I groggily opened my eyes as the growing chatter and the slowing of the bus seemed to signal the end of our journey from Bologna. The combination of jet lag and what seemed to me a superfluous amount of air travel and layovers is incredibly effective in knocking out a person for extended periods of time. Thus, in my state of tired confusion, I had no inclination as to how we had possibly arrived so quickly and was only slightly bothered by the prospect that my nap had been cut short.
As I fought the instinct to rub the sleep from my eyes (smudged mascara is not cute), I finally took a good look at our destination. Immediately a wave of excitement blew away any remaining exhaustion that hindered my ability to fully immerse myself in my surroundings.
The first thing I noticed was the fountain. A beautiful, clear fountain sparkling in the middle of the piazza. Then it was the buildings. You always see pictures of Italy and fantasize about walking down the cobbled, picturesque streets with the sun in your eyes, a cool breeze giving a moment of relief from the summer heat, locals shouting “Ciao!” or “Buongiorno!” to each other from across the way. The idea of being able to actually live that fantasy for almost a month had me itching to get off the bus.
And then I saw the mountains.
Breathtaking, majestic, sprawling, green mountains surrounded the city in what seemed like a warm hug evoking feelings of awe and also a strange (but not at all unwelcome) sense of safety. All my senses were flooded with the scene before me. Crisp, dry air filled my lungs and it the realization finally hit.
We were in Italy!
I was soon brought back to my senses at the sight of a group of locals awaiting our arrival. Smiles beamed on both ends as we approached and greetings were promptly exchanged. Glenn called out our names and we were all sent off with our respective host or guide to our apartments for the trip. I walked along with my housemates up a hill and soon entered our living quarters. A beautiful place reminiscent of a super fancy suite with living rooms, dining table, kitchen, gorgeous backyard, and two cozy bedrooms. We quickly began to explore every nook and cranny of the apartment and discovered it to have almost everything we needed. It felt incredibly warm (both figuratively and literally) and after getting to know each other and unpacking already began to almost feel like a home away from home.
Just as the jet lag began to hit hard, all the participants of CLA Italy went to the Checco, a beautiful little restaurant with outdoor seating and lighting that was out of a dream. The cool evening breeze helped lift our tired spirits and our night of feasting began! Introductions were made and MANY dishes served. Loud, joyful conversations ensued with laughter and delicious aromas filling the evening air.
As the sun set behind the mountains painting our surrounding a warm, orange glow, our first night in Novafeltria came to a close. Faces glowing with excitement and possibly sweat (probably sweat) we headed back to our respective residences and turned in for the night looking forward to the work that would already begin tomorrow.
Welcome to Novafeltria.
Welcome to CLA Italy.