Over winter break 2006-2007 I had the opportunity to take a two-week travel course to Italy for English credit as an undergraduate. It was the first time I ever left US soils and I was quite excited. Italy was a place I have dreamed about traveling to for a long time. The history, the art, the music, the food… it was all something I wanted to experience firsthand.
We began our adventure with a several day stay in Venice, where we spent New Year’s Eve. Venice in December/January, as you can imagine, is quite cold. Nevertheless, the “Floating City” is a stunning place to visit and someday I hope to go back in the summer. I got to indulge in my first real Italian pizza, pasta, and gelato. Mmmmm… can you say amazing?
We took a quick day trip to Verona, the fabled city of Romeo and Juliet to visit Juliet’s balcony, but it was closed on January 1st for the holiday. The main attraction in Verona was probably the million lingerie shops.
After a few days in the northeast region of Italy we ventured by train south-west to Florence. Florence was by far my favorite place. The weather was warmer and Florence is situated in the heart of Tuscany… wine country. Too bad I didn’t like wine at the time.
A few of my friends and I took the train out to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Pisa, itself, does not have much to see, but the food was good and cheap. On the way back we stopped on a whim in a small town called Lucca. With its walled city and charming little town shops, it was my favorite stop. While in Florence I took a trip to Cortona, where the novel, Under a Tuscan Sun was set. The old part of the town is built on a hill. We had to take a very scary bus trip up the side of the hill on some very windy roads. The views of the valley were beautiful and someday I hope to take a trip back during the summer when the sunflowers bloom.
After Florence we headed to Rome to finish up our tour. Rome has a tremendous amount of history, but it is very much influence by the modern world. Rome was fun, but it was too touristy and modern for my likings. I had the best cheese pizza at some hole-in-the-wall place in Rome that I wish I could remember its name. One of my favorite memories of the whole trip was taking the train down to Pompeii for the afternoon. If you ever go to Italy, I highly recommend stopping in Pompeii for the afternoon! We were going to stop in Naples on the way back, but Naples is one of the most dangerous cities in Italy and we decided to forego it and head back to Rome.
While in Rome, we also adventured into the Vatican. If I had planned my trip better I would have tried to have attended mass at St. Peters, but no such luck this time. Italy is truly a beautiful country with its rich history and culture. Someday in the future I hope to go back and take a bike tour of Tuscany. 🙂
~ Happy Training!