Monday, July 26, 2010

This Past Week...

The past two weeks flew by so quickly. One thing that I learned here is that you NEED to cherish every minute on the Italian clock, otherwise time becomes the enemy.

This past week, we all went to Florence, Venice, Padova, Assisi, Pompei and Sorrento. Compared to the busy and loud Roman streets, these cities are calm and scenic. Florence, where the Art Renaissance was born, is a small and charming city. Walking through Florence was like stepping through a time portal and walking the streets of the 14th century. Since we arrived in Florence in the late afternoon, we had our city tour at night. The churches, especially the Duoma, look beautiful against the night sky. Many piazzas were full of live music. An Italian played Oasis’ “Wonderwall” on his acoustic and everyone stopped to have a listen. The streets seem to be full of people all the time—even during the late hours of the night. The following day was feverishly hot. However, we spent much of the afternoon at the Academia: Florence’s museum where Michelangelo’s statue of David stands. Photographs of David do not do it justice. The statue is huge and every detail, from the flowing curls of his hair to the stresses within the arm muscles, portrays the statue’s youth and strength incredibly.

Florence was hard to leave. From Florence we took a trip to the leaning tower of Pisa; which, in complete honesty, was a bit disappointing. We took pictures, watched street performers and shopped around for a bit before leaving Pisa for Venice.

Venice, on the other hand, is a dream. Imagine a city without cars. Streets are canals and your taxi is a gondola. Venice is a bit touristier than Rome and Florence but it is so wonderfully different that tourism is the last thing on your mind. It was in Venice where my friends and I had the most delicious and expensive meal during our stay in Italy. We figured that we might as well splurge on the fresh seafood. The spaghetti and clams were worth every euro!

Our last night in Venice was very special because there was a huge festival. My friends and I bought Venetian masks and wore them that night as we watched a firework show over the main canal. It was a great way to end our excursion.

As soon as we got back to our hotel in Rome, the days began to feel longer since they were packed with trips to museums and churches. We found some spare time to go shopping near the Spanish steps where the Rome version of 5th Avenue is located. It was nice to be back in Rome. The owner of the local gelateria was definitely happy to see us and I was definitely happy to eat the coconut and nutella ice cream again.

A few days ago, we hopped on our bus again and left Rome for Pompeii and Sorrento for the day. Pompeii is a small city of ruins. We got to walk through the ancient city and see the Volcano in the background (I was secretly crossing my fingers in hope that it wouldn’t erupt despite its occasional loud noises).

Okay, Sorrento! Sorrento was definitely the highlight of my trip. I have never seen a city so beautiful. Sorrento sits on a cliff next to the ocean. The view is gorgeous, absolutely breathtaking. The bus driver took us through the city and although seeing the artsy shops and the locals walking through the streets was interesting, we were all itching to jump into that clear, cool water. As soon as the driver let us off the bus, we all headed down the mountain and took a dip in the ocean. The water was salty but so clear and almost warm from baking under the hot sun all day. We only had a couple of hours in Sorrento, my friends and I wanted to stay in the ocean in protest for more time. Reluctantly, we headed back to the bus.

Anyway, I have exactly one week until I return to New York. Would it be so horrible if I “accidentally” missed my flight and just stayed in Italy forever?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

the first few days in Roma

I am having the time of my life. It's been a week since I left NYC but it feels as if I've been in Rome for months. The pre-departure nerves I had last week now seem, to be frank, a bit stupid. In just one week I've seen most of Rome, experienced the nightlife, seen beautiful churches and architecture and made the most amazing friends.

Although I've been taking loads of pictures here, I won't be posting them for a while. My time on the computer is limited so I'll upload pictures to my blog the second I return to the states (August 1st).

Anyway, it's really hot here and we walk for hours off end everyday. Every time we return to the hotel, we jump in the shower--even if we only have 5 mintues until our next rendevous. The day tours around Rome are both scorching and exhausting but they're so worth it. Plus, the heat during the day make the cooler nights that much more enjoyable.

Last Monday, the day we arrived in Rome, we explored the streets surrounding our hotel. Our hotel, the Grand Hotel Palazzo Carpegna, is located about 20 minutes north from the city's center so we have to take either the bus or the metro to get downtown. In the evening, a group of about 20 students, including myself, took the metro to the Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain is beautiful, especially at night. Tourists and even locals gather around the fountain to eat gelatto, drink vino, socialize and throw coins into the fountain in exchange for wishes. It's very romantic actually. Couples hold each other close and different languages echo through the surrounding streets.

After a good hour at the Trevi, some of the group retired back to the hotel. However, me and about 8 others were still eager to venture the Roman streests so we walked to the Spanish Steps: A series of steps located in the Piazza di Spagna that is packed with tourists during the day but is full of young socializing locals by night. Within a few hours, these last 8 students became "my people": my group of friends who fearlessly explore the foreign streets and who eventually became my closest friends on the trip.