12 April 2009

Major update!

Here is a MAJOR update for you... I wrote it as a few days passed at a time... so the timeframe may not make the most sense, but I will fix it later when I add photos :)

It’s great to actually be out of school for a couple of weeks. A break was definitely needed!

We began our spring break in Rome. In order to get there we walked to the train station, took a train to Paris, took a bus to the airport, a plane to Rome, and then a bus to the train station which was really close to our hotel. So we had trains, planes, and automobiles! Literally! The journey was long but finally we made it. Two hours late for our check in due to a flight delay, we were ready for bed at 1:30 in the morning.

After great nights sleep it was time to explore. While on our way to the Coliseum, we ran into a parade. But not just ANY parade- let me tell you! It was a communist parade. I wasn’t aware of it before we got there, but now I know a lot of Italy actually wants to be communist. It was quite interesting to see the PACE rainbow flags, the color red, and people of all ages dancing and celebrating in the streets. This went all day long- literally- and no matter where we were during the day we could hear the drums, music, and whistles of the people.

The Coliseum is incredible. It’s so hard to believe that it was built so long ago and is still standing today. For some reason I expected it to be larger than it was, but at the same time, it’s very big. Although it was full of tourists, it was still possible to imagine what it may have been like to be there when it was active. Can you believe people went there to watch other people die? It sounds so vulgar, but it seems like people will do almost anything for a form of entertainment.

After the Coliseum we headed to some more ruins. We thought maybe it would take 30 minutes to go through it. WOAH were we kidding! It was over an hour before we decided to have a lunch break and come back to see the rest after that. I think this was my favorite part about Rome because there were ruins thousands of years old, and buildings thousands of years old right next to “modern” buildings. And what I think is even cooler is that it was in the center of Rome.

There was also this building we walked by twice before being able to enter it (it was closed the first time for cleaning and the second because it was after hours). We had no idea what it was until we finally made it up there. It was the Tomb of an Unknown Soldier. It was incredibly elaborate and huge while of course gorgeous at the same time.

During the trip we met up with Pipers’ friend, Sarah, and Emma and Phil. It was a lot of fun being able to travel together!

It’s so weird being in a country where we don’t speak the language. I feel bad speaking English because we are regarded as a tourist, which, well, that’s what we are, but at the same time sometimes I feel pushed away. I felt this for the first time when I went to Germany because the language is so different from anything else I know. In Italy, sometimes I can pick up some things because of the little Spanish background mixed with the French, but at the same time, it’s quite different!

The food here is absolutely incredible. It beats French food without a look back. I think they even have better desserts than the French. Gelato is our afternoon snack- but we learned that there is good and bad gelato. Also, and I love how there is so much color everywhere. I feel like the Italians are happier people in general than the French.

Next stop: Florence. The weather was gorgeous- until we got to Florence, where the fog had decided to settle in. But mid/late afternoon it was gone and the weather was perfect. I will probably keep saying this, but we really have lucked out. As soon as we got to our hotel we went to a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant which was clearly full of regulars to meet my friends from NJ- Mel and Salem, and Mel’s friend Mary from AZ. Salem had no idea I was going to meet her, so it was a fun surprise!

Florence, too, is gorgeous. I’m in love with Italian cities: the smaller the better. We made a day trip yesterday to see Siena, which was a 1 ½ hour bus ride from Florence. It was very gorgeous, but at the same time there were too many tourists. I hate that because I feel like people are losing sight of what it means to be in a small town.

But, while in small town Siena we were just walking around and we found a tower. Within the tower there was museum- which included a photography gallery by the photojournalist Paul Fusco. It was incredible. There were images from the chemical explosion in C… what’s crazy about it is the effects that people are feeling 20 years after the explosion… and that you can see it in their children. Cancer is everywhere, and so are tumors. It’s so sad to see the pain and suffering the people are feeling. Children were eating off the floor like they were dogs: probably because they didn’t have much use of their legs. You could see the sadness in the faces of the mothers who were caring for their children with tumors larger than they were.

The next part of his exhibition was the “RFK train” when the coffin of Bobby Kennedy was carried by train. People of all races were standing near the tracks bidding farewell. During that time, it wasn’t common to see black and whites in the same place, but the death of Bobby Kennedy brought them together, even if it was just for a few minutes.

In the transition from that gallery to the one of American soldiers who were also returning home in coffins, an Italian man stopped us and asked if we were American (the photographer was American). We said yes and he asked our opinions of Italy so far. We told him we loved everything about it, but here is what he said,
“We have a great past but not a great present. I love the countryside but not the people.”
It’s interesting, because the first part of that seems true once you think about it. Italy does have a great, old, historical past. But where are they going now? It’s interesting to think what they have going for them other than there past. I guess I could say the same thing about every country, but then again, we do no have ruins like they do. However, I cannot agree with his statement about the people. You see, in Verona (my FAVORITE city so far), we had nothing but incredible encounters. Once we arrived there by train, we were so turned around and lost looking for our hotel. We saw an old man who looked nice, so we asked if he knew where the street was (in as few words as possible because none of us knows Italian!). He wasn’t sure, so he stopped a random woman walking. She had no idea, so they both stopped a mailman who had a map. He pulled it out and started looking. However, they didn’t’ speak English so when a friend of the mailman rode by on her bike he responded with “ciao bella” and then proceeded to have her explain to us how to get where we needed to go. I loved how she explained the “sky… bueno… of Verona.” Meaning… the “sky scraper”. She kept asking for the word but she couldn’t remember it, so she just said “bueno”. Haha. But what is really funny about it, is that it is one building that is maybe 15 stories high. Once we made it to our hotel, we were starving so we headed off to find somewhere to eat. After some hesitation we found a cute little corner restaurant. It seemed cheap and light, so we decided it was OK. We were debating what to order, so the man working there (I’m assuming the owner/co-owner) asked if we liked pasta. Once we said yes, he said we should have a certain pasta because his “mamma made it”. Imagine that in a thick Italian accent… and you will smile! He then proceeded to offer us a bottle of wine from where he is from: just outside of Verona. It was incredible. Red wine in Italy? YES please! When we finished our wine (in which he shared a glass), our delicious pasta, incredible shot of espresso for Piper, and lemoncillo, our entire meal was 24 euros. 24. Euros. After calculating, we are pretty sure we got a 50% discount. So, on to the next nice person.

It seems to be that these GINORMOUS chocolate eggs are the “in” thing to do for Easter. While we each wanted to try one, we figured we could never get through even one. So we walked past this “Tipografia” which is a printing press, and this incredibly nice woman offered us some of the chocolate egg she had received in a drawing. She knew we were not going to buy anything (there wasn’t really much to purchase) but she will still so generous and friendly!

Next nice person: the owner of the hotel we stayed at. We were looking for restaurants to eat at for dinner last night, so we asked the owner for suggestions. Instead of just saying there were a lot in this certain section of town… he notated specific locations and names on our map, along with places to get “spritzers” (a type of fruity drink). While we didn’t make it there, it was sooo nice of him!

Last amazing people in Verona: the 3 men we met at dinner. We were getting ready to leave when these 3 guys sat down at the table next to us, family style. I’m not sure if that’s how it actually works, but there was room so OK! One of the 3 was pretty fluent in English, but the others had a lot of learning to do… however, they definitely spoke more English than we can speak Italian! After offering to buy another glass of wine for us all, they took us to dinner with them (even though we had already eaten) and they said they didn’t mind we weren’t going to eat because they would get some more wine for us. So we go to this little Italian restaurant and they order a typical dish from Verona, which is basically the same thing as chicken friend steak, but pork, with lemon. They shared with us, spilled 2 glasses of wine, always with a smile on their faces. It was so much fun.

So, now we are off to Venice. It seems like each small town I see I fall even more in love with it. I cannot wait to come back to Italy this summer. The people are fantastic, the countryside is incredible, and the food is delicious. Plus, the smaller the town, the fewer the tourists. I actually felt like I was in a small town in Italy- instead of “touristville”. Finally it felt more like Italy instead of a historical site.

Venice was our last city in Italy. Sadly, it was our last favorite, too. We can’t quite pinpoint the reason for it, but it’s probably because we were so spoiled by the small towns before it. I mean, it was beautiful and greatly different from all of the other places we went, but just not fantastic. I think we were all expecting it to be romanticized like in the photographs- but it’s not. However, it is kind of cool that all of the streets are really tiny, and there are NO cars on the island. All throughout Italy I was upset because I felt like it would be so much more beautiful- without the cars or scooters everywhere. And finally- a city in Italy that was just that! It was also fun to explore through alleys to see where they may lead us, which was usually to a dead end due to the water… which was ok because it was an adventure to get there! The food and coffee, however, was fantastic. We walked around for a couple of hours before we found a little pizza place for dinner. Yum yum yum! I really am going to miss the food in Italy, but luckily I will be back this summer!

We got to this one church/square on the island of Venice where there were pigeons everywhere. Very tame pigeons. People put food in their hands and the birds jumped up on them to eat- as they were standing up! Thanks to Kayleigh, I have developed a slight fear of this scary flying animals, especially as they come flying toward me at full speed! So having to talk through a square where they actually LIKE me was a bit intimidating…. Until I saw the “make-out couple”. Yes, that is exactly what they were doing. For a very long time. At first we were thinking they needed to take it down a level… until we saw the girl was crying and had this huge smile on her face as she looked at her boyfriend with these incredibly happy and loving eyes. We assume they just got engaged or something… but, regardless, it was great to see two people so happily in love. It must be nice :P

So now I am on a plane heading to England. Our first stop is Stratford-Upon-Avon for a Shakespeare play! It is weird to think we are heading to a country where the national language is English. For the past 2 ½ months we have been traveling in countries where we cross our fingers and hope the people we are talking to either speak some English or French, and if not, gestures and as few words as possible are used! All of it is an experience in itself and I just can’t wait for the next adventure!


  1. I am so jealous. Life is experiencing and giving, and you are certainly experiencing!!!!

  2. Wow! Thanks for the update! Happy Easter and I'm so glad that everyone in Italy is behaving themselves and being so nice to you. :) Have fun in England....what play are you seeing? Hamlet? I hope it is a romance and not a tragedy. XXOO

  3. PS. Sorry I get signed in as CMEF instead of as Marianne.