Adventures in Italy (with special guest, my mom!)
Everyone told me that it’s impossible to spend four months abroad in Europe and not visit Italy. The country never appealed to me before, but while my mom was planning her ten-day trip over to visit me, the idea struck her to do a tour of Italy. I didn’t have any plans already in place to visit, so we agreed, and during my spring break we started for Rome.
The first thing that struck me about Rome was the density of people. The streets were packed with people speaking a slew of languages, wearing clothes from all different cultures. The second thing to strike me was how old some parts of it was. Our hotel was right across from the Vatican, and we started our first day in Italy with viewing the Sistine Chapel. To witness this masterpiece by Michelangelo from the early 1500s, a masterpiece I thought I’d only ever seen in movies, was absolutely breathtaking. But to then come upon the Colosseum, a infamous building that is nearly two thousand years old, was mind-blowing. How could this be here, when I’ve only ever seen it in history textbooks? We weaved down alleys to find our first Italian meal, and found it under the glow of lanterns and the sunset. I knew from that meal on that pizza and pasta would never be the same ever again.
The following day we took a train to Florence. Florence felt like Rome, but less crowded and with so much more delicious food at every turn. Gelato became a necessity while we walked through the street markets and plazas. We climbed to the top of the bell tower at the Florence Cathedral and witnessed the original statue of David in an unreal gallery. We following this with more delicious pasta, gelato, and tiramisu, and more gaping at the magnificence of the cobblestone streets and ancient sculptures. We ended our evening on a sparkling carousel in a square, listening to the live cello music being played on the corner and watching the candles bounce in the windows of restaurants.
The following afternoon we took a train to Venice. I knew almost nothing about the city previously and was awestruck when we exited the station and were greeted by boats instead of taxis. Climbing aboard, we made our way to our hotel next to Saint Mark’s Square. Having been a confident navigator for the entire trip, I began to doubt my skills our first night in Venice. I pulled up Google Maps directions to a restaurant on my phone, and was lost before we were a block away from our hotel. We happened to wander into another restaurant and there decided that we would never worry about where we were in Venice; we would lose ourselves in the alleys and shops and canals without a care in the world. And for the next few days, we did. We found the different neighborhoods and restaurants straight out of romantic comedies. We attended the Good Friday service at Saint Mark’s Basilica, entirely in Italian and Latin under a gold-tiled vaulted ceiling. Nothing about that city felt real, so much like the rest of Italy.
It had never initially occurred to me to visit Italy, but now I am unbelievably glad I did. Like so many of the places I’ve already visited in Europe, this will be a country I visit again, absolutely.