Back in March 2020, after finding myself as a storyteller and photographer, I had to return back home to Lima, Peru. In Lima, we were under a strict lockdown for almost seven months. Unable to leave my house, I eventually stopped taking photos, as my subjects dwindled down to myself and the birds passing by my window. I left my camera aside for a while, and eventually, once quarantine ended, I was too afraid to take up photography again. I was out of practice.
During January 2021, I was able to leave quarantine in Lima and return to Evanston. Eight months later, I found myself packing my bags to leave for Italy. After being unable to walk on the streets for almost a year, having the opportunity to travel and explore seemed surreal. During my time studying abroad in Florence, Italy, I had to leave the thought that I was not “good enough” aside. Italy, with its rich history and artistic sights, re-ignited my natural instinct to capture and freeze moments in time. I saw so many beautiful places that I had to, in some way, reconnect with my camera. The following are some of my favorite places outside of Florence that I was able to visit. Studying abroad reminded me why it is so special to capture life through a lens.
Usually busy with tourists and locals during the summer, Como’s red, green and orange mountains are hidden gems during the fall. These photos were taken while going on a walk along the lakefront. Although I was saddened at the idea of not being able to see Evanton’s fall—since in Lima there’s no such thing as distinct seasons—it was very special to still be able to see the changing of colors while studying abroad.
During our time in Como, we also hopped on a ferry and visited some of the historic villas, such as the Villa del Balbianello. Although the day was foggy and a little gray, it added to the mystery of the place. This also allowed me to experiment with different kinds of light, as I don’t usually take photos when the lighting of the place is not “good enough."
Filled with Renaissance art, Roman ruins and medieval architecture, Verona is as enchanting as it gets. This city is even more “romantic” if you, like me, are a fan of Shakespeare. Even though it is unknown whether Romeo and Juliet really existed, Verona is filled with sites associated with the iconic 1579 play. In the Casa di Giulietta, or house of Juliet, we found the famous balcony where Romeo is said to have declared his love to Juliet—although it is very doubtful that this actually happened. Regardless of whether it is fact or fiction, this site has a recreation of Juliet’s bedroom, as well as her statue, and a little mailbox where you can leave her a letter (which I did, of course). Verona was very special, and although I do not usually photograph statues or sculptures, the ones in this town had to be captured.
We also visited some of the piazzas, such as the Piazza dei Signori, a historic square with the statue of Dante.
Known for its pastel-colored houses, this area of the Ligurian coast looks—and feels—like a movie. Each of Cinque Terre’s five villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore) has its own charm. During our visit, we hiked along the coastline’s cliff for panoramic views, which reminded me of how much I missed doing outdoor activities and photographing these experiences. Listed as an UNESCO site for having an "Outstanding Universal Value" since 1997, being able to personally see a place that many important photographers have captured was very special.
We also went to the Golfo dei Poeti, or Gulf of Poets, in La Spezia, a town nearby. It is no wonder why many Romantic poets such as Byron and Shelly would visit this area for inspiration. I found myself jotting some ideas down for future poetry or photography!
Last but not least, Baratti. Located on the Tuscan coast and between the Tyrrhenian and Ligurian Seas, this area was once the ancient town of Populonia, an Etruscan settlement. Surrounded by nature, there was a pine forest behind the coast line. Here, we visited the Necropoli di San Cerbone, an Etruscan cemetery. It is interesting to note how, for the Etruscans, the spaces for the dead were just as important as those for the living, as these “cemeteries” were like little towns and continued expanding as time passed by. I found this site very unusual and interesting, and I wanted to try and capture its calmness and beauty.
Studying abroad has been both an interesting and memorable experience for me. It has been beautiful, but also hard. Not only did I find myself in a place outside of my comfort zone and having to make friends from scratch, but I also spent a lot of time by myself. Although I was—and continue to be—unsure of what I want to end up doing, spending time alone allowed me to reflect and remember how storytelling is at the core of everything I do. Whether it is through drawings, poetry, interviews or photographs, stories are powerful for both the reader and the storyteller. Stories connect, make us reflect and give us a sense of meaning. And I am excited to continue challenging myself and dusting off my camera some more.