|5 Oct 2023
I attended Bradfield for Sixth Form,as an IB Diploma student where one of my six subjects was a beginners’ course in Italian. During this period, I fell in love with Italian culture, from the music to the food and Italy’s historical traditions. This inspired me to apply for this award and get the chance to experience Italian culture firsthand, whilst also finally using the Italian I had been working hard to learn. I set my sights on two cities: Venice and Florence.
Arriving at Marco Polo Airport, the journey to the heart of the city was unforgettable. Aboard a vaporetto, I was transported across the lagoon and ushered into a realm where waterways replace streets, and an enchanting series of ancient palazzi and picturesque bridges comes into view. My hostel was situated in the San Marco district, often dubbed the ‘heart of Venice’, named after the patron saint of the city. Whilst I had heard stories about less than pleasant scents in Venice, I was surprised to find the air was a mix of salty sea breeze and the smell of traditional Italian food. Throughout my trip, I went on a food adventure, trying out all sorts of Venetian dishes. From squid ink risotto to branzino, every bite was a taste of its own. My favourite Italian delicacy though had to be cannoli; every morning I would start my day with a cappuccino and cannoli whilst taking in some of the beautiful Venetian architecture. Throughout my three days in Venice, I ventured across all areas of the small city, seeing landmarks from the iconic Rialto Bridge to the Gothic styled Doge’s palace. I enjoyed losing my way wandering through the endless canal-side alleyways. A highlight of Venice was Piazza San Marco, a cultural centre that pulsed with life and was anchored on one end by the Basilica, and clustered with restaurants, museums, and shops.
On day three, I moved on to Firenze, taking a high-speed train with a stop in the middle: the charming small town of Ferrara, where I met up with a school friend from back when I lived in Seoul, South Korea. His mother, an incredible chef, prepared us a multi-course lunch, and afterwards ‘abbiamo fatto una passeggiata’ - the cultural norm for Italians after eating a meal, meaning ‘taking a stroll.’
I made it to Firenze in the late evening, where I headed to my hostel in the San Lorenzo district. The city's streets, cobblestoned and lined with centuries-old edifices, felt like an immersion into a living Renaissance painting. I managed to snag a cheap ticket to ACF Fiorentina’s match against Verona, a riveting 2-0 win, where I felt immersed in the football culture of the city, and attempted some Italian, mingling with local fans - who quickly realised I was English! I continued to enjoy the local food on offer, indulging in a delicious Fiorentinian steak, and Pappardelle al cinghiale, a ribbon pasta with wild boar.
I am enormously grateful to the Lodge for this generous travel award, which enabled me to take my first-ever solo trip to Europe. Not only was it a challenging adventure as I had to arrange and pay for everything myself, it was a truly liberating and exhilarating experience, and one I shall always remember. Reluctant though I was at first, having the opportunity to speak Italian in Italy in real-life situations was amazingly satisfying and made me realise how much more meaningful it is to communicate directly with the people you meet when travelling abroad, using their language.
Leavers and Young Alumni have the opportunity to apply for The Bradfield Society Travel Awards, including the award sponsored by the Masonic Lodge, in May each year. If you left Bradfield in the last couple of years and are planning to do some adventure travel or to work for a charity whilst travelling abroad put the date in your diary and get in touch with the Bradfield Society with your proposed travel plans on email@example.com or call 0118 964 4840.