Thursday, March 21, 2013

Spring Break in Italia!

Ciao a tutti! I still can't believe how lucky I was to be able to spend Spring break in Italy. I was fortunate enough to have my parents come as well, and got to show them a little bit of Torino. Over break we traveled to Florence, Pisa, Rome, and Pompeii. Pisa and Pompeii were both day trips, so most of our time was spent in Florence and Rome.

First, I have to say that I was a little worried about going to so few places over break. Everyone that I talked to had elaborate plans to visit as many countries as possible during our time off. My parents had planned everything on their own, and I was pretty much along for the ride. Looking back, I'm so thankful that we stuck to just a few places in Italy. Not only did I get to experience more of the country I live in, I got to actually take enough time to fully appreciate each place. 

We spent about three days in Florence. Had the weather been more friendly, I would probably have much more to tell. I saw most of the city from underneath an umbrella, but it was stunning regardless. We were lucky enough to have the sun come out just long enough to climb to the top of the Duomo and experience the break-taking panoramic view. Going to the top is an absolute must-do if you're in Florence. Even someone who is deathly afraid of heights (like me) will be so glad to have done it. The sheer size of the building is incredible, and to be at the top is definitely surreal. 

Another must-do in Florence is the Galleria dell'Accademia, which houses Michelangelo's statue of David as well as many other significant works of art. We have likely all seen countless photos of the David, but nothing compares to seeing it in person. I was amazed at how large and detailed the statue actually is. I can truly appreciate all of the work that went into this masterpiece after experiencing it first-hand. 

Another of my Favorites from Florence was the Ponte Vecchio, a famous bridge over the Amo River. It is known for the shops that run along each side of it, which are mainly jewelry stores. I thought it was absolutely beautiful and so unique from anything I had ever seen. 

My best advice for Florence is to simply walk everywhere. Most of the attractions are within walking distance of one another, and it's the best way to really appreciate the beautiful scenery. 

Our next stop was in Pisa on our way to Rome. The train ride took less than an hour and we got to see a little more of Tuscany on the way. You really don't need more than a couple of hours to see the leaning tower, the cathedral, and the baptistry, which all happen to be right next to each other! We decided to climb to the top of the tower, thinking that we would regret it if we didn't. It was a little pricy (18 € per person), but definitely worth it, plus it felt like a piece of cake after climbing the Duomo in Florence! Regardless of the rumors that Pisa doesn't have much to offer, I thought the city itself was charming, colorful, and very serene.

Next we were off to Rome, which for me was the highlight of the whole trip. We started our time in Rome with a day tour to Naples and Pompeii. My parents booked the trip through Vastours ( before coming. The tour took all day and stopped briefly in Naples for a quick walking tour, then went on to Pompeii. For me, 30 minutes in Naples was plenty. But I'm sure that depends on personal preference. I was much more excited to get to Pompeii. I have wanted to visit the ancient city since learning about it in middle school. 

To sum it up, Pompeii was unbelievable. I had very high expectations and it lived up to them in every way. We also had a fantastic tour guide, provided by Vastours, who made the experience all the more interesting. He was so funny and interactive that we almost forgot that it was windy and freezing. Almost. 

It is hard to even put into words how amazing the experience was. But I will say this: GO! It was unbelievable that everything is so well preserved. Nowhere else will you be able to see anything like it. 

Back to Rome! Where do I even begin. Rome was incredible and I would go back in a heartbeat. Absolutely everything was beautiful and had its own rich history. It turned out that we got to Rome the day after the Pope Francis was elected. We thought the city would be teeming with tourists, but it really wasn't bad at all. We actually went to the Vatican on the Saturday after the election and I was shocked at how small the crowds were. Unfortunately for us, the Sistine Chapel was still closed from the conclave. However, the Vatican museum was still incredible in its size and collections. We chose reserve our tickets online before going (, which allowed us to skip the long lines. 

St. Peter's Square was also a surreal experience. I've seen it on TV so many times that it was hard to believe that I was actually there. We spent about four days in Rome, which I really felt was the perfect amount of time. We spent a lot of time just walking around and taking it all in (and eating gelato). During our time there we also visited the Pantheon, the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum. 

The Roman Forum and the Colosseum were definitely a highlight as well. The Roman Forum is the remains of the ancient government buildings at the center of Rome. You can buy one ticket at the entrance to the Forum for 12 € that allows you entrance into the Forum, the Palatine Hill (Former home of the emperor Augustus and one of the most ancient parts of Rome), and the Colosseum. We easily spent about four hours here, and I easily could have spent even longer if it hadn't started raining. Seeing the Colosseum was the absolute best way to end my time there. It's something I've wanted to see my whole life.

I would say Spring break was a complete success. This weekend I'm off to Paris with my parents, so more on that to come! As always, if you have any questions about the trip feel free to ask!

Ciao for now!

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