Grazie, Prego, Ciao!
A few weeks ago I was lucky enough to go to Italy for five days with four of my best friends here! It was an amazing trip that left us with so many incredible stories. We flew from Dublin to Rome where we spent a day and a half, then took a train to Florence, and then took another train to Venice. The adventure began at 3:30am when our taxi picked us up from our apartment to take us to the airport for our 6am flight. Needless to say, we had plenty of time to spare at the airport, so we enjoyed a nice breakfast while two people sitting next to us enjoyed their Guinness (at 4:30am!). The flight to Rome was only about 3 hours, and when we got there, we immediately had our first experience with the language barrier. While waiting for the taxi, someone came up to us and started speaking rapid Italian, and between the five of us, the only words we knew were “grazie” (thank you), “prego” (if you please), and “ciao” (goodbye), which didn’t really help us too much. Luckily, a woman translated for us, so we were finally able to get into the taxi and head to our hotel!
We only had about 24 hours in Rome and there were so many things we wanted to see, so we went on the rapid tour of Rome! As soon as we checked into our hotel, we headed out for our first Italian pizza. While we were eating lunch, we asked the waiter if we could have tap water (instead of the bottled water because it was more expensive), and after trying to explain the meaning of tap, he said okay. He ended up coming back to the table with a cap from a bottle. The whole time we were trying to explain that we wanted ‘tap water’, he thought we meant the cap from the water bottle! We were all laughing so hard, that we had to take the cap as a souvenir.
The first tourist attraction we hit after lunch was the Trevi Fountain! We had all seen it in movies (The Lizzie McGuire move especially!), but it was so different from what I was expecting! It was absolutely gorgeous, with the white marble and bright blue water, but it was completely surrounded by other buildings. And there were tons of people there! There were so many people, you had to fight and push your way up to the fountain! Of course, after we pushed our way to the front, we had to make a wish in the fountain (and no, I am not saying what I wished for!)
Our rapid tour of Rome continued with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the ancient ruins. We actually stumbled across the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, because we weren’t actually looking for it, but it turned out to be absolutely breathtaking. The marble was so white, the statues were all so intricately detailed, and there was an air of reverence around the entire building. We weren’t actually sure what it was at first, but after learning about its history, the building seemed to be even more important.
After strolling through the ancient ruins, and watching a guy run around dressed in a toga, we headed towards the Colosseum. The ancient ruins were amazing, but the Colosseum was incredible! We were in awe at how massive it was, and couldn’t stop taking pictures! We ended up taking a tour of it, and learned that in the Middle Ages people were actually allowed to quarry marble from it to use in their homes. And during the ancient times when there were gladiator fights, women were forced to sit at the very top of the arena. It was incredible to be in a place that has existed for such a long time!
Our next stop on the rapid tour of Rome was the Pantheon. As a philosophy major, I was very excited to go there, as it used to be a place of pagan worship and it reminded me of something Aristotle would have strolled through. The 40 foot circle at the top of the Pantheon was the biggest of its time, and even today, the building is massive in scale. The inside was ornately decorated with statues and engravings, but the center of the Pantheon was blocked off because the marble floor was wet from the rain.
After walking around inside the Pantheon, we decided to eat dinner at a little cafe in the plaza surrounding it. We ate pasta while listening to a man serenade us and looking at the Pantheon! It was a classic dinner in Italy. A night in Italy would not be complete without gelato, so we went back to the Trevi Fountain where we ate gelato and admired the fountain adorned in lights!
The next day our rapid tour of Rome continued with a trip to Vatican City. We were not really expecting Vatican City to be so big with so many people! St. Peter’s Basilica was massive, and the whole city was beautiful. We went into the Vatican Museum so we could see the famous Sistine Chapel, but all of the other rooms in the museum were decorated with such incredible artwork, that it was actually difficult to take it all in. There were paintings, tapestries, and wall murals throughout the whole museum, and I was in awe with all of them. The most touching art that I saw had to be the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. I had learned about it in art history class and looked at pictures in books, but to actually see it on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was amazing. I was in absolute awe looking at it, knowing Michelangelo painted the entire ceiling with his bare hands over 400 years ago. Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, but that image is something that I will remember for the rest of my life.
Vatican City was the last stop on our Rome agenda, since we had to catch a train to Florence. The train was actually very enjoyable, as it was fast, comfortable, and very clean. Amtrak should take after the Italians! For the whole 2 hour train ride, the scenery of Tuscany, the rolling vineyards, and the huge villas passed by us. After we got to Florence, we decided to take a bus to our hotel, but not speaking Italian made that pretty difficult and we got off at the wrong stop. Not only did we get off at the wrong stop, but we took the bus in the wrong direction, so we had to take a taxi all the way back to the train station and then to our hotel. Even though we don’t really have the best luck with transportation, we finally made it to our hotel! We decided that we would go out in Florence and experience the night life, so after a wonderful pasta dinner, we went out to the clubs! The first club we went to was a karaoke bar, and since we were only there for one night, we decided to sing! None of us are good singers, and I’m actually tone deaf so it was not a good combination. We decided to sing “Single Ladies” by Beyonce, and even though we were so bad, we had so much fun! The crowd actually loved us, but we were so embarrassed that we ended up leaving right after we sang! Needless to say, it was an amazing night that we will not forget!
The next day we decided that we needed to do two things: shop and see Michelangelo’s David. We spent a long time looking for anything leather: boots, wallets, purses, coats. We all ended up spending a lot of money and buying a lot of leather! After our shopping excursion, we went to La Academia where we saw David. It was absolutely beautiful. I cannot believe that Michelangelo was able to look at a block of marble and create David out of it. We weren’t allowed to take pictures, but I think that made it even more incredible because I was forced to actually look at it and appreciate it. After La Academia, we went to El Duomo, which is a building with gorgeous architecture designed by Brunelleschi. Learning about it cannot even come close to actually seeing it in person. This massive structure was so intricately detailed that it almost looked fake. The building was absolutely breathtaking!
After a long day of shopping and walking around the city, we had to leave Florence and take the train to Venice. Before we left, we took one final stroll by the river, admiring the mountains in the background of the city!
Florence was absolutely beautiful, and could possibly be one of my favorite cities! The first part of the trip was amazing, but in Venice things took a turn for the worse. Venice absolutely destroyed us as a group! The first bad thing that happened was when we arrived in the city. Our train was about a half hour delayed, so we got into the city at 10:30pm. The hotel we were staying at was outside of the city, and for some reason, we assumed that the train would stop outside of the city so we could take a taxi to our hotel. Well, the train ended up stopping in Venice, and for those of you who know a thing or two about Venice, there are no cars there. So, after about a half hour, we finally realized that we had to take another train out of Venice to get to our hotel. Needless to say, we did not end up checking in until well after midnight. The next morning I woke up with a really high fever, and was way too sick to leave the hotel. So while my friends spent the day in Venice, I spent the day in the hotel room eating room service and watching Netflix. As if that wasn’t enough, the next day we took a taxi to the airport, but it ended up being the wrong airport! Apparently there are two airports in Venice, and after spending 120 euros on taxis, we finally made it to the right one. Oh, and then after we got back to Dublin, we could not get to our apartment complex because the Dublin City Marathon just happened to be taking place there.
Although the last day and a half of the trip was very rough, the first four were absolutely incredible! I love Italy, the food, the people, and of course, the wine! It was an amazing trip that I will never forget!
That’s it for now!