Filtering through potential study abroad locations and programs was extremely time consuming for my indecisive self because there seemed to be so many options that all held unique qualities. Some programs had the benefit of a big city with lots of attractions and easy transportation, while others had local charm and full immersion, and still others offered beautiful landscapes and outdoor activity. After a while I settled on a small town in Northern Italy- away from the tourist hubs of Rome and Florence- called Reggio Emilia. The city consists of 170,000 people and a center that is hardly one mile wide. The longer I’ve been in Reggio, the more I appreciate this decision.
Although the big cities are enticing with all of the things to do and see, living in Reggio has taught me so much about the authentic Italian lifestyle. In my three months here, I’ve hardly spoken english to anyone outside of the study abroad program and this had led to friendships with local store owners, cafe go-ers and others who are so curious as to why an American would come to their little village. The quaint center is always bustling with locals out for a stroll, getting gelato or doing some window shopping. Every Tuesday the piazzas are full of vendors selling everything from bed sheets to shoes to meats and cheese of the region. The parks throughout the center are full of children playing in the evenings as well as their parents who gather for a few glasses of wine. Simply walking around in the evening, listening to the music from the Piazza and watching people walk arm in arm feels “so Italian.”