Monday, November 3, 2008

Italy: Ciao Bella!

I hardly know how to tell the tale of my amazing fall break adventure to Italy, I saw so much in just a week and feel completely in love with Italy and all it had to offer. There is so much to tell about, I hope no one gets bored, and if you just want to look at the pictures I promise not to be offended, enjoy!

On this amazing trip I was with Tori, Kristina, Katie, and Caitlin. Our travels began at the crack on dawn Sunday morning when we woke up at 5:00am to hoof it to the airport. We flew straight into Rome and it was non-stop from that point forward.

We stayed at a hostel called “The Yellow” our first night in Rome, which was very youth friendly. We arrived in our room to find the sixth bed occupied by a sleeping girl. We soon found out her name was Becky, and she was an Australian backpacker staying in Rome just for the night like ourselves. She was really friendly and told us that she was going to the Vatican because it was open to the public for free on that day since it was the last Sunday of the month, and she let us tag along. She had a really amazing story, even though she wouldn’t tell us how old she was we guessed she was about 20, and had been traveling alone sine last March, Italy was one of her last stops, the next day she was headed to Sweden, then to Singapore and home. What a life.

Our first Roman adventure to the Vatican City was a complete success. We went inside and to the top of St. Peter’s Basilica. We first climbed to the top of the dome and witnessed a real mass occurring down below in the church. Then we went to the top of the dome outside, where you can see for miles, and can see the entire Vatican City in all it’s beauty. Then we were able to go downstairs to the main level of the church and admire all of the architectural beauty also well as witness part of another Roman Catholic Mass. I was completely blown away by the inside detail and artwork, it was indescribable. Over all, it was an incredible first day.

Welcome to the Vatican City

Looking down into the St. Peter's Basilica

View of the Vatican City from the top of St. Peter's
All the girls enjoying the Sunset from the top of the dome

Taking a rest of the way down for a picture with our new friend Becky

Group shot outside the Basilica at night, so beautiful!

St. Peter's Basilica

As we went to leave the entire city was lit up so we ask an older man to take a group picture for us. After the picture he led us over to a place in the cobblestone where there was a tribute to a Roman Solider. In one particular spot he told us the story of a soldier who carved a heart into the stone leading up to the Basilica for the love of his life when he was wounded in battled. Then he took us to another place and explained that the columns surrounding the city are so perfectly aligned that from that specific point you can look in one direction and it appears that there is only one row of pillars instead of two, they fall into place exactly behind one another.

The Heart Carved by a Soldier's Sword 

After returning back to the hostel, we were exhausted and had an early wake up call for a train to Venice so we called it a night. The next morning was another early one, 5:00am in order to get to the train station in time to make reservations and get to Venice early in the day. The reservation was a stressful process since we hadn’t tested the trains yet we really had no idea what we were doing. By the time we found the correct place to get tickets and waited in the never-ending line it was five minutes until the departure of our train. After asking the ticket salesmen if we were going to make this train and he checked his watch, looked at us and said, “No, too much luggage.” We decided to risk it anyways, grabbed the tickets and started running. We made it just in time to get us AND our luggage on the train before the doors shut and we were on our way to Venice. I wish the ticket man had seen us make the train!

We made it on to the Train to Venice just barely before it took off! 

We arrived in Venice Mestre, checked in to our hotel and jumped on a bus to go to the heart of the city in Venice. We were in complete aw from the moment we stepped off the bus. It was exactly like everything I had ever imagined Venice to be, and better. It was supposed to rain both days we were there but thankfully the weather held off until the end of our second day. The first day we spent just wandering the streets, shopping, eating delicious Italian food, and admiring the beautiful city. We took a ride in a Gondola with our new friend Nico. This gave us a chance to learn a little more about the island and see a lot of the Grand Canal. Venice is made up of 125 churches, and 116 islands, all connected by bridges, pretty sure we walked over at least half of them.
Columbus with her Map, while Tori and I look for bus times

Welcome to Venice! 

This was the best meal of the the trip! 

This is my "I love potato dumplings covered in four cheeses" face

Roommate love on the Gondola ride

All of us girls at the end of our Gondola ride

Tori and I trying on some crazy masks

Venice at Night...gorgeous

The second day in Venice we adventured around to find San Marco’s Square. On the way there though we stopped at the church of San Salvador. The inside was completely empty except for a few curious tourists, and the paintings that lined each wall were fabulous. I wish I could have taken pictures to share but unfortunately, cameras weren’t allowed. We continued our journey and ended up in the Saint Sofia marketplace along the Grand Canal. It was very similar to the street market in Greece, full of delicious foods, excited shoppers, and vendors. Finally we reached San Marco’s square, and the Basilica was glorious. It was picture perfect, the most beautiful church I have ever seen. We went inside to see the entire ceiling and walls covered in gold mosaic artwork. The church has been rebuilt many times over many centuries, and upstairs there was a museum that displayed much of the recovered artwork from the original church, including the four original horse sculptures that are displayed on the top of the entrance. The view from the top balcony from the Basilica was fantastic because you could look onto the water in one direction and to another see the entire San Marco’s square out in front of the entrance including the Palace of Napoleon, the famous Bell Tower, and Atta Napoleonic, which was a church, but Napoleon knocked it down to built his ballroom, and Piazza. After exploring all the different parts of San Marco we headed to La Fenice Theatro, which is an Opera house that is one of the most famous theatres in Europe. The auditorium was covered in gold all around, with the most extravagant audience boxes, which we sat in and listened to both a male and female Opera singer perform for an audition of some sort which was amazing. After the Theatre we headed back to the hostel to get out of the rain.

Day two in the lovely city of Venice

Saint Sofia Marketplace, we bought Satsumas! 

The whole gang in front of San Marco's Basilica

View of the Square from the top of the Basilica 

When the rain comes down, the Babushka comes out! 

Completely out of energy from two full days of Venice we headed to the train station and traveled to Florence on a late night train. When we arrived in Florence we gave the map to Columbus (Caitlin) as always and she led us to our hostel. This hostel was a lot different than the previous ones we had stayed at and since we didn’t understand how to buzz ourselves in we thought we were going to be homeless for the night. Eventually Kristina ran down to the pay phone and called then and they buzzed us in, (In reality shouldn’t have been so complicated, we felt dumb). Finally settled in we went to sleep since we were so exhausted from traveling all the time. The next morning we got up and headed back to the Train station to go to Pisa. By the time we got to Pisa the weather was terrible, it was raining so hard you could hardly see anything, so we jumped on the first bus we could to get to the square where the Leaning Tower is located. There were so many people on the bus and we had no idea which stop it was, but a kind Italian woman told us when to get off the bus, and the second we stepped out the rain had stopped and we looked up in aw of the amazing tower. We admired the churches and surrounding building and took tons of pictures. We also stopped to eat…Pizza in Pisa of course! As it started to rain again we headed back to the train station and traveled back to Florence.

Welcome to Pisa!

The girlies at the Tower

Back in Florence we decided to go to the Academia museum to see the Statue of David. This museum was probably one of my favorite stops, I was not expecting to get so much out of it. There was a special exhibit on Giovanni da Milano that I spent a lot of time in which was amazing. The Statue of David was better than what I expected by far. It was so massive and perfectly sculpted. Kristina and I were bad tourists and snuck pictures of him even though there were no pictures allowed in the museum. As we were leaving the museum bells started going off and I was sure that the security cameras had caught us and we were going to jail in Italy but it was only the bells to tell people the museum was closing, we felt a little ridiculous as we ran out in fear. We headed back to the hostel and called it a night. The next day we got up to go see the Basilica di Santa Maria, the cathedral church with the massive Duomo apart of it designed by Brunelleschi, along with the surrounding Baptistery and Bell Tower. The Duomo was huge! I over heard a tour guide saying that if it was laid flat it would be around two-thirds of a soccer field. We again, hoofed it up a ridiculous amount of stairs to the very top to have a beautiful view of the city of Florence. After our climb we went into the Museum behind the Duomo to have a look at the original gold panels that were taken from the 8 panel doors that are at the entrance to the Baptistery. We were going to try and see the Birth of Venus statue but the line was incredibly long and since we were short on time we wandered the city for as long as we could, eating delicious Gelato, taking countless pictures and loving Florence.

Sneaky picture of David, I'm so glad we didn't go to Italian jail

The Ceiling of the Duomo, those black holes that you see are actually five feet in diameter! 

The Duomo from the outside

Basilica di Santa Maria

The Baptistry 

Amazing view of Florence from the top of the Duomo

Up close and personal with the Duomo ceiling

All the girls in front of the bridge, Ponte Vecchio

Our time was cut short only because we needed to catch the train back to Rome. We got into Rome and took the Metro all the way from the train station to the far side of the city by the Vatican City, which is where our hostel was, with our oversized suitcases. Once we got to our hostel we were told that we were two hours late and that they had canceled our reservation and given away our rooms, and they were completely booked, even though our reservations were for three nights, it was ridiculous. We didn’t really know what to do and it was so late that we didn’t know if many places would have anything available for us, but we decided to just take a taxi back to the Yellow, our original Rome hostel to see if they had anything available or recommendations. We got there to find out they were completely booked but they sent us around the corner to Alessandro's Palace. From the moment we walked in we felt way better and completely taken care of. I have decided from this traveling experience that hostels are the way to go, way cheaper and a lot of fun. We ended up meeting a lot of fun people at our hostel and the staff treated us like we were their friends not customers. Anyways, after the hostel crisis was averted we went out to get drinks and meet some other travels. We met Ben and Sam, two students from Prague and their friend Rob who was a traveler from Canada. The night got adventurous when we tried to go back to the hostel and call it a night but instead Tori and I ended up meeting two guys outside the hostel from Turkey and taking a late-night stroll around Rome. We weren’t really sure where we were headed until some one looked at the map and realized how close we were to the Trevi Fountain, so of course we had to go there. As we got closer you could hear the water from about a block away and once we turned the corner I was shocked by home beautiful it was. Completely lit up n the night, and deserted because it was so late at night we just sat in front of it for the longest time. That was for sure one of my favorite moments of the trip. One of the guys from Turkey was a complete fool and decided to climb up the side of it, and of course was taken away by one of the many policemen on duty, so that was the last we saw of them before heading home.

Back in Rome, we had to go visit our friend Alin for another great meal

Free Champagne in Rome, my life is complete

Our second day back in Rome, we headed back to the Vatican City where we went to the Museum of the Sistine Chapel. The Museum was completely insane, full of every type of artwork from Roman collections. Each room of the museum is dedicated to a different type of artwork. There were the Statue rooms, Egyptian Exhibit, Gallery of Tapestries, Gallery of Maps, several Papal Apartments that were each lined with many famous paintings including the School of Athens which was one of my favorite things in the entire museum. Kristina and I pulled out our nerd cards and got books about the museum and read pretty much the entire thing as it took us through a history of each room. I learned so much and each room had something so significant about it. Our tour of the museum ended with the incredible Sistine Chapel, with the Michelangelo’s famous ceiling painting. I honestly just sat in that room and stared up at the ceiling for at least a half hour. I could have stayed in there forever. I am still not convinced that that moment was real. So many times you see representations of the creation of Adam painting with the two meeting figures, and I saw it, for real. It was hands down the most beautiful artwork I have ever seen along with all of the surrounding parts of the Chapel. The Last Judgment is the name of the painting that covers the front wall of the chapel, and that wall alone took five years to complete. Every inch of the chapel is covered in Michelangelo’s genius artwork, I can honestly say that I was not expecting something that incredible and I was completely blown away. After my amazing experience with the chapel we headed home to get dressed up for Halloween festivities!

The beautiful Gallery of Maps

The School of Athens painting, Raphael

This is part of the tapestry called "The Resurrection of Christ" designed by the students of Raphael

We were prepared to do Halloween right in Rome since we bought some beautiful masks in Venice earlier in the week. Our new friends from the hostel however were not as prepared as us, but we did have eyeliner and a sharpie, and they let us got crazy. Ben we turned into Zorro, Sam was a Cat, and Rob was a Pirate. We went to the Yellow bar for free drinks for dressing up and met so many crazy people including Cornflake Face, Lots of people in Greek Togas, Rambo, A Peacock, McCain Voter, An Obama Voter, and lots of other crazy costumes. I’d say our masks were a hit for sure and we had so much fun and met a ton of people.

Katie, Tori and I with our Masks on and ready to party! 

New friends Rob and Ben let us go crazy with the sharpies and this is what happened

Caitlin and I in our lovely masks! 

Cornflake face! 

Our last day in Rome was much more low key, since the only thing major left on our list of “must-sees” was the Colesseum. We hoofed it over there from our hostel, following Columbus in the rain. It was perfect though because the moment we actually got inside, the clouds seriously parted completely and opened up to beautiful blue skies, some of the pictures I have look completely fake it was so gorgeous. The Colesseum was of course massive, and of course amazing. After we wandered around in there for a while Caitlin and I went on an adventure try and get into the Ancient Ruins of the Roman City. We completely underestimated how big they were and we basically ended up walking for about hour to see only part of them, but it was so worth it. We met up with the rest of the girls and hoped on the metro to see the Trevi Fountain since the rest of the girls hadn’t come on our crazy late night adventure earlier in the week. The crowd at the fountain in the evening was insane, we could barely get in close to take pictures, but we still threw in our coins, and made our wishes. We all decided that the fountain was the perfect way to end our adventures in Italy. That night was mellow for me with some free hostel pizza and passing out early in order to wake up for our flight back to Athens.

Inside the Colosseum 

Caitlin, Kristina and I having fun outside the Colosseum

The Colosseum

The Arch of Constantine 

Ancient Roman City Ruins

Favorite group shot of the whole week, in front of the Trevi Fountain

The Trevi Fountain!

I had a weeklong love affair with Italy, which was beyond amazing and so much fun…I still can’t believe all of the incredible things that I saw. It did feel so good to finally be back in Athens again though. All that traveling is so exhausting, and it’s nice to be in one place for a while…well until our AHA group heads to the Peloponnese with Michael for a four-day trip this weekend, oh man what is my life?!?! Amazing! 


Jamie said...

Amazing. So amazing. I love the Trevi fountain! (Statues and fountains are my favorite!! These pictures are incredible.

Abby said...

your life is incredible!!! i read every word and loved it. way to go on remembering all the info about everything you will be so happy you did love!!

autumn said... jealousy is bubbling up. and your black. and your life is awesome...all that is missing is us girls!