Arrival in Riva

The past few days have been quite eventful! On Saturday we traveled from Marseille, France, to Riva san Vitale, Switzerland. On our way, we stopped for a couple hours to visit Le Thoronet Abbey, a retired abbey built somewhere in the 12th century. It was in amazing condition for its old age, but was still more or less a ruin. The grounds leading to and surrounding the abbey were quite gorgeous, even having a small orchard. Everything about the place was so extremely peaceful and serene; I can see why they had chosen this location long ago. The sanctuary was beautiful and the resonance inside was spectacular,  echoing each sound beautifully. The corridors were lined with columns that curved and arched at the tops, allowing beautiful light in and silhouetting their geometries. It was a wonderful place to visit.

We got to the Villa for a late dinner on Saturday and crashed. We were happy to finally reach our home after this long trip, but mostly we were excited for beds to call our own!

On Sunday morning, I awoke to church bells. When I looked out my window, I came to realize that the town’s church is quite literally right across the street from the villa. With the sunlight, I could finally grasp how small this town really is! The bells went on for an undesirable length of time and continued throughout the entire day. It will definitely take me some time to get used to them ringing every half hour! After brunch at the villa, several of us headed out to see the town. Luckily, we got to experience a festival taking place in the main street of Riva! The festival was to celebrate the culture and history of the town, which our Managing Director, Daniela, told us all about. There were jams, hot wine, cheeses, pastries, jewelry, clothing, toys, and more. It was so cute! The festival also made me realize that more than likely, most people in Riva san Vitale know one another and probably know that we are the “new” students of the town for the semester. We walked down to see the lake, Lake Lugano, which spreads across several towns. We also went to see the Vue de l’église de Riva san Vitale, a beautiful yellow building with a blue dome. We ended the day with dinner and met some of the other students who will be living in the villa with us this semester.

Today (Monday), our professor, Hans, gave us the day off to explore the city and move in, etc. Austin and I decided to take the day to do a rather intense hike up Monte San Giorgio. The climb was crazy steep and it was absolutely the most unforgiving hike I have ever been on. We gained so much elevation that my water bottle blew up at the top when I opened it! Although the climb was insane, the view at the end made for the most rewarding finish to a hike for me, ever. We could see for so many miles in almost any direction. The alps were surrounding us completely, laden with snow and basking in sunshine. That was the moment that I finally realized I was in Switzerland. I got goosebumps and everything, and even these great pictures do not do it justice. We ran into a German couple at the summit, who took a lovely photo of us and informed us that we could see Matterhorn from where we were! We soaked in the views of the alps, Riva san Vitale, and Lake Lugano, then headed back down. The hike down was just as intense, the steep slope pushing my toes into the ends of the shoes relentlessly. In the end, I am so glad that we went. It battles for top place on the list of favorite hikes and it’s only the first one in Europe!

I did not take my camera with me on the hike, so Austin has allowed me to share some of his photos with you all. He has also posted many more pictures from our time in Europe than me! Please feel free to go check them out at

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