On a sunny day, I left Knoxville, Tennessee for a half year adventure abroad. The striking Appalachian Mountains that I have been around my entire life were glistening with snow as the plane took off, and I wondered how they would compare to the Alps. About 38 hours later with a missing bag, tired eyes, and a confused look on my face, I was speaking broken Italian with my taxi driver as we climbed the cliffs to my accommodation.
My initial travels were not perfect, but I was in Italy at last, and that was all that mattered.
During that windy drive, I felt nervous and exhilarated looking at my home for the next four months. The night made everything illuminated, and the lights along the cliffs welcomed me as gracefully as the black sea below it.
Since that first day, I have begun a life here as a study abroad student in Sorrento. Every morning I sit down at the kitchen table and sip my coffee out of a bowl and snack on bread and orange marmalade made by my host father. I sit taking in my surroundings, wondering what the day will hold, and feeling fortunate to be in such a remarkable country and city.
It didn’t take me long to appreciate the opportunity to study abroad in Sorrento, and I’m sure you won’t regret the decision to study outside of Italy’s major cities either.
1. Piazza Lauro
Piazza Lauro is always bustling with people from morning to night, and it is conveniently located right above my house here in Sorrento. Each day Italian words slip in through my window from the streets below. It is a perfect day when I can sit on the balcony and do what sociologists do best: observe. And, it is a perfect night when my host father goes on to the balcony to warn the rowdy crowds to be quiet in his brass Neapolitan words.
2. Regina Giovanna
At the tip of Sorrento, Capo di Sorrento, there is a wonderful place called Regina Giovanna. It overlooks all of Sorrento, Naples, and Vesuvius, and makes a human ponder all there is to ponder about while gazing out at the crashing waves of the sea. Huge rock formations and ancient ruins make up Regina Giovanna, and yet it is an excellent place to swim. Regina Giovanna is kept hidden from tourists (shhhhh!), so it is usually visited only by locals, or long time travelers like study abroad students who are let in on the secret. If there is anywhere the famous “Sirens of Sorrento” can be heard, then it is in Regina Giovanna.
3. Café Noir
This café offers authentic Italian coffee and locals. I seem to find myself here often. So often, I have somewhat of a “tab” going of my daily espresso drinks.
4. Stray Street Dogs
The dogs here are peculiar. I have never seen so many stray dogs so well taken care of. The dogs are free as they prance around the Piazzas of Sorrento, ignoring cars and people as if everything else was invisible. Often, I find dogs lying right in the middle of the street, as cars pass them, knowingly disturbing the flow of traffic. Sometimes a person will go into the street to move the dog, but usually the dog lazily walks back to its original spot to continue its nap or sunbathe.
5. Vesuvius Lookout
Each day I take the same walk to school. Each day I am lucky enough to pass by one of the most beautiful spots in Sorrento: the horizon of Naples and Vesuvius in all its glory. I get to see Vesuvius crystal clear on a sunny day, or just an outline when the fog is coming in. I see it lit up at night from the surrounding towns, and I have even seen a cap of snow at the top when it was still cold enough.
Some travel for days to see Vesuvius in this way, and all I have to do is walk out my door; every day I am grateful for that walk.
6. The Dinner Table
Each evening and each morning I sit down at a table set for a family. Mornings offer coffee and too many cookies and the evenings offer linguistic exchange and the bliss of a family sharing a meal. These are the joys of living with a local host family, and something I would most definitely recommend every international student experience.
7. Soccer Fields
As a soccer player, I am of course happy to have soccer fields in every direction. Although girls are usually frowned upon in Italian soccer games, I manage to make my way into games and even throw in a little Italian “smack talk” here and there. Needless to say, I appreciate the national sport here in Italy, and you don’t have to look long or far to find a place to play or someone to play with.
8. Marina Grande
Just a short walk from my school. Marina Grande offers perfect sights, sounds, and smells. Italian floats in the air, the salty Bay of Naples is at your feet, and the authentic Italian restaurants attract locals just as much as travelers.
9. Off the Beaten Path
Well, as off the beaten path as you can get when it comes to study abroad in Italy. Though Italy is one of the most popular places to study abroad in the world, Sorrento is not the first city most students think of. Therefore, study abroad programs in Sorrento will provide you with many more opportunities for language learning, cultural immersion, and authentic Italian experiences.
All you have left to do is choose a program!
This article was contributed by Sant’Anna Institute, an academic institution devoted to providing international students with an authentic experience of Italy, in every way. From its Italian language courses to culturally enriched study abroad programs, Sant’Anna aims to provide a “home away from home” for every student.