I recently went on a study abroad trip to Italy for the course Protected Landscapes and Community Sustainability, at Paul Smith’s College. There were 13 students including myself and two professors, Kelly Cerialo and Kate Glenn. Our task while we were there was to find the similarities between the Parco Nazionale dell Appennino Tuscan Emiliano, and the Adirondack Park. We also needed to create two marketing plans: one geared towards millennials and one towards baby boomers. These two generational cohorts were chosen because they are the two primary age groups traveling to the region. Also, we were to gather all of our research and create a presentation showing how to get more people to travel to the Appennino Park. The findings were later presented to the park officials.

While in Italy we ate the most amazing food and visited beautiful mountain ranges and local Parmigiano-Reggiano and Prosciutto di Parma factories. I exhausted my camera on a daily basis, but photos do not do the country justice.

One of the highlights from the trip was the hike up the mountain Campocatino, and discovering the culture of that area. This hike led us through a small old village that is almost vacant now. The mountain is very remote and its location is one of the reasons the village’s population is so diminished.

Although some of the buildings in the village lay in rubble, others are being restored. Centuries ago, shepherds and their flocks typically used these houses. The bottom floor of the house is where the sheep were kept, and the top is where the shepherd lived. In the winter the heat from the herd would help keep the top floor warm. We were lucky enough to find a crew there restoring one of the houses. Boldly, we asked to see inside and we were welcomed with open arms.

Once inside we were cramped. It was dark and there was a very musty smell. There was only one window, which was the only light source. There was a ladder that led to the floor above, which was the same size as the floor we were on. The house was cool from the stone walls and floor. I paused for a moment to touch the wall, closing my eyes to truly appreciate the experience.

While walking around the town, I imagined what it would be like to live in a remote area like this. This really helped me immerse myself into the culture. The town is rich with heritage that many Italians boast about. The houses are works of art and were made out of marble mined from the very mountain they sit on. Recently, locals have been able to restore parts of the small town.

The hike up Campocatino and the study abroad trip as a whole was an amazing experience, one that I will remember for a lifetime. The park officials were very grateful for our input and were great hosts. I think I can safely speak for everyone who went on the trip: it was amazing, we didn’t want to leave and were left wondering when we can go back.