As soon as I stepped out of our car, I immediately knew everything felt different. The land was filled with life from the bugs flying by my ears to the tip of the leaves on the trees. The entire land seemed to be bustling with life and beauty. I spent the first few minutes trying to comprehend what was in front of me, what was around me, and ultimately, where I currently am. It was like a place out of a story book, with beautiful healthy trees spreading over my head that were brilliant green colors, and the sound of rushing water in the distance was making its way around the surrounding forest. Even the dirt at my feet never really seemed as dry as it should be. Once I went back to my senses, I beheld the structure we were going to stay in. It was a bright tan villa with bricks perfectly straight on its walls and the sunlight beat off of it almost like a mirror. Though it seemed recently made, it still had an old, historical feeling to it, like it was made in a different era. I had not even seen the inside of the place, but I immediately felt I was going to like staying here. It felt welcoming, as if it was beckoning for me to make myself at home. Things like this seemed they only belonged in a dream. I didn’t even know such a place existed. I never imagined Italy to be like this.
Truthfully, I never really thought about Italy much. I always thought of going somewhere tropical with clear water and perfect waves beating down in front of a sunset. But to be in Europe, I never really knew what to expect. But, truthfully once again, I think this place might be better in its own way. After many thoughts rushing through my head, I went back to my senses and we headed inside to see where we will stay. There were two buildings on this property: the large building I was on the way in, and one in the back which was almost identical in size and look, yet it seemed just a bit smaller. The door to inside was made of very well-crafted wood with the top of the door made of glass, covered in intricate designs made of iron. Though the house itself was beautiful, the inside was surprisingly simple, yet it had the right feeling to it. The floor was made of faded orange tiles, while the walls looked just like they do outside. In the middle of the room was a simple couch with a television set in front of it. Just to the right of it, and not divided by anything in any way, was the kitchen, comprised of a modern-looking old sink and fridge. There was an upstairs part of the building too, but there was one detail to the room that latched to my vision almost immediately. To the edge of the room on the floor, right between the doorway and the wooden staircase, was a large hole covered in glass that seemed to lead into an abyss of eternal darkness. I questioned the women who owned the place about it immediately, and she simply flipped a switch to show me and the rest of my family staying what it was. The dark pit lit up by an old looking lantern inside it, which unveiled the darkness and revealed a tunnel that lead under the house. The tunnel was unreachable without breaking the glass flooring though. According to the owner, the history of it was that miners used to use the tunnel years ago. Though it was safe to walk on the glass and that there was no way of anyone or anything going through it, I never really liked looking at it too long. I was always paranoid that I might see something down in that darkness, something unpleasant. “Too many horror movies” was the only thing I thought to myself.
The upper level was slightly more interesting than the downstairs room. There were two rooms, a bedroom, and a bathroom. The bathroom wasn’t very exciting; it was just a bathtub, a sink, and a toilet. The bedroom had a large bed with a wooden frame and two nicely-made wood wardrobes. There were two windows in that room that led out. One only showed the building next door, while the other led to the scenery of the beautifully mysterious forest in the back. This forest was the source of the sound of a rushing waterway, but everything was hidden by the trees swaying along with the wind. I needed to see what was beyond the wall of trees. I say needed because one of my life goals is to wander into an unknown forest with no signs of humanity nearby and engulf myself in the surrounding nature. My inner fantasy stood before me right out the window and is accessible by just walking out the door. With that thought of urgency within my mind, I travelled out to see what might be out there.
The path down through the forest was peaceful. I followed a small path that was covered in shade and leaves with the wind brushing through my hair ever so softly. I purposely discarded all stressful thoughts and memories and just enjoyed life for how it was. Up ahead was a wrecked stone shack the size of a child’s playhouse on the side of the road. It looked ancient, like it was here before anything else was built. The roof was gone as well as some of the walls, while roots and vines slithered up the remains, trying to cover the piece of history with its leafy interior. It had no significance to anything, but it was still unique to look at. As I continued down the path, the road eventually ended, splitting up into two opposite directions. I wanted to go on one of them to see what lied beyond, but I didn’t have the time to explore much farther at the moment, though I knew I would walk on one of those trails later.
After settling in at the house, it started getting dark and the birds in the trees ended their melodies of morning and light while the crickets begun to chirp their own song. I decided to walk on the dusty road we drove through to get to this heavenly place to see if this land had anything else to offer. The darkness crept up around me, engulfing my surroundings and vision as I went farther down the road, until eventually my sight with my eyes open was equivalent to my eyes closed. But in the middle of the pitch black night was a small light that flashed on in front of me. The peculiar light wasn’t even the size of the edge of my nail, yet it seemed so bright and clear. It never made anything else visible but itself with its glow. Then another small glowing orb hovered around me curiously. And it seemed in just a blink of an eye, the hauntingly dark forest sprang to life with thousands of small glowing lights going in every direction spreading to as far as the eye could see, from the farthest shadow of a tree to an inch in front of my bewildered eyes. I have always seen fireflies in movies, but to see them in front of me is just… unbelievable. It seemed hard to believe that this was all real. I felt like I was dreaming, yet I wasn’t waking up, and I never wanted it to end.
I slept that night happier than I have ever been, waiting in anticipation what the next day will bring me. And I discovered something I never really got in touch with before. There is so much more in life than you can ever imagine. Even if you’ve travelled the world and visited every country, there is still more to discover out there. And someday, if you look hard enough, you can find a place that brings out your inner peace.
By Austin, Grade 9
Thank you to Austin’s mom for sending along this inspiring (and well written!) essay that endearingly brings to life the impact of their trip to Italy and in particular their visit to the Colle San Paolo agriturismo in Umbria 3 years ago. Austin’s mom remarked “I had no idea our trip had this effect, we’ll have to keep doing it.” And, indeed, here at Italiakids.com we receive so many examples big and small of the tremendous benefits of travel for school-age children.