Okay let’s start with the place I traveled first, Italia!
Living in a small town I didn’t really know how to get out, or even take the first step of getting out. The town in which I live is the epitome of a small town. Everyone around here is 1) nosey, 2) knows everyone’s business, 3) is clique-y as hell, and 4) is downright conservative.
When I was in my junior year of high school this girl named Chloe took an exchange year to Italy. I didn’t know her, I wasn’t even friends with her friends, but when I did meet her she taught me that traveling could change who you were as a person. When Chloe got back and I finally met her I learned one things from her stories, that she got out of small town America and lived; and that was something I wanted to do also.
I finally met Chloe when she came back to our town; this was our senior year of high school. Her family decided that since Chloe had such a great time with studying abroad that they would be a host family. They got linked with a seventeen year old from Naples, Italy. Her name was Michi. I first talked to these girls first period of senior year, and since then we have been close friends. Even though we live on different continents of the world. They taught me that traveling is a wonderful thing and to never be afraid to experience something new!
Now I know what you’re asking, what does this have to do with Italy itself. Well, being friends with them, and hearing their stories about the country made me really want to go there. I got the travel bug, wanderlust you might even say. Even Chloe talking about getting out of our darn small town made me want to leave even more. These two girls helped me realize that traveling is a wonderful thing and they inspired me more then they will ever know. I hold them very close to my heart! ♥
First Time in Italia
After trying to figure out how to go anywhere the Universe answered me with a flyer in the high school hallway. Every year the school offers a senior trip, and this year it was to Italy. Immediately I went home, told my Dad, and started writing letters to my family to raise the money for the trip.
Now this trip involved having a tour guide 24/7. With the trip fee you paid for the hotels, travel, and food upfront. Your whole trip was already set in stone from the moment you stepped off the plane to the time you left the country.
Would I do this again? No. Did I do this type of trip again? No. But, with this being said, I think it was a good trip for someone who was eighteen and traveling for the first time by themselves. If I was thrown into a country without any help the first time I would have been completely lost. Our tour guide was amazing and made the trip fun. Now that I am older I would not do this kind of trip again, and I haven’t. I have made my own trips and have had more fun without a set schedule. I do understand that some need everyday planned out, but I am a spontaneous traveler.
Since this was a guided tour we hit Verona, Venice, Florence, Assisi, and Rome.
**Note: I am writing about my first trip four years later. It is an important part in my travel life but will be less detailed than other trips on this blog**
» Arena di Verona and Juliet’s balcony
Ah, fair Verona! What I remember of Verona is it being pretty busy. I guess I wanted this city to be quaint and romantic because I was thinking of Romeo and Juliet. But, that was my fault; you can’t base a city on a book that took place hundreds of years ago, or a place that was made famous by a book.
With that being said this place was lively. It had high-end shops (that I couldn’t afford at the time), cute cafes, and even a market place. My favorite part about Verona was the Arena di Verona. I liked it because it wasn’t the Coliseum. I guess that’s bad to say but this was smaller, and the color pallet of the stones made my heart swoon! What makes it even better is that they hold an Opera festival every year, so classical music lovers pack your bags! I didn’t get the chance to go inside but I bet it is just as breathtaking as the exterior.
Juliet’s balcony is the main reason tourists visit Verona. Everyone is taking pictures, as you can see in my photo, and putting their gum on the wall to make their mark. I did put my gum on the wall too, but I doubt that four years later it’s still sticking…. but, maybe it is! I guess I’ll have to go back and find out. Also you and your soul mate can get a padlock and lock it on the doors below the balcony. If you look at the balcony picture you can see all the padlocks on the gate in the bottom left corner. It definitely has a romantic lovers vibe!
I definitely think you should visit this city. It is very lively, and has a lot to do. If you are done with sightseeing you can go get gelato to cool down or sit in the square and people watch, or if you’re me, bird watch!
Also, what I did love about this city is that there are so many ways to leave your mark. From placing a piece of gum below Juliet’s balcony to putting a padlock around the city to show your everlasting love, a piece of you remains in the city after you travel on!
So, what are you waiting for? Go leave your mark! I left my mark…
…wow… it’s weird seeing your eighteen-year-old self, but here I am, for you all to see!
If you have never been to Venice, please go. The city itself is breathtaking, the people are kind, and the food is to die for.
When I was there I walked around the narrow streets and alleyways with my classmates. We ate at a small hole in the wall restaurant and had pizza (but not the best pizza I had in Italy, but hey it was better than what you get in the United States). We went on a gondola ride because we thought that’s absolutely what you had to do when you were in Venice, right? Well, no, you don’t have to. If you want to, go ahead, it gives you a different perspective of the city and takes your mind off of life for a bit. The locals do not take gondola rides, it is a tourist trap to get your money. But hey, at least it’s a relaxing one. If you decide to skip on this aspect of your trip you won’t be missing out, there is a lot to do!
Venice also has a lot of creepy sights. I’m a person that loves creepy and gory things. I used to have a photo of the Bridge of Sighs but I lost it. This bridge connects the new prison to the interrogation cells. It was given this name because prisoners would take one last sigh at the beautiful city before going into their cells.
Now, if you are feeling really adventurous you can go to Poveglia, which is a small island right off the coast of Venice. There is an abandoned mental hospital that still stands on this small island. When it was still open a doctor conducted gruesome lobotomies, then he jumped from one of the towers saying ghosts made him go mad. Supposedly this place is haunted, I have no idea if the public can get to it or if there are tours, but it might be something worth checking out! This place is on my bucket list, so I know I’ll be going back to this city.
One thing I definitely think you should not skip out on when you are visiting here is seeing how they make their beautiful and elegant glass creations. I saw a glass making demonstration by Murano Glass. It was memorizing and breathtaking watching these artists take sand and turn it into Venetian glass.
So, overall skip the gondola ride and go see a glass blowing demonstration.
I spent two days in Florence. All I can remember is shopping at the market, going to one of the museums, eating a lot of gelato, and taking this photo at the top of the Duomo.
But, here I am after climbing 463 steps up the Florence Duomo. Honestly, my thighs were on fire and my legs were sore, but it was worth it!
Go here to shop and view the city from this awesome spot!
Assisi was my favorite part of this high school trip. Four years later this is the most vivid day and night I can remember of these days spent in Italy. I remember when we approached the town on the hill I didn’t expect much, and when our tour guide told us this was where we would be sleeping I thought, “Oh great, another boring night.”
Of course I was wrong.
After taking tours of the San Francesco and Santa Chiara Basilicas we were left to explore the town on our own. The first thing my group did was eat lunch in a small deli near the Santa Chiara Basilica. I had one of the best caprese I have ever had in my life. The clerk behind the counter spoke English very well and told us that the olive oil used in our food was from the olives that grew at the bottom of the town (you can see some of the olive trees in the picture above). His daughter worked at the deli too and loved talking to us and that was when I realized, not everyone hated Americans. Yes, there are some people that do not like us, but it isn’t everyone. After talking to this family I felt more comfortable in a foreign country. This is because I was taught that if I traveled those not from the United States wouldn’t like me because I was American. After this trip to Italy I realized that yes, some people don’t like me because I am American, but some people don’t care, as long as I’m a kind person that wants to talk to them and get to know their culture. If you travel to another country you should be willing to learn about it, not just assume you know about it because you read it in a book. The locals are your best way to learn about where you are. They will tell you the history, the best places to eat, the sights to see, you just have to give them the chance to tell you.
After eating we climbed to the very top of the hill to the Rocca Maggiore. In the picture above you can see the two towers peeking above the tree line. It is a long hike, but it’s worth it. I know you have to pay what I believe is about two euros (it might be more, but I don’t remember, I do remember paying a fee to get into the castle). I highly recommend doing so. You can climb up and down special holes in the floors, you can walk through underground pathways, and you can even climb a tower. Let your inner Game of Thrones take over!
After this we settled into our hotel and heard singing and music from our window. Being teenagers we had a curfew, but that didn’t stop us. We left the hotel and went to the cafe below. There we drank wine and danced with the locals. It was the most fun I had the whole trip!
Bye For Now Italy!
This is where I’m going to end my first trip to Italy. I’m going to save Rome for my second trip because I feel like I did more the second time I went. Overall my first trip taught me that traveling is an eye opening experience. It opens your eyes to the world, it gets you out of your comfort zone, and it helps you figure out who you are (a little bit at a time of course!). The locals are the secrets to your travels. Now this trip I only had one experience with them, but it made me realize that I should talk to the locals more to learn about the area I’m in and to have fun.