I’m trying to catch up on my blog posts, so that is why I am suddenly posting multiple blog posts in one week. I have several trips to talk about, so many that I struggled with deciding which one to talk about. November is quickly approaching, and I am extremely excited that I will be leaving for London in a week and half (I have always been obsessed with England)! Expect an extra long blog about that. So for that reason I am trying to write as much as I can about Italy before venturing into other countries. As my roommates say, why does this have to be a study abroad program? Can’t it just be an abroad? But seriously, I swear I do actually go to school here!
This past month has flown by, and I’ve already been to La Spezia (near Cinque Terre), Rimini (a beach city), Ravenna (near Rimini), San Marino (the oldest country in the world..but still geographically in Italy. I also must include that this was one of my favorite places so far! It was gorgeous, and there were several castles that you could climb to the top of. Picture below). I’ve also been to the city 15 minutes away called Parma (yes like the cheese), and recently visited a Ferrari museum in Maranello (an hour away by bus).
All these places had their own thing to offer, but honestly I feel there was not as much to see or talk about in comparison to Rome and Milan (my most recent trips).
Day 1: Vatican City
Two friends and I left for Rome for the weekend at 8 am and arrived at 1 pm by train. It is possible to get there in two and half hours, I believe, but I took the regional train instead of the high-speed train for about half the price. We had decided to spend the first day in the Vatican City, which is an independent city geographically located in Rome. This is the home of the pope, the Vatican museum, St. Peter’s Basilica (which closed too early for us to see), the Sistine chapel, and the gardens.
I would now like to set a small part of this blog aside to explain Megan’s first experience with pushy tourism:
Before actually entering Vatican City and the museum, there were two lines and a large group of well-dressed men with lanyards standing in front of it. We stood at the end of the lines confused for a second trying to figure out which line to take (since we hadn’t bought tickets yet). The one man heard us speaking and yells at the other “English!!”. The other man (that apparently spoke fluent English) runs over and starts asking us what sights we wanted to see in the Vatican. We explained we wanted to go into the museum, and he starts telling us “oh, well the line will take about an hour. Then you will want to go to St. Peter’s Basilica which will take even more time..you will need a pass to line jump”. He pulls out a map and draws all over it, telling us all the possible ways we could go through the city. For the next…oh, maybe 5 minutes (but it felt like 20), he goes on and on about these packages that we needed to buy. “Oh, there is an audio tour you must have for 20 euros more”… Every few minutes he would look at us and say “you look confused, let me explain again”. Long story short: we finally realized this guy had zero authority, and was literally pretending we couldn’t pass him without purchasing his pass. The sad thing is I believed him at first! Lesson learned: Rome is no Reggio Emilia. People are not the same.
Once inside, I went into the museums, which were filled with art and sculptures. I am in no way an art connoisseur, but if I see the artist is Leonardo Da Vinci…I know this place must be pretty special.
After walking around the museums with a huge backpack for a few hours, I sat in the Vatican garden with this view. Luckily, the weather was beautiful that day.
We ended the day with a trip to the Sistine chapel. The walking to get to the chapel took us about a half hour because you walked through several museums. When we finally arrived, the chapel was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people all just staring at the ceiling. No photos allowed, but it was pretty amazing looking (though I highly considered taking a stealthy picture with my phone– it did take 54 months to paint).
I ended my day with nothing other than…prosciutto pizza (prosciutto is a kind of thinly sliced Italian ham that is EVERYWHERE here).
Day 2: Rome
9 AM: Roman Colosseum.
Right next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine. Before we left later that night Rome, we sat, ate, and people watched. It was pretty interesting to see couples, families, groups of teenagers on school trips, or actual Italians there. The perfect place to play “guess what country that person is from”.
Next to that is…many many Roman ruins. I have to be honest and say it was gorgeous and all, but unless you know a lot about history then it can be a little mundane to spend a lot of time on. See below for much Roman ruins.
I then saw the Pantheon, which was built by the Romans in 126 AD. It’s famous for the dome on the inside, which you can see in the second photo below. It was also gorgeous on the inside, not to mention free entry with no line!
More observations about tourism: In front of every famous structure there are people that are selling (correction: shoving in your face) all of these scarves, souvenirs, and the most famous object of their desire…selfie sticks. It gets to be very repetitive when you’re trying to simply take a picture and they decide to walk into it. This happened in Milan as well. I understand that this how they make their living, but they actually followed me with their selfie stick. Especially because this will happen again 2 minutes later. No, I do not want your selfie stick. Nor yours. Nor yours. Not even yours. Perhaps I’m just not used to big cities…but I am proud to say I am a professional tourist scam spotter at this point.
I was a little disappointed that we walked to the Trevi Fountain only to find it was under construction, as were the Spanish steps. However, I did go to a gelateria with over 100 flavors.
By the end of this weekend, I was so exhausted. End it all with a 5 hour train ride, arriving back at my apartment at 11 pm, and collapsing in my bed..I would say it was a successful Roman adventure.
Italy’s most popular city? Check.