We arrived in Italy at the airport in Rimini. The airport was quite small and near the baggage reclaim area I was surprised to see advertisements in Russian. I wonder what percentage of tourists is made up of Russians. It must be quite a big amount for it to be worthwhile for companies to translate their advertisements into Russian.
After finding our luggage and meeting our guide, we boarded a bus with about 30-40 other people who would be on the tour with us. Outside the airport on the street there were also signs in Russian. I thought that whoever had the idea to do this is quite clever as seeing one’s language upon arrival in a foreign country is always a positive thing. It can show that the new country accepts you and wants to embrace you. It also goes to show just how important our language is to us and how an understanding of this importance can go a long way, whether it’s building a relationship or getting tourists to open their wallets.
Our first destination was Ravenna. As we drove we were introduced to our guide, Tatyana. Because it was a Russian tour she spoke entirely in Russian which gave me an excellent opportunity to practice all aspects of my language learning. On the road to Ravenna we drove through some smaller cities and it was incredible to see Italy. Everything was so visually stimulating and different. The houses were incredibly colourful and short as compared to tall, grey or white blocks of flats in Russia. The houses were also incredibly open and airy, complete with balconies and awnings, open staircases and gardens on the roof. However there were very few people outside. Everyone seemed to be taking shelter from the heat.
The countryside was also very green and there was a multitude of gardens, parks and trees. It seemed like a lot of people were also growing grapes everywhere. Like many other cities in Europe the streets were narrow and the cars were small. The signs, of course, were mostly in Italian. And while I was glad to experience seeing a new language around me, I felt a bit disconnected because of the language barrier. On the bus with the Russians I felt safe. But I knew if I had to venture out and try to buy something, for example, I’d be left vulnerable because I wouldn’t be able to fluently communicate what I wanted. It’s a very humbling feeling.
Then we arrived in Ravenna and had a short guided tour through the city. We had a different guide for our tour. I think she was Italian but she spoke perfect Russian. As she was a non-native speaker of Russian it was significantly easier for me to understand her Russian and the tour was incredibly enjoyable and informative. Then we had free time and Katya and I did a bit of sightseeing and shopping on our own.
Some of the things that stood out to me were how clean the city was and how modernized everything is. For example, at the bus stop there were digital boards with schedules telling about approaching buses. I immediately thought that Italy is very modern and has a great infrastructure if they’re willing to spend money on something as simple as a bus timetable. There was also a street sign warning cyclists about getting hit by cars. It showed a car and someone who had fallen in front of it. What was shocking was that there was a pool of red blood surrounding the person on the sign. It definitely caught my attention and perhaps that was what it was supposed to do. I’d never seen anything like that before, not in Russia and definitely not in America. It did, however, remind me a bit about Paris when I saw a sign on the metro warning passengers not to get their hands caught in the doors. They used a little bunny to illustrate this whereas in Moscow, for example, there is no warning sign at all. Then again I don’t think many Russians would ever think about suing someone over an injury caused on the metro. It’s common sense and you ride at your own risk.
After our trip to Ravenna we boarded the bus and returned to Rimini and our hotel. We were shown to our room which was quite nice. However we immediately had problems with the lighting in our room. Katya went down and told someone at the front desk who then immediately came up and checked the problem. Upon seeing that there was a problem that couldn’t easily be fixed, we were quickly given another room. The service was fast, effective and very impressive.
After that we met up with two other people from our group and took a taxi to nearby Bologna where we walked around the city and had our first taste of Italian cuisine. Although I’ve only been here one day I can see why so many people fall in love with Italy and why it’s one of the most visited countries in the world. So many of my students have mentioned that Italy is one of their favourite tourist destinations and I’ve often heard people speak so passionately about their time spent there. Now it’s completely understandable why and it’s even better than I imagined.