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Published: September 26th 2016
My next two weeks were at a camp in the northern mountains called the Dolomite Alps, near the town of Folgaria. It was an overnight camp, and we all stayed at a hotel together, not with a host family. Because of the intense nature of the camp, we couldn’t travel that much while there, but we were in the mountains, which made up for it.
Every morning I woke up to views of mountains all around us. And, not surprisingly, it did feel very ‘alpine’. The architecture was different from other places I’d seen in Italy. Lots of shutters with shapes carved out of them, sloped roofs, and more wood (not plaster).
On our afternoon off, we went on a hike up the mountain. It was probably one of my favorite afternoons of the whole summer—we were out in nature, breathing fresh air, having those interesting conversations that happen when you take an easy hike. One of the other tutors pointed out wild strawberries, so we picked those for a while. Then, as we came down a different way, we walked through a field of wildflowers.
We also took some field trips.
Two days, we went to a lake with the kids. There, I learned about the Italian belief that you can’t go swimming less than two hours after eating, so that made activity planning a little more difficult. We also walked to the town of Folgaria, which is a cute tourist town reminiscent of the more happening towns near Hunter, NY. One evening we even had to go to a ‘kids’ disco’ there with the older kids. This took place in a real club that has one timeslot per week for pre-teens and teens. Not my jam. Other days, we went to a sports complex for kids to go mountain biking or play tennis/volleyball.
This camp was cool because we got to interact with the kids for more time outside of ‘lesson time’. We had both afternoon and evening activities, plus all meals, with them. It was more like a real camp, and we got to know them better.
My team at this camp was one of my favorites, and it was also my favorite setting for camp, because of our surroundings. For me, although we worked more time at the camp, it was easier
because we were just in that one place. Other camps, where I worked 60%!a(MISSING)s much, felt a bit harder because after being at camp, I still had to go home and interact with my host family or meet camp people for drinks or dinner later.
It’s hard to have a great experience because after that your outlook changes. You realize how good something can be, so unfortunately, like at my next camp, it can be a bit of a bummer.
I was sad to leave the Folgaria camp, and I transferred to the next camp on my own (typically you change to the next camp with at least one other tutor from your current camp). My buddies were gone, and so were the mountains. The area I was in for the next camp, Loreggia, was really flat and industrial/agricultural. It was also a lot hotter than it had been up in the mountains.
My host family at this camp was great, and they took me on tons of different trips. My host sister was a pre-teen, so she had some English. Once we got over the initial newness,
At Lake Lavarone, in Dolomite Alps
we hung out a lot—watched movies, did origami, etc. One of my favorite parts of the summer was seeing how talented my campers/’siblings’ were. This is why I love teaching middle school age kids—they continually surprise you. This host sister was a competitive roller-dancer. I went to watch her at practice once, and couldn’t believe the things she could do.
With this host family, we went to the town of Asolo twice. This is a town on a hillside frequented by intellectual types from Italy and abroad. If you’re in the area with a car, definitely stop by for a walk around the town.
Another day, we did a daytrip to Possagno, where a genius named Canova is from. I feel reasonably well-informed about history and culture, but this summer opened my eyes to lots of illustrious Italians I’d never heard of. Canova was a sculptor/architect/painter of the Neoclassical style who lived in the 18th
We first went to see the Temple of Canova, which is a church he designed. From the outside, it looks like the Jefferson Memorial and countless other buildings in Washington, DC (which were based on
this style). From the inside, it looks like the Pantheon, with a domed roof. For a few euros, we climbed climbed climbed on top of the dome, which was a frightening experience. The views were nice, but I was happy to be back on terra firma.
Next, we went to what is probably one of the best museums I’ve been to in my life, a museum of Canova’s home and studio, with plaster displays of many of his sculptures. I never had a huge interest in sculpture, but having his work all together really helps you understand what a talented artist he was. The museum is really well-designed, but unfortunately you’re not allowed to take pictures inside. If you’re in the area with a car, I highly recommend Canova’s gipsoteca.
The same day, we drove to the nearby town of Bassano del Grappa and explored. The town itself is happening, at least in the summer. It was full of locals and tourists, with a few hip shops and bars. I was surprised to see them for the size of the town.
For the first 15 minutes walking around, I just thought
it was another normal town, but suddenly we were on an old covered bridge with this stunning view of a clear mountain river with mountains in the distance. For a while, we just sat next to the river and soaked our feet in the clean, cool water. Then we walked down a trail along the river that leads to a couple more towns (we didn’t go that far because it was almost dinner time).
Another evening, we went to Treviso. I was excited because it was the place I most wanted to go in the region. It’s called ‘Little Venice’ because it was built in the Venetian style, with canals through the city (but it’s not islands!). Treviso, for me, was the perfect little city. It’s a university town with not a ton of tourists. It’s clean and beautiful, with lots of young people. I could live there and be happy. It’s close to mountains, to the sea, to the bigger city of Venice . . .
My host dad and sister took me to a traditional local bar there. My host dad told me I had to be quiet because only locals were
allowed inside. I almost believed him! It’s got cured meat, cheese, bread, antipasto, wine, and beer. You can order a plate of whichever things you want, and they guy at the deli counter chops it up and puts it on a wooden board for you. Our dog came inside and relaxed on the floor too! Most of the customers were male regulars who had probably been coming for 60 or 70 years. Some came over to chat about the dog.
Each area of Italy is so unique. Even though I’d never heard of any of the places I went, the region near Loreggia was cool. That’s one reason the ACLE style of placing tutors with host families is a great way to learn about the country—they show us the best places! I’m just overwhelmed now looking over how many places I got to (and how many pictures I took, even though I took them pretty sparingly) this summer.
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