Solo Travel in 1977

August 5, 2015,

In 1977 I had just turned 19. I did something very unusual and very brave, something that was unheard of for a daughter of Italian immigrants. I convinced my parents to allow me to study in Perugia, Italy at the Universita’ per Stranieri. I would board with a family and study and stay abroad from September to December and return in early January.

In early September I started classes at the University. After my breakfast of caffe’ latte and bread with green tomato jam (which was delicious) I set off for my first day of classes at the Palazzo Gallenga. Palazzo Gallenga in the Piazza Fortebraccio was originally a private residence and eventually donated to the city of Perugia.

I had no clue how to get there but my host gave me directions and off I went. I told myself that if I were to get lost I had nothing to worry about since I could speak the language and all I had to do was ask.

I walked through winding streets, typical of a medieval town, filled with the smells of espresso and fresh pastries from the caffe-bars. The streets were filled with people: young and old, children and housewives starting their daily errands, and everyone impeccably dressed. I found my way to the university and once I passed through the front doors I was never the same again.

That period of my life in Italy transformed me. And when I returned home I wanted to bring the people back home. I wanted to bring the smells back home.

In August of 2012 I returned to Perugia with my daughters. I was happy to share Perugia with my daughters even though the Perugia I remember was no longer there. Solo Travel in 1977 (Female Solo Travel in Italy, in 1977) // at

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  • Reply Ilena August 5, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    It was very moving writing this and very moving reading it…what really stayed with me was the odor of the espresso and pastries as I walked to my first day of classes. It’s something that I never experienced before. And now when I go to Little Italy and I pass by a caffè-bar it is these smells that bring me back always.

    Thank you HWE for this opportunity to remember.

    • Reply Happiest When Exploring August 6, 2015 at 12:26 am

      Thank YOU for sharing.

  • Reply Celia August 8, 2015 at 1:16 am

    That’s simply amazing! Those little moments and memories make life more incredible than it already is.

  • Reply Laura September 4, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    WOW ma! I just read this… what a beautiful depiction of a great adventure. I felt the emotions you felt!

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