In April I went to Perugia for the first time to work as a volunteer for the 2013 International Journalism Festival. Founded in 2006 by Arianna Ciccone and Chris Potter it brings together journalism professionals, students and media members from around the world to host or attend keynotes, workshops or panels regarding journalism and media today. Free.
I stayed for five days, running from lecture to lecture to interview speakers and write pieces for the festival’s online magazine. It was a fantastic experience, both for the chance to hear and interview some of the top journalists in America, Italy and the UK, and for the chance to meet Italians my age from all over Italy. Though I wasn’t able to explore outside of Perugia’s historical city center, I was still able to “travel” in my day-to-day interactions.
Eating in a pizzeria after a long day of reporting I listened, fascinated, as four Sicilians explained the differences in food styles and names between each region of the island. Even the slightest change – slightly bigger or round instead of square – in one doughnut-like pastry merits the right to change its name. They didn’t even know the differences among their own region, figuriamoci, much less a foreigner like me! I listened to the different accents, joked about Italian mamma’s and learned about the Italian media world. In that week I learned more about the differences in habits, geography and food throughout the different regions of Italy than I ever could have “studying” those things – and I was lucky to hear it from peers.
Though I didn’t see much of Perugia, I enjoyed walking past the center’s fountain and under the impressive Sala dei Notari. I enjoyed seeing the mix of cultures as thousands flooded the tiny town for the annual conference and I took frequent breaks, sneaking to the edge of the town to enjoy the view from this hill-top town.
The volunteers stayed in the Ostello della Gioventù, the Youth Hostel of Perugia – a beautiful hostel with clean, spacious rooms, high ceilings and the most beautiful balcony views.
This was just a short introduction to Perugia as a city, but the start of a story for my understanding of Italians and my life in Italy. Though I wasn’t there to travel, the essence of travel – to learn new things, meet new people and immerse yourself in a new culture – was the theme of my five days in Perugia.