Live, love, lead: lessons from Italia

By Maddie Rosa*

Since my last post and traveling to Venice, I was lucky enough to go on a trip with my study abroad program to the French Riviera and Monaco. We went to Cannes, Nice, and Eze in France, followed by the tiny yet abundant country of Monaco.  Our first stop after a six hour bus ride was in Cannes, France.  Coincidentally, we made it there during the last day of the film festival and got to see the red carpet and the huge hall where the event takes place every year.  We ate a delicious lunch looking out onto the bay and even had the chance to lay on the beautiful beach before moving on to Nice.

group of students at Cannes film festival
On the Cannes red carpet

 In Nice, we got a walking tour by our guide named Frederick.  He took us to the highest point of the city, overlooking the entire town and the coast line.  My breath was taken away yet again by the beauty of Europe.  I still can’t believe how unique every town is and that people get to live here and see these beautiful sights each and every day.  The next day in Eze, France we went to Fragonard, a famous perfume factory.  We got a tour of the factory to see how they made all of their perfumes and soaps, did a little smell testing, and got to sample some of their most famous products. We even got great discounts since we were in the factory, so naturally I had to buy something (who doesn’t want to say they bought their perfume in France?). 

Nice France
Click for full size from left to right: 1) perfume factory- the perfume is kept in aluminum bottles to protect it form heat and light. It lasts much longer this way 2) and 3) views of Nice, France

From there we made our way to the tiny country of Monaco, and I have to say this is one of my favorite places I have seen this summer.  It was so beautiful and unique, different from any other place I have seen in Europe.  It had the beautiful coast line, churches, and colorful buildings that you picture when you think of these countries, but something about it was so unique and incredibly beautiful.  We saw the church where Grace Kelly was buried, an honorary princess of Monaco, and even got to see the changing of the guards.  Monaco is protected by its own military, and every day at 12pm, the “team” of guards changes in front of the palace where the Prince lives.  It was a one-of-a-kind trip that I still can’t believe I was lucky enough to go on, and I know something I will never forget. 

photos of Monaco
Click for full size. The famous Monte Carlo Casino and views of Monaco

This Thursday, June 26, marks one month since my arrival in Florence.  I cannot believe how fast the time has flown by and how close I feel towards the people in my program, my roommates, and to this city.  Florence has become my home away from home this summer, and much more quickly than I imagined. 

 Since I have the same class four days a week for two and a half hours, it has become a huge part of my abroad experience. I have learned to be much more aware when observing other people for cultural patterns, and to think twice before making any judgments too quickly. My teacher brought in a man originally from a small village in East Africa to be a guest lecturer last week, and I don’t know if I have ever met such a kind-hearted, humble, yet inspirational man.

We were asking him questions about his life in Africa, what it’s like living in Italy 20+ years later, how he met his wife, what was the hardest adjustment, etc.  He answered whole-heartedly answered all of our questions and could probably talk for days and days if we had let him.  However, he eventually had a question for us. 

We asked him what the main reason was for coming to Italy so many years ago.  He responded with, “What does everybody leave home to find?”  There I was in class thinking, “Hmm, a man from a small rural village in East Africa… I bet he left home to find new opportunities.”  Just seconds later, he responded with, “Love.”  I don’t know why this answer surprised me and stuck with me so much, but it has. I feel like in the U.S. so many people are afraid of love and relationships and admitting their feelings, and would respond with “a new opportunity,” or “a fresh start.” 

He then went into the story of how he met his wife while she was on a mission trip in his village in Africa.  She was a Roman woman who did not speak English very well, and the way he talked about her lit up the room.  After this, he continued to tell us the greatest thing he’s learned since moving to Italy and through his work with the church: Live, Love, Lead.  Three words that are so simple, that we hear every day, yet in this context were so true and impactful. 

“Live; everyone needs to live all of life’s abundance, take full advantage everything it has to offer.  Love; do I need to really explain that one?  Lead; lead others through life the way you know is good, because everybody needs to understand and be understood, and forgive and be forgiven.” 

This little phrase has stuck with me since last week, and it will be how I look at the rest of my time here in Italy.  I now realize more than ever that I will be leaving this beautiful place in the blink of an eye, and the only way to make the most of it is to live, love, and lead.  

*Madeline Rosa is a UI junior majoring in communications and human relations. She is currently studying abroad on the Lorenzo de Medici program in Florence, Italy.

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