Giuseppe Verdi, a famous Italian composer of the 19th century, once said “Avrai tu l’universo, resti l’Italia a me” (or in English: “You may have the Universe, if I may have Italy”). After living in Sicily for my entire fall semester and indulging myself in the Italian lifestyle, I tend to think that Verdi would be getting the better deal in his proposition.
As an Italian-American myself and an avid traveler, being able to experience Sicily through the Auburn Abroad program was truly a blessing that I’ll never forget. The images and memories in Sicily from the Nebrodi Mountains, Mt. Etna, the beautiful Sicilian beaches, and the rest of Sicily still resonate strongly in my mind. The smaller Sicilian city of Taormina and what it offers is second to none. These beautiful locations and the unforgettable culture on this unique island are truly the best that Italy has to offer.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the northern Italian cities such as Rome and Venice. There is amazing culture and history present in those locations as well. But Sicily offers something unlike anywhere else in this beautiful country. Sicily offers not only the countless churches, art shows, historical sites, and amazing food like the Northern locations…but it also offers the untouched landscapes, stunning beaches, Europe’s largest volcano, and the most authentic Italian lifestyle that has avoided the sweeping changes from the Western world and modernization. It’s as close to your Italian grandmother’s kitchen as you can possibly get.
From a learning perspective, there’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that choosing Sicily over a larger city was also a huge benefit. Unlike popular abroad cities such as Florence or Rome, the smaller city of Taormina only has a small group of English native speakers present around the city, so the temptation of speaking primarily your native tongue is eliminated by necessity. Not only that, but the ability to travel (cheaply) around the entire island and its popular tourist locations such as Agrigento, Syracuse, and the Aeolian Islands give you countless options to explore each weekend as well. Hopping on the train with my new international friends and visiting these locations ended up being just as valuable as anything else I learned in a classroom during my time abroad.
In retrospect, I believe it’s safe to say that the Taormina Abroad Program that I participated in was easily the most valuable learning experience I’ve had in college, while also being the most enjoyable. How could you go wrong by living on the beautiful Sicilian beaches for three months? Don’t miss out on your opportunity to study abroad! Forza Sicilia!