After a 13-hour flight, jumping ahead of time 9 hours, and sleeping for a full day, I was happy to wake up in Rome and start my journey in Italy. We took a high-speed train (up to 150mph!) from Rome to our next destination: Osetello San Frediano in Lucca. Lucca is a small town in the Tuscany region, filled with historical artwork and architecture in and around the many chapels and churches in the area. The hostel we are staying in is a local youth hostel, so we have seen and connected with people from many different countries in our short time here. On a normal day, we will have class at 9am, go out for lunch, take a siesta in the early afternoon, and return for a short class meeting around 3-4pm, or as listed in our schedules, ora 15:00-16:00.
Our class discussions are based on our experiences/what we have yet to experience in the different regions throughout Italy. There are 20 regions total, and they each vary in overall socioeconomic status. These differences filter into our discussions on Italy’s social determinants of health, and how they are similar and compare to those in the US. We are split into several groups to tackle different topics; my group is largely focused on how advertisement and propaganda influences Italy’s use of tobacco, healthcare access among low-income/immigrant communities, and how mental health is integrated into Italian culture.
During one of our walking tours, we were able to see the process of silk looming, and from there we learned that Italy is in the process of preserving a lot of old traditions, particularly in the arts. Since Italy removed all its patients and did away with mental health hospitals altogether, they shifted to more integrative approaches to helping mental health patients, with one of them being teaching patients the ancient art of looming. Largely run by volunteers, these practices are being sustained and passed down to younger generations as another step to preserve and keep Italy’s historical culture alive. We will be learning more about mental health issues, as well as issues with immigration in America and extended tobacco use in the country throughout the next few weeks in class and out in the community, which I will be able to expand on more toward the end of the trip.
As for places we’ve visited, in the period of a week, we were able to see a bit of Rome, arrived in Lucca, and this past weekend, we took 3 trains and traveled 2 hours to the small communities in Cinque Terre. While in Lucca, we’ve visited many religious sites, but we have also walked up the largest clock towers in the area, with the largest one having 207 steps and overlooking all of Lucca. We have also taken a lot of walks on the Lucca walls that separate the old town within the walls (where we are staying) from the more modern section outside of the walls. The small towns that make up Cinque Terre offered a nice weekend getaway to the beach, but not before the rigorous 2-hour hike that we took from Vernazza to Monterosso al Mare. The beaches were largely privatized, which was surprising at first, but we were still able to access a nice area of the “free beach” and enjoyed the water, sun, and amazing seafood pasta at nearby restaurants.
I have much more to see in the next few weeks, many more questions to explore, and lots of pictures to post! Until then, Ciao!