During a semester in Austria every student has the opportunity to travel almost every weekend. Since classes are 4 days a week, you have 3 days to travel each weekend. On top of those weekends, there are two 10-day breaks: one break that you can travel and plan with other students and one break that is organized by the school, the Rome & Assisi Pilgrimage. These last 10 days I traveled on my own 10-day break through Southern Italy. I started in Pescara, then traveled to Naples, Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Salerno, and then to Taormina, Sicily.
Throughout this 10-day break I learned that one of the ways I encounter the Lord is in the beauty of his creation. Italy was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, and being able to soak in the beauty of the people, the culture, and the landscape was such a blessing.
For the first two days of the break, I traveled to Pescara, Italy where I met my distant relatives for the first time. I arrived in the town where I had an address of the family members from a genealogy that was done a few years ago, and I explained in broken Italian that I am a Fiascone and would like to meet some family. After a bit of confusion, and calling around to other relatives, dinner was set up at another family’s house. I then had dinner with my Italian relatives at their house and talked about my travels and our lives. They let me stay in their home for the night, took me out to a delicious lunch where they both knew the husband and wife running the place, bought me groceries to eat on my train ride to Naples, and then my Rita (pictured above) began to tear up as I was leaving! It was such a moving experience to be so welcomed by relatives in Italy, even though I arrived unannounced and they didn’t know me before that! The charity of the Italian people that I encountered and the charity of my family to welcome me so willingly was a pouring forth of the love of Christ in my life, and it is something I will not soon forget.
After meeting and seeing the beauty in family, and the beauty in the charity of the Italian people, I took a train to Naples where I spent one day exploring and then traveled on to Sorrento. Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Salerno are all along the coast near Naples and I explored these cities over the course of 5 days via Vespa (a Scooter). I was able to cruise along the coast at whatever pace I desired and take in the absolutely stunning views of the Italian coast. At each turn a new beauty awaited me: from the sunrise in the early morning over the clear blue water, to the crisp air at the top of a mountain drive, to the beaches at the bottom of the same mountain where I could relax, swim, and even snorkel! The beauty on the coast was overwhelming at times and the only response that adequately fit the occasion was gratitude. Gratitude to such a wonderful Creator that has gifted me with the opportunity to travel through Europe and take in the beauty of His creation. Throughout 5 days along the coast, meeting up with other friends from Franciscan, riding the Vespa to just about every small town I could find, and taking in the food, language, culture and beauty of it all, I knew that I have been given a wonderful gift from the Lord.
As a whole, the Austria experience has been an immense gift so far. I look forward to the adventures to come and sharing them with you.