Lexi Bibbs – 500,000 Steps through Italy


It has been four days since I returned home from the trip of a lifetime, and my legs have no idea what to do. For the past month I have spent my days walking, hiking, swimming, and at times running through northern Italy. I have spent time in Florence, Venice, Cinque Terre, Bolzano, and a sprinkling of stunning Tuscan hill towns. While in Italy my little legs took 556,902 steps, walked 226.24 miles, and climbed 1,096 staircases…and I absolutely loved it.

On our first night in Florence everyone in the group climbed up to San Miniato al Monte, a smaller basilica located near the Piazza Michelangelo. After walking ten miles (literally) around Florence while fighting jet lag, the climb up was more than a little difficult. Many breaks were taken, lots of water was consumed, and there were more than a couple of whines. Every step up was worth it, however, when we sat atop the steps in front of the church and watched the sun set over the rolling Tuscan hills and bathe the city of Florence in its glow. I can only describe the experience as magical. It was the first time I thought to myself “if you do not make the climb, you do not get the view.”

This thought passed through my mind in various forms throughout the duration of the trip. “If you do not climb 463 stairs to the top of the Duomo, you do not get to see the view Brunelleschi had from atop what is perhaps his greatest achievement.” “If you do not take a thirty minute walk to find the restaurant that serves the best bistecca all fiorentina (according to Rick Steves of course!), you do not eat the best steak of your life.” “If you do not make the three hour hike from Corniglia to Monterosso, you do not see views so breathtaking they bring tears to your eyes.” Sure, you can see pictures from the top of the Duomo, take a cab to Antico Ristoro di Cambi, or take a 4 euro train ride between towns in Cinque Terre, but you will never get the full view.

My time in Italy taught me that “getting the view” is not simply about taking in scenery, it is about appreciating everything that got you to that place and everyone who has stood there before you. When you climb to the top of the Duomo and your stomach drops just a little as you peer over the metal railing to see the entire city of Florence, you appreciate the courage of Brunelleschi and the faith of his workers who risked their lives to see his vision come to life. Italy has taught me lessons I will carry with me throughout my life. Making the climb is only one of many I hold close to my heart.

My experience studying abroad would not have been possible without the generosity of the Honors College and its donors, support of family and friends, and the involvement of the wonderful professors who participated in the UCA in Florence program. My participation in this program has changed me as a person and has granted me a new world perspective. Because of the hard work, patience, and insight of Dr. Ken Sobel, Dr. Joe McGarrity, and Dr. Ann Bryan, I and the other students who came on this trip have a deeper understanding of the intricacies and the impact of the Italian Renaissance and a greater confidence in our ability not only to travel in but to thrive in a foreign country. If ever I meet another student looking for a reason to study abroad, I could give them a thousand. Grazie Italia, you will forever have a piece of my heart!