This is my second semester at SRISA in Florence, and it has been interesting starting again with a new batch of people, watching them take their first trips out of Florence, and it got me nostalgic for my first weekend trip. Traveling is something special in itself, and your first day trip abroad is magical. Here is my story.
Few things are as exhilarating as impromptu travels your first free weekend in a new country. Everything is new then—the blurry-eyed travelers gazing at the Arrivals/Departures board, the squeal of locomotive brakes, the mechanical whine of tickets validating—all novelty in my virgin eyes as I clutched my ticket to a day of adventures.
As my train rolled into Passignano sul Trasimeno, I practically ran out of the station towards the lake that housed my final destination, Isola Maggiore. With a population of 35, the island was promised to have remained virtually unchanged since the 13th century. And from my vantage point on the shore looking out at the steely water to the island, I expected nothing less.
Of course, the first task was finding a way to the island. In my excitement, I booked the earliest train, and made it hours before the tourist ferry started operating. As luck should have it, an old man pulled up along the boardwalk in a rickety old pontoon boat, motioning for me to board his vessel. An older couple with a few kids jumped onboard and starting chatting up the old man, so I decided to take a chance and ride on the makeshift ferry.
It was smooth sailing as I sat, sandwiched up front with the kids, my eyes as filled with wonder as theirs. We hit some crazy waves and laughed a little as the lake-spray kissed our cheeks (I think the old man was doing it on purpose!).
We made it to the tiny port and immediately, I felt like the island was mine for the day. The streets were deserted, shutters still closed from the night’s sleep. The sun peeked from behind the stone buildings, and I felt a sense of calm I had not felt since I’d arrived in Florence weeks earlier.
I felt comfortable.
I checked out the brilliantly hand painted map of the island and headed through the sleeping town towards a worn path leading up the hill to the Church of Saint Michael the Archangel. As I climbed the dirt trail, looping in and out of olive groves and beautiful wildflowers, I imagined St. Francis of Assisi taking this same path, as he must have in the 1200s during his 40-day stay on the island. I pictured him stopping to admire the daisies and rest against gnarled trunks, his mind consumed in quiet contemplation.
At the summit of the hill, the small church sat proudly overlooking the glassy lake. It was simple, quaint, and wholly unlike behemoth Florentine cathedrals I was surrounded by, and I loved it. I climbed into an old tree nearby and rested in the morning light, grinning like I never had before.
All too soon, a wave of tourists joined my quiet oasis, snapping pictures and admiring the panoramic views. I took it as my cue to leave them in the magical refuge, while I slowly marched back to Florence, my soul renewed.
Bre Legan, 2017