Thursday, April 1, 2010

Ciao bella!

‘Vamos a Italia, a mi me gusta pizza’
My long awaited trip to Italy has come and gone! Six days, four cities, lots of friends and sights to see. Almost all of our Spain group decided to take this trip so there was about 35 of us flying out of Madrid Thursday afternoon right after Literature class. Our flight was delayed a while but we landed in Rome around 8:30/9. After taking the train to Roma Termini, the main station, we were able to walk to our hostel near Barbarini. Adam was waiting for us when we got to our hostel, Ciao Bella, so we checked in and freshened up a little before heading to the Spanish Steps to meet the rest of our friends studying in Rome and head to some of their usual bar spots. We passed the Pantheon on the way… no big deal? So crazy! It was so much fun to see my friends though! The next day we got up early to go to Vatican City where we went to the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Being able to see Michelangelo’s most famous work in person was incredible. It’s so big and detailed! We weren’t able to take pictures, but even if we could have, it wouldn’t do it justice. It was such a prayerful place – obviously, I got shushed by the guards more than once. Afterwards, we met up with Laura, Camille, and some of the people we came with for a little and then went to lunch with Adam and his friend. They took us to their favorite restaurant and I got amazing Spinach Ravioli. We then walked around the Castillo San Angelo and wandered the streets for a while; of course stopping for gelato near the school the Rome kids go to. We then took the metro to the Trevi Fountain and I threw a euro penny in! I finally got to see the real one after so many years of seeing the fake one at the Italian Festival, haha. Then we headed to the Spanish Steps and climbed to the top before grabbed dinner at a piazza for dinner. The food was definitely one of my favorite parts of Italy (as my wallet can attest to…) so of course I got pizza. So delicious. That night the Rome kids found a pub crawl for us to do which was a lot of fun. It was great to hang out with other Loyola kids abroad. Saturday morning, Caitlin, Eleanora, and I woke up early to get in line to see St. Peter’s Basilica. The line was really long but it moved fast so we were able to get in. I immediately got chills walking into St. Peter’s. This is the physical center of Catholicism and my faith. Words cannot describe how incredible it was to just be in this holy place. We went into a side chapel where Benediction was held and I said prayers for everyone I could think of! I could have spent hours in there. After leaving the Basilica, we went underneath to the tombs of Popes. The most meaningful to me was definitely John Paul II’s tomb. We stopped and said a prayer and I still cannot believe we were so close to someone I look up to as a religious hero. After the tombs, we climbed the dome of the Basilica (only 515 stairs…) and saw all of Rome from the top. It was cool trying to point out historical monuments. After leaving Vatican City, we went to the Roman Forum, which is one of the oldest places in Rome where the city actually originated. We saw the remains of Caesar’s tomb, the Senate building, the Temple of Saturn and a bunch of other meeting places. Palatine Hill, where Rome is said to be founded by Romulus, was also there. Next we headed to the Coliseum. It amazes me how old everything is! I finally was able to see all these places I’ve learned about in history for so many years. The Coliseum was amazing. I could actually picture the ancient Romans sitting around the stadium and watching games with gladiators and animals. Unbelievable. Since we still had a few hours before needing to catch our train to Florence, we met up with some of the Rome kids for gelato at the Trevi Fountain. Although I was excited to go to Florence, Rome was so amazing that I didn’t want to leave!
Saturday night we took the train to Florence to continue our Tour di Italia! We got in around 9:30 and headed to our hostel before meeting up with our friends studying there. They took us to a few different places and we all had a lot of fun catching up and just hanging out. The next day we got up leisurely and decided to spend the day relaxing a little and just enjoying being in Florence and walking around the city without having a specific plan in mind. We had pizza for lunch, and the gelato and waffle for desert. We walked through the San Lorenzo market which had tons of beautiful leather items. I went back the next day and got a leather side-strap purse. Since it was Palm Sunday, we went to Mass at the Duomo, which is the big Cathedral in Florence. Even though the Mass was in Italian and we couldn’t really understand it, it was a neat experience. We then went out to dinner and I had the best meal in all the time I spent it Italy. Connor, Tara, Caitlin and I met up with Connor’s cousin at the restaurant and we all spent a few hours enjoying a three course Italian dinner. I got salad with pears and prosciutto and a sweet Italian dressing, then gnocchi in a rose sauce, then strawberries in custard. Such an amazing meal! I’m definitely going to miss Italian food back in Spain (nothing against Eleu’s cooking!). The next day we got up and planned to see actual sights in Florence! First we stopped at a great sandwich place and ate lunch on the steps of the Duomo before climbing the Bell Tower to the top. After that, we walked towards the Pontevecchio which is a really old bridge, stopping on the way to see one of the two fake David statues in Florence (the real one is by Michelangelo). Then we crossed over the Arno River and went to Piazza Michelangelo which has one of the best views of Florence. That’s also where the other fake David was. We walked back over via the Pontevecchio and stopped at the San Lorenzo market where I got a purse, and Caitlin and Tara both got beautiful leather jackets. We went to a buffet for dinner since our wallets were starting to hurt a little at this point and we needed an all-you-can-eat. The next morning we got up super early to get to the Accademia to see the real David by Michelangelo. After waiting in line for an hour we finally got in and it was amazing! So much larger than I originally imagined. Around 11 we headed to the train station to catch our train from Florence to Venice.
We arrived in Venice in the early afternoon and went to our hotel to freshen up and then took the bus over to the actual island of Venice. Even though it was cloudy out, I was struck by the immediate beauty of Venice. So many little allies and bridges and canals it was adorable. Everything just seemed so quaint and much smaller than I imagined. We took our time and got lost in the streets, stopping in little shops with their famous Venetian glass, we got a slice of pizza and chocolate truffles at a specialty shop. Eventually we made it to Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Square, one of the main attractions in Venice. The Basilica was there but we weren’t able to go in because it was too late. The outside was beautiful though and the piazza was right on the water where there were gondolas waiting. It would have been a little too expensive to take a gondola ride but it was cool to see them all around the island. For dinner we found a little alley-way restaurant that was good – I had seafood pasta with mussels, clams, calamari, and shrimp. So good! Enough about the food? When we came out it was raining really hard so we were running through the labyrinth of small streets that didn’t seem to have any kind of pattern to them but it was still incredible. I can’t describe how much I loved just wandering around in Venice! We eventually made it back to the hotel exhausted and soaking wet but happy. The next day, unfortunately, was full of traveling. We took the train from Venice to Milan and then got lunch in Milan before heading to the airport to catch our flight back to Madrid. Of course it was delayed so I didn’t get home until after midnight.
Overall it was such an incredible trip. It went by so fast but I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it! It was great to see my friends that I missed and experience a new culture that I feel I’ve heard so much about but have never known firsthand. I even tried to imagine Gramps growing up somewhere like this. I loved seeing so many famous historical sights and getting to see these beautiful cities. They were all so different but amazing in their own ways. I really hope to go back some day without being so rushed!

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