Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Trip Report - Urbania 2003


Have you ever considered a study vacation? Improving your lexicon beyond “pizza,” “grazie,” and “ciao”? What better way to become part of Italian society and learn the language while on an extended vacation! The government of Italy offers U.S. citizens scholarships to study Italian in wonderful and delicious Italy.

I fell in love with Italy after my first visit there in summer 2000. After that trip, I became a bona fide Italophile: taking Italian language classes at the local community college, cooking Italian, watching Italian films, etc. Fortunately for me, the regional Italian Cultural Institute was literally right around the corner from where I was living at the time – and through them I found out about the Italian Foreign Ministry’s Scholarships. I was awarded a scholarship to study Italian in a small town of Urbania at Centro Studi Italiani.

I decided not to study in Italy right after I had received word of the scholarship. Instead, I was busy with school and work. Lucky for me the Italian government was flexible, as it allowed me to defer the scholarship for a year. The following year I decided to take time out my schedule and take off to a town I had never heard of, let alone this region I had never explored.

Already, I started to ask myself all these rhetorical questions: What was I getting myself into? Why did I choose not to study in Rome, Florence or even Siena? What possessed me to select a small town in a region I had never heard of? Would I, a person who needs constant background noise and stimulation, go crazy and lose my mind in a quaint town after a few days? Well, it was too late to back out now, as the next day I would board my plane for Milan.

Other than that all my flight connections were delayed and rerouted, and I arrived a day late, I think everything went fine! No plane crashes, no plane malfunctions, no mean airline staff, etc. I don’t want to dwell on the past, I mean they could have bumped me up to first or business class, but hey! Anyway, I did enjoy London Heathrow Airport while I was there, and was there for quite some time.

(If it hadn’t been for the fact that I was “living” in Italy for a month, I think I still brought too much luggage. Most of my friends who know me think I travel light. However, I think I brought too much, and traveling on the train solo definitely hammered that fact in. Next time, instead of bringing a carry-on suitcase, I am opting for an oversized backpack, even though it’s not as fashionable, it’s easier to walk up and down the stairs of the train station – and a lot of those train stations don’t have escalators, or if they do sometimes they have power outages!)

Anyway, after being rerouted a couple of times, I finally arrived in Milan. I then recall taking the shuttle bus to the train station and then a train to Pesaro; however, I had missed the last bus to either Urbania or Urbino by several hours. So I was stuck in Pesaro for the night and had a taxi driver recommend me a hotel. (Even though it was rather late when I arrived in Pesaro, 11 p.m., there were plenty of taxis.)

To this day, I still recall the communication between the driver and me, as my Italian was pretty limited back then. I had asked him to drop me off at a mid-priced hotel, not too expensive, but I don’t think he had understood; perhaps he had confused me as some rich single tourist and drove me to the most expensive hotel in Pesaro. I could tell, even though it was dark outside that this particular hotel was out of my budget, so I asked him in my Italian, “Quanto costa?” and he responded “300 Euro.” I had an immediate knee-jerk response that could be understood in any language, “Nnnnnnoooo! E’ troppo caro! Mi dispiace.” (It’s too expensive! I’m sorry.) Fortunately, he understood and knew of another hotel, Hotel Gala (a perfectly nice and clean hotel that cost me 40 Euros, easily would cost 2 to 4 times that in Milan; I’m sure the prices have increased since I have stayed there, also the prices increase during the summer peak season), which is where I spent the night.

Usually I dislike staying in hotel rooms, but after being cooped up in airplanes, trains, buses, and taxis, this warm and toasty hotel room was paradise. Each section of my room in Hotel Gala was heated; it was such utter perfection, especially during the cold month of March near the Adriatic coast. (...to be continued)

DETAILS (NOTE: Italy's Country Code is 39)
Centro Studi Italiani
Via Boscarini, 1 - 61049 Urbania
(Pesaro e Urbino) Italia
tel. 0722.318950
fax 0722.317286

e-mail: urbania@centrostuditaliani.org

Hotel Gala

Viale Trieste, 49
61100 - PESARO (PS)
tel. 0721.35114
fax 0721.68384

My review of Hotel Gala

(Update: Contact your local IIC for the scholarship application.)