For my ten days of Easter/Spring break, I chose to visit the wonderful boot-shaped country of Italy. Like most first-timers to Italy, I planned my trip around the three main cities: Rome, Venice and Florence. Based on my short time in each place, each city has a distinct personality while still maintaining that Italian “je ne sais quoi.”
My longest stop was in Rome with three full days and two half days. I again got to see Clara and we were joined this time by our homie Kevin. Craziness filled the air as we were in Rome for probably its busiest time of year: Easter. Despite all the tourists, I was still able to get a thorough glimpse of Roma. The thing I loved most about Rome was how the clichés were fulfilled. Gelaterias and pizzerias around every corner, vespas whipping down the cobblestone roads, expressive hands, unwanted calls of “Ciao bella!”, ancient ruins casually placed throughout the city. Aided by the lovely and knowledgable Clara, we got a twofold visit, that of a tourist and that of a resident. We saw the major sites and ruins, had a Pope sighting, ate plenty of gelato and pizza, drank wine and limoncello, went to a Lazio soccer game, watched the movie Gladiator (don’t judge). We saw Rome during the night and day, rainy and blue skies. At all times it was gorgeous (except maybe the Tiber River). “This is a history major’s dream” as Kevin put it. The city is still so alive despite its obvious past.
My next stop was Venice with my sister who came over from the States grâce à our mother. (When my sister was studying abroad four years ago, I visited her during my Spring Break. We went to Liverpool, London and Dublin.) We had an adrenaline-pumping arrival in Venice at 10:30pm trying to navigate the poorly-marked streets with our less-than-helpful map and directions. Finally arriving at our B&B, we woke up a guest by ringing the doorbell and disturbed another by asking to use his phone. (This was funny because I spoke in English and French and the guy came to the door with a blowdryer. Not quite right.) Luckily, we were soon in our room, two tired travelers. Venice in the daytime was truly magical. Narrow streets, numerous canals, adorable bridges. My impression of Venice was that it’s a city for lovers due to the lack of noise from cars, wandering the streets with the inevitability of getting lost but not caring, stumbling across with bridges with locks, relaxing on a gondola. Nonetheless, I enjoyed it as I was increasing my love affair with Italia. With only one full day, we made sure to hit the major sites: the Grand Canal, St. Mark’s Square, St. Mark’s Basilica, Palazzo Ducale and Accademia de Venezia. It was quite a full day especially when you calculate the time and energy getting lost (not romantic for a pair of sisters with tired feet). The next day, we only had the morning before we were off again. Not being able to risk getting lost again, we took the vaparetto which is basically Venice’s transportation system via boat. We took it to the Peggy Guggenheim Museum of Modern Art to offset all the ugly baby Jesuses from the day before. This was one of my favorite things because it was such a surprise. I got to see works by Picasso, Braque, Dali, Kandinsky, Picabia, Magritte and Jackson Pollack. With a hop, skip and a jump, we were leaving Venice and on route to Firenze.
While Rome is for history buffs, Florence is for art lovers. Seemingly frozen in time from the Medici reign, Florence is full of pockets of treasures. We lucked out with great weather the first day so we trekked south to the Plazo Pitti via the Ponte Vecchio to marvel at a palace full of art and meander through a grand garden speckled with signs of spring. We continued upward towards Piazzale Michelangelo which offers a great view of Florence. From here, I could really see the beauty of this European city in its preserved state. Unlike American cities that are painfully modern and recent, the cityscape of Florence is exclusively dominated by the architectural masterpieces from the Renaissance. Our second day was an art overload. We started with the Galleria dell’Accademia to ogle at Michelangelo’s David. While da Vinci’s Mona Lisa tends to be underwhelming, David does not disappoint. We continued our journey with a quick tour of the Duomo and then we were off to the Uffizi aka the best museum in the world for Renaissance art. Botticelli, Raphael, Michelangelo, Caravaggio, da Vinci, as well as many others. We ended the day with some purchases at the San Lorenzo leather market with gyros for dinner since we were both a little tired of pasta and paninis. Our last day, we toured the Palazzo Vecchio and had our final gelato (half stracciatella half tiramisu) and pizza.
And just like that we were headed to Rome for just a night before our early morning departures. We had a bit of a mishap with our Rome accommodation (ask me about it later) but it did not damper my opinion of my experience.Ciao Italy! Grazie!