needed for the scattered brain such as myself.
If you’re from the valley and you’re reading this, you know what a farmer’s market is. Fresno farmer’s markets are the bee’s knees… they’re seriously the best. With that being said, my expectations for farmer’s markets are incredibly high, and let me tell you… Reggio did not disappoint. Not only are the markets here multiple times a week, but they have just about everything. Need some produce? Check out the market. Need a suitcase? Check out the market. Need to see some cute Italians? Check out the market. This is not only a shopper’s dream come true, but a social butterfly’s dream come true. In addition to buying some amazing (and maybe unnecessary) things, I have also met some exceptionally kind and friendly people. The market has undoubtedly become one of my favorite things and has played a huge role in introducing me to Italian culture.
Now there are about a hundred other reasons why I love Reggio, but for the sake of keeping it short, I thought I would share some of my favorites. These small interactions alone have provided me with the authentic Italian experience, and ultimately created a place I can call my home.
Sydney Earl attends Fresno City College. She studied abroad in Reggio-Emilia in Spring 2018. You can read more about Sydney’s time in Italy on her blog.