Another week, another journey- this time it was to Italy!! It was travel week 2 for DIS, so the students that didn’t go on their study tour when I was in Norway went on their study tour, and I had the week off of school. Me, along with 5 other friends planned the trip a long time ago, and were counting down the days until it came. It’s strange how fast time is passing us by, it’s already November, and I only have a little over a month left. But anyways, here’s how I spent the week:
I so clearly remember landing in Rome and walking out of the plane onto the tarmac. The air was warm, and moist. The trees were either palm trees or weird savanna looking trees that I definitely do not recognize. I was obviously no longer in Scandinavia. After we dropped our belongings off at the quaint apartment we were staying in (7 very steep flights of stairs up a graffiti’d old building), we hopped on a bus and went into ‘downtown’ Rome for dinner. We had heard about this panini place that was supposed to be really good, and it was close to the Trevi fountain. So we went to Trevi Fountain and then attempted to go to the panini place. Unfortunately, it was really busy when we got there and we couldn’t wait to eat. So, we decided to just walk around and go in the first restaurant we saw within a reasonable price range. We ended up at this small restaurant sort of between The Pantheon and The Trevi Fountain, and I shared carbonara and a margherita pizza with one of my friends. My first taste of authentic Italian did not dissapoint, that’s for sure.
The iconic Trevi Fountain… Hello Lizzie McGuire
The next day Kate and I (Kate was my ‘partner’ of sorts in Italy, the group split up daily to go see museums and explore the cities) found our way to The Vatican. It was Sunday, and it was also a thunderstorm. So that means that St. Peter’s Square was packed with people waiting to get into St. Peter’s Basilica after mass. But, it also meant that we all got to see Pope Francis! Little did we know that he emerges out of his apartment at noon every Sunday. While neither of us are Catholic, and we don’t speak Italian, those twelve minutes that he spoke were so fascinating. Just seeing how so many people in the square love him so much was amazing to see. The Catholic Church has such a huge impact on the lives of so many- and in that moment I realized I was at the heart of their religion. I waited in line to see the biggest church in the world- and I almost felt like I was intruding on a sacred place.
wet, but can’t complain
a rainy St. Peter’s square
St. Peter’s Basilica
The Spanish Steps
happy post-security before entering the basilica
a beautiful sky over Rome
drenched but still happy!
gelato by Trevi Fountain, does it get better?
lunch at the Spanish Steps
the inside of The Pantheon
The size of the Basilica is truly unfathomable. Even standing inside I couldn’t believe that people actually made it, and they did it without modern technology. And the mosaics- I have never seen anything like it. The tiles that make up the mosaics are so small you have to be standing right up against the wall looking for them to even notice that it’s mosaic. The entire building is decorated with these ornate mosaics- the dome, the walls, everthing. Words can’t possibly describe what it’s like to stand inside. If you haven’t seen it, I would suggest you add it to your bucket list. After the Vatican, we went out that night to a karaoke bar in Rome and met some other American students studying away. We sang some classics, like “Sweet Caroline.” Then we walked home and made a brief stop by The Coloseum in the middle of the night. We were fortunate that nobody was there, it was cool to sit and just admire it without being surrounded by tourists.
Kate, Thea, Sam & I
alone at the Coliseum??
The next day, our day consisted almost exlusively of wandering (but we also ate at that panini place I mentioned earlier, it was delicious). We walked about 14 miles and saw The Roman Forum- at least the perimeter of most of it. It’s bigger than I ever imagined it, and I learned that it once was the center for 20% of the worlds population at the time. I enjoyed imagining what we see today as ruins, as once a thriving center of society- a marketplace, judicial center, and religious site (among others). And just like that, our time in Rome was over!
viney Roman vibes
The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum
After reading about Rome, you’re probably thinking the same thing that I was at the moment: how could it get better than that?? Well, I have to say that Florence was my favorite city in Italy that we went to. It feels cozier, less touristy, but still rich in history like Rome. Don’t get me wrong- Rome has more of the iconic buildings and places than Florence, but Florence is an easier town to actually get acquanted with.
Now, it didn’t start off well. We bought bus tickets and got on a bus, where you’re supposed to validate the ticket with a machine once you get on. Well the bus we got on had broken validation machines, so we didn’t validate our tickets. As soon as we got off the bus, there were three people checking tickets. All six of us received £50 fines, even after explaining that the machines were broken, and we weren’t trying to cheat the system. At first, we all thought it was a scam, because they were demanding to have our passports and that we had to pay them immediately or else they would call the police. We asked to see some proof that they were actually legitimate, and they showed us their badges and thought we were being disrespectful. Everyone was getting mad at each other, and their English was not the best so they misunderstood our questions for disrespect. Oh well. On the bright side, we didn’t get arrested or scammed.
Other than that incident, I ate the best authentic Italian pasta I had the whole trip, the best panna cotta I have ever had, and had fun at the local grocery store buying supplies for our “family dinners” that we cooked at our Airbnb to save a little money. We went to The Basilica of San Lorenzo, Palazzo Vecchio and Duomo, the Cathedral in Florence, the famous jewelry bridge (Ponte Vecchio), and even Boboli garden, a massive garden that we stumbled upon in our explorations. We even spent Halloween in Florence, and watched the Amanda Knox documentary on Netflix, on the 11th anniversary of the murder of Meredith Kercher in Perrugia, Italy. How spooky.
Basilica of San Lorenzo
Painting inside of the Basiilica of San Lorenzo
one of Donatello’s pulpits
facade of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
a pretty gate
the train ride to Florence
overlooking the Arno river
the ceiling of Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
happy in the gardens
at Michelangelo’s library next to San Lorenzo
views of Florence from Biboli Gardens
Unfortunately, we didn’t get to see the famous art galleries, Uffizi or Accademia. The lines were hours long, so we decided to get more of a cultural experience than an artistic one. Michelangelo’s famous statue, David, is in Accademia, and of course Boticelli’s Birth of Venus would have been incredible to see, but we didn’t want to sacrifice our entire day to do so. I would recommend buying tickets online in advance, but even then you have to wait in line for some amount of time to actually get in.
From Florence, we set off on a train to Venice, where it had been completely flooded just a few days before we got there.
I had very James Bond-ish expectations of Venice. When I think of Venice, I picture Daniel Craig as James Bond in Casino Royale, speeding off in the canals on a stolen speed boat or something like that. While the views of the city did live up to my expectations, I was surprised by how crowded it was. The streets of course are small, close together, and maze-like, with no cars driving on them. There were so many people that it was hard to walk through the streets to get anywhere, which can be a little frustrating. When we visited St. Mark’s Basilica, the pigeons were unreal. It’s known for being a place where you can feed the pigeons because absolutely no fear of people. This I can confirm. People for some stupid reason were having so much fun feeding pigeons and touching them. It was absolutely disgusting if you ask me.
The birds were so ferocious that I was enjoying a pesto, prosciutto and mozzarella sandwich on the famous Rialto Bridge, and a seagull stole the sandwich right out of my hands. It was right next to my mouth and this massive gull came up from behind me and snatched it. I am not one to freak out from animal encounters, but this one was terrifying and gross.
In terms of flooding, the city has these platforms so that people can walk when it floods (a regular occurance). The locals say that whenever the tide is really high, the streets flood. So all of the businesses have protections against the floods (but not the pigeons). The weather was actually quite nice while we were there, however. It was sunny and nearly 70 degrees on the day that we spent walking around.
a cool poster
on to Bergamo!
Overlooking the canal near our Airbnb
Thea and I on Rialto Bridge
St. Mark’s Basilica
The Grand Canal
Venice was a great city to relax in. To take a side street, attempt to get away from people, and read a book next to the canal. One night, we found a dock on the Grand Canal and just sat and enjoyed being by the water. By the time our last night in Venice came, we were all pretty much ready to be back in Denmark. We had been traveling every day for over a week, and were excited to be back in our own beds. But first, we had to take a train to Milan, and then to Bergamo where our flight was out of on Monday morning.
We only had one night here, but it was well spent. Bergamo is a small city very close to Lake Como and Switzerland, in the Northernmost part of Italy. It sort of feels like a college town, with mostly young people walking around. There is an old part of the city on the top of the hill that contrasts greatly with the newer city below. My final meal in Italy was pasta with meat sauce, or ragù as the Italians call it. It was of course, quite delicious. We got up at 3:30am and left for the airport, and safely landed in Copenhagen, shocked by the cold but happy to be back in our Scandinavian home.
Italy is a beautiful country full of history and architecture unlike anywhere I have ever been. The culture is just as impressive as the history, and the people sure do have pride in where they come from. Again, I’m feeling extremely privileged to have the opportunity to travel, and I can’t believe I made it to Italy! Next up: my parents get to Copenhagen in a week! I can’t wait to show them around and give my mom a modern walk through of the city she also spent 4 months in- just a few years ago 😉 We’re also going to Stockholm, Sweden for a few days. Looking forward to seeing more of Scandinavia. Then, I’ll be in Iceland and Switzerland the following weekends. Can’t wait!