A few years ago I was able to take a trip to Rome. When compared to the trip I made recently while living in Italy, it doesn’t stand up. This adventure included the company of all my fellow interior design program friends, and the exploration of architecture. Unparalleled to any other, the Roman architecture is one of the many things I was delighted to see first hand. This time I saw everything with the eyes of a designer, and relished in the details of every ruin and building we toured.
A planned day trip with the entire program was to visit the city of Siena. A historic landmark in Italy’s central Tuscany. Siena is known for its medieval roots and classic architecture, with the biggest example of this being the local Cathedral, which I was able to tour. Now I could sit here and type an essay on the beauty of its craftsmanship, but instead I’ll stick with a few words about my personal journey through this beautiful church.
The exterior and interior are constructed of white and greenish-black marble in alternating stripes, with the addition of red marble on the façade. I learned that these colors are symbolic to Siena, linked back to the color of the horses of the legendary city founders. While drawing in this spectacular space with its angelic architectural elements, I was able to use my keen sense of design and fully appreciate the fact that beauty really is in the details.
The big finale to my time with friends in Europe, was to the French Riviera. This included a tour of a perfume factory, a climb to a hilltop garden in Eze, an exploration of the streets of Nice, a day trip to Monaco, and an Absinthe tasting in Antibes. I got to enjoy this trip with a close friend of mine since childhood. Together we got to experience what our fathers did when they traveled Europe together over 40 years ago. We skipped through the streets, shared cherries from the farmers market, danced on tables at a local bar and marveled on how lucky we were to be traveling in the same shoes as our dads.
The most adventurous trip I took was to Split, Croatia. After a 12-hour bus ride, and hectic check-in we quickly hopped on our boat tour and jetted off to the nearby islands. Off the beaten path, the small towns on these islands exuded more history and passion than I’d ever seen. This led to my friend and myself, to participate in more hands on activities, that way we could get up close and personal with the beauty of Split. We kayaked in the Adriatic Sea, while the tour guide gave us short history lessons of our surroundings. We swam in a freezing cold waterfall, learned how to debone a cooked fish, drank champagne on the rocky beaches, and wondered the seaside streets at night, as if we were locals. Together, we ventured outside of our tourist comfort zones, and explored the true wonders a city has to offer.
If I had the chance to go back to Italy, but could only visit one spot it would be Lake Como. My roommate and I had a weekend getaway to Bellagio, a smaller town located in the Lake Como region. Words cannot describe the sheer beauty and magic of that remote little town. We dined at a restaurant on the water, had massages at the local resort, and walked the cobblestone streets seeking every possible view of the mountainous landscape. This trip was pure and unadulterated bliss, and we learned the true meaning of contentment and how to never take our surroundings for granted.
Every class day, my friends and I would go to this locally owned café across the street from our study center. It became one of our favorite local spots. It was a family run establishment, with the husband and wife working behind the counter, and their two children working as the waiters. Everything was locally harvested and organic, making the coffee, food and atmosphere all the more meaningful. This kind of commitment, and “giving back” motto inspired my friend and I, who already were environmentally conscious, to become all the more devoted to sustainability and how we can apply that within our future designs.
A day I will never forget was my trip to Venice, Italy. Starting off as a spontaneous adventure, this 8-hour day turned out to be full of surprises. Being built on the islands of the marshy lagoons on the Adriatic Sea, the stone buildings seemingly rise out of the water. With no cars or roads, canals and boats were our only mode of transportation, which in turn was an adventure in itself. We wondered aimlessly throughout the city, filled with innumerable narrow, mazelike alleys and small squares. In the end, we found that we got lost in all the right places. Sometimes being lost isn’t a bad thing, for we wouldn’t have discovered the treasures that awaited us.
Throughout my studying abroad experience I was lucky enough to travel during the weekends to exotic locations. My first trip included a great group of friends and a seaside town called Portofino. This lively location had it all, rolling green hills, a beautiful seascape and vibrant architecture. The stacked buildings gently placed within the hills played off its surroundings with the use of a fun, and colorful scheme. I couldn’t help but look at the quaint town in admiration for the historic accomplishment of its effortless design. An exploration of the senses, this trip opened my eyes to how design can be inspired by ones surroundings.
As a designer I must learn to identify and adapt to environments, with this came the Milan Expo. This was an experience unparalleled to any other. It influenced my analytical skills in architecture and how every detail has a purpose. With this unique worldview I was able to single out the different elements and principles of design with a trained eye. Through the exposure of transferrable skills, I was able to function and adapt to Italian lifestyles, grow independently and engage with locals. Overall, the illumination of the cultural aspects of living on ones own in a foreign country further developed my identity as a designer.
The personal value of what one learns overseas can never truly be put into perspective, however it can illuminate ones ability to function in a cross cultural environment. Through the process of identification I found the value of my success in an unfamiliar territory, in this case that territory was Florence, Italy. For six weeks I studied the history, people and design of the city. I took notice of the cultural aspects and vast customs of the Florentine people, as well as the differing countries I visited on my travels. Through this abroad experience I was able to conjure up my creative problem solving skills and develop independence through travel; also while identifying my own basic survival skills to assimilate with this new life I was thrust into.