Erica Husting is a journalism junior and Mustang Daily study abroad columnist.
The first weekend in October was a weekend for the bucket list.
That weekend, I had the opportunity to journey to the northern Italian region of Veneto, paying a visit to the iconic cities of Padua, Venice and Verona.
I set off for my adventure not knowing what to expect. I did, however, know there were several things I had to do before the weekend came to a close.
I came to Italy with a “Study Abroad Bucket List” — a carefully thought-out list of things to do, places to see and people to meet before my time abroad comes to an end in December. That weekend, I had some items to check off my list.
When I arrived in Venice (bucket list item No. 1 of the weekend), a fog covered the sky in a thick blanket, cloaking the “Floating City” in a sleepy haze. The city was eerily quiet — instead of noisy cars zooming past on the streets, there was only the sound of water lapping against the docks and the soft hum of motorboats making their way through the canal.
Our tour group soon moved away from the water and headed for the center of the city. As we navigated through the intricate, intimate network of maze-like streets, I was introduced to the city. The walls of many of the buildings served as the canvas to the most intricate and beautiful graffiti and street art I’ve ever seen. The narrow streets occasionally met up with tiny bridges, closing the gap between two pieces of the city and the water below.
The calm, peaceful quiet continued until we reached the center of the city and entered into the Piazza di San Marco.
It was time for my second bucket list item: Take a picture with the iconic pigeons of Piazza di San Marco, just like my parents had done years before.
After about 20 pictures and an hour later, I found myself in front of a gondola, about to check off my third bucket list item of the weekend.
When I stepped on to the long, narrow vessel, I saw the city from a new perspective.
The houses and buildings I had spent the morning admiring and navigating through now loomed overhead. The waves lapped against the buildings, revealing the exact point where the water met the city and giving the buildings the illusion that they were floating above the water.
People stopped and waved to us from the bridges and windows above.
As we made our way through the maze of canals, our gondolier began to sing, his voice reverberating up through the narrow canal.
As our boat reached the Grand Canal, I looked to my left just in time to catch a man slipping a ring onto his fiancé’s finger.
When he caught my friends and I staring, he spread his arms wide and announced with a smile, “She said yes!”
That day in Venice was surreal, but the feeling didn’t end when I left the city.
The last stop of the weekend was the town of Verona, the destination I had been eagerly awaiting the whole trip, for sentimental reasons. Verona is the famed setting of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” the play that made me fall in love with the great playwright. Then I saw the film “Letters to Juliet,” which made a visit to the Capulet house to write and deliver a letter to Juliet the No. 1 item on my study abroad bucket list.
After wandering around on a guided tour through the cobblestone streets lined with boutiques and souvenir shops, we finally arrived.
At first glance, it didn’t look like much — construction scaffolding covered the wall of shops in front of me, and gum and graffiti covered the doors and the stone wall beside it. As I surveyed the scaffolding, my eyes fell on a half-hidden, little brown sign with three words: “Casa di Giulietta.”
I realized where I was.
The marks I mistook for graffiti transformed into coupled names and expressions of love, spilling over into a dark tunnel. As I walked through the tunnel, I took in the thousands of overlapping signatures from hopeful lovers who wanted to leave their requests for Juliet.
When I stepped out of the tunnel and into the sun, I found myself in Juliet’s Courtyard.
In front of me was the famous statue of Juliet, surrounded by a crowd waiting to touch her for love and good fortune. I looked up to see a soon-to-be bride leaning on the ledge of the iconic lovers’ balcony, reading a poem to her bridal party below.
My eyes quickly scanned the small courtyard for the wall I expected to be covered with letters and envelopes addressed to Juliet.
No such luck.
Bracing myself for disappointment, I asked the tour guide if there was a wall for Juliet. She shook her head, but quickly smiled and pointed to a little red mailbox tucked into the corner of the courtyard.
I went over to the box, parted with my letter and officially checked off the fourth bucket list item of the weekend.