Second leg of the trip: Italia!
Our adventures in Italy start.... NOW
“I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something. Language, gelato, spaghetti. This is my no carb left behind experiment.” –Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
If I could have the leisure to do so, I’d spend weeks experiencing Italy (wine, cuisine, culture, art, atmosphere, shopping–not so much the boys). But alas, not only is my time limited, but my bank account moreso. However, my week-long “test-taste” of Italy–of Florence, Siena, Pisa, and Rome–satiated my lifelong wish for (at least) the time being.
Welcome to Firenze, capital of Italian leather
After flying into Milan (failed, yet again, to get a stamp at customs upon entering), our group of four hopped on a train bound for
Florence Firenze. Riding a train from destination to destination… part of the “backpacker” experience, no? We amicably chattered the ride away, with tons of snacks, rounds of Phase 10 (a card game I am DEFINITELY buying once back in the States–it’ll be the up&coming drinking game, I tell you…), and “glitter, sparkle” codetalk of the creeper eyeing us the entire duration of the ride.
First (authentic) Italian meal: Pre-food Coma
Waiting for our Italian carbs
What I had been most pumped about for the Italian-leg of this two week trip was, of course, the food. PASTA, GELATO, CARBS–what’s NOT to like (other than the necessity of diet afterwards)? As the Eat, Pray, Love quote mentions above, Italy was going to be THE no-carb-left-behind experiment… or so I thought. The VERY first dinner in Italy certainly had me straining against the button of my jeans… and this was a Napoli pizza, with NO cheese, just pizza crust and sauce. I had absolutely no room for gelato and had to (somewhat reluctantly) convince myself to save that for the next day. Heinous, I know. This dinner (at the fabulous Rosso Pamadoro(?), with a ridiculously-Italian waiter who fawned upon “Jennifer”) made me realize WHY Italians take that after-dinner walk; no way in hell can they maintain their figures without a healthy dose of exercise!
Group shot at the Firenze Duomo
Ponte Vecchio is actually not this picturesque...
Our nighttime stroll led us to the Duormo (with the famed Brunellschi dome!) and a spin around a carousel. And with the visit to the Galleria degli Uffizi in the morning–where “The Birth of Venus” is housed, apparently–and a walk across the Ponte Vecchio, we pretty much covered all the major Firenze sights but the Academia, the leather market, and Piazza de Pitti. We never made it the Academia (pity me, for I failed to see Michelangelo’s perfectly proportioned David), but in time we DID find ourselves snapping picturesque photos on the photogenic-but-realistically-murky Ponte Vecchio and haggling prices in the midst of the outdoor San Lorenzo leather market. For the most part, the vendors were hilarious, trying to get our attention (and our tourist cash) by fishing out compliments, sleazy pick-up lines, and promises of “special price for you.” I say for the most part, because some of the vendors (case in point: the old creeper I bought my dad’s leather briefcase from) just traumatized me in more ways than one. No thanks for him (or is it, all thanks to him?), I stick with Scandinavians to occupy my attention.
With the gorgeous Tuscany backdrop behind us
Live life on the edge--LITERALLY
Though Firenze is beautiful in its own right, Siena was downright gorgeous and arguably my favorite city amongst all that we hit during the two week trip. En route to Siena by bus, we saw glimpses of the luscious green, rolling hills of the Tuscany region; once in the city of Siena, we indulged in the quaint and carefree atmosphere of the city. Climbing many narrow, winding staircases led us to a breathtaking view of the terracotta rooftops –this sight alone (okay, the warmth and sunshine contributed somewhat) MADE us feel like we were in Italy, truly and completely. Not even kamikazing pigeons on the Piazza square could negate our happy moods.
Holding up a tower? Easy-peasy
Pisa, on the other hand, was a bit of a disappointment. Literally, there was nothing else to do BUT take our obligatory photo holding up the Leaning Tower. But, I guess it was worth the trip. You want those obligatory, touristy photos when you’re young and looking good, no? HAHA
The last memory of Italy comes from the city of gladiators: ROME (Russell Crowe, by the way, was AMAZING in that movie. Top10 movies, easy). The weather turned sour with tons of rain during our stay in Rome, but the food we consumed DEFINITELY made up for any other complaints I had about that trip: I may or may not have consumed 5,000 calories in ONE meal at least once a day… eeek. If anyone is in need of good recommendations, let me say that the list given in Let’s Go Europe (written for students by Harvard students) are ON POINT. And cheap too. WIN.
The ancient ruins of Rome
If only there were smoking gladiators nowadays...
I love the Forum. Can you tell?
There’s SO much to see in Rome. Even if you’re not a history buff (and I can’t say I am), just knowing that the buildings you’re seeing and the ruins you’re standing on are 19287418723 years old makes it a mystical, awe-inspiring experience. I loved loved LOVED taking pictures with crumbling, architectural beauties within the Roman Forum, just as much as I enjoyed seeing the Colosseum and the likes.
In the piazza, heading to St. Peter's Basilica
Michelangelo's iconic ET-phone-home moment
In pouring rain, our group of 5 also went to Vatican City. Wish we had known the online reservation system would have had us skip the 1.5hours in the rained-on line. Mer. Vatican City is small, but absolutely beautiful. The Museum had too much to see for too short a period of time, but seeing the Sistine Chapel was on my list of things to-do while in Rome (Raphael’s School of Athens was beautifully painted too). Tourists are forbidden to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel; but since when was I the rule-abiding tourist? Life’s all about taking risks, even if a priest tells you off (in a non-cursing way, of course) once the deed is done. St. Peter’s basilica was divine–if I regularly had service in a church that beautiful, I am CERTAIN I would be distracted from the sermon each and every Sunday.
One of 1923876123 pictures taken at Trevi Fountain
Our Dan Brown-esque trail within Rome ended with a grand tour of the Pantheon (currently being renovated on the exterior), Bernini’s Four Fountains, and the Trevi Fountain. Trevi > Four Fountains, hands down; I didn’t expect the Trevi to be that big or beautiful.
Friendship bracelets? Eh, they're actually scams...
With our new “friendship bracelets” in hand (scam bracelets on wrist, to be more correct), our group of five has survived the first half of our trip, with only Nice and Paris left in the itinerary. Travelling with one group with little-to-no privacy or personal space strains any relationship; exacerbate that with unnecessary boy drama and differences in personality/priorities/etc, and we are left with a group of exasperated girls ready to drop the rest of the trip and hole up at “home” (yes, Copenhagen has become home). BUT don’t worry–we did manage to say ciao to Italy, bonjour to France, and indulge in the airy, deliciousness of French baguettes. Post on that, soon to come.
Italian is the language of love (or so, they like to believe), so I’ll cap the blogpost with romantic phrases you can jot down & use to woo your next boo:
Gradisco voi di piu e piu (I like you more and more),
Mi manchi (I miss you),
Sto cadendo nell’amore con voi (I am falling in love with you).
Note: I was originally planning to imbed all the photos into this blogpost, but I realized that 1) it’d be too long of a post and 2) there are too many pictures that I want to share with you (even though they’re all on facebook). Following post will be of just pictures, to go along with this one. Enjoy!