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From Tourist to Tour Guide

Elizabeth Benz
April 17, 2014

Last week I had the refreshing opportunity to view Milan with new eyes. A friend from home was visiting for the day, and I had some time to show her my adopted city of the past few months. Before she arrived, I thought for a while about what the best sights would be to give her an idea the character of the area and also of Italy in general, as it was her first time visiting the country.

We started with the most obvious choice – the Duomo, as it is the most famous landmark in the city, and in my opinion also the most beautiful. It was also a somewhat nostalgic choice for me, as the Duomo was one of the first things I saw on my first trip to Italy (and Europe overall) eight years ago. I’ll never forget the impression its size and Gothic architecture left on me, and when we came out of the metro I saw the same astounded expression on my friend’s face. The inside is equally imposing, with its gigantic pillars forty feet in circumference that resemble ancient tree trunks. At this point I snapped into “tour guide mode,” sharing a torrent of loosely connected facts about the cathedral that I’ve gleaned from a series of tours, field studies, and my own curiosity. Fun fact: I am a human sponge for random information, which makes me really good at trivia board games.

Our next stop was the Castello Sforzesco, the giant fortress built by the Sforza family. We contemplated going through the vast network of museums, but considering that it was about seventy degrees and sunny we decided on a walking tour of the grounds, and ended up sitting for a while in front of the Arco di Pace (a smaller version of its Parisian counterpart), across from the castle and nestled in the beautiful greenery of Parco Sempione. Sitting in the sun and discussing our plans for the next semester, I realized two important things. The first is that I missed home and the familiar routines of my college much more than I was previously willing to admit, and the second is that you don’t have to hit every sight listed in the guidebook to get a feel for a city.

The rest of the day was low-key: eating authentic Italian pasta at a tiny trattoria down the street from the IES Center and introducing her to the cappuccinos at my favorite cafe, and going up to the roof of the Duomo. I’d never been up there before, so it was an incredible experience for both of us. Not only can you see the incredible detail of the spires and statues up close, but you also get an amazing panorama of the city and the Alps. Sharing the city with someone else made me appreciate anew the beautiful places I see every day, sometimes without giving them much thought, and made me reflect upon how lucky I was to be studying here.

Elizabeth Benz

<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Elizabeth Benz is a lifetime upstate New York resident who never takes the snow brush out of the back seat of her car. Originally from Buffalo, NY, she is a senior Music Education/Violin Performance major and Italian minor at Ithaca College. These three passions were intertwined on a life-changing trip in 2006 to the International Suzuki Method Conference in Turin, Italy, where she not only saw the communicative power of music across young artists from many nationalities, but also fell in love with the language and culture of the country. Eight years later she is fulfilling the promise she made to herself to return to Italy, after completing her senior student teaching practicum. She is particularly interested in observing the emphasis and importance placed on youth music and arts programs across Europe, and returning with ideas to inspire and support her own program at a future teaching job.</span></p>

Destination:
Term:
2014 Spring
Home university:
Ithaca College
Major:
Education
Music
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