Night One: Pisa
As with Croatia, we didn’t plan anything in Italy- hostels, cities, activities- we just showed up like proper backpackers and made our way as we saw fit, and it could not have worked out better. We had such a great time, and saw a lot of Italy. The first night, we flew into Pisa, casually found a nearby hostel, then set out for our first taste of Italian pizza, and boy it was fantastic! and cheap! Two things uni students love. After dinner, it was pretty late, so we went back to the hostel to sleep and tell our mommies and daddies that we were safe before a big first “real” day in Italy.
Day One: Pisa & Siena
Our first day in Italy was packed full of sight-seeing and yet it was all pretty relaxed and chill at the time even though we got so much accomplished. We began with breakfast from the supermarket, and then began meandering through Pisa. We saw Keith Haring’s famous mural, a little bitty tiny church called Chiesa di S. Maria della Spina that was the size of a living room yet with a super ornate exterior, went to a couple towers- Torre Lanfreducci and Torre Hotel Vittoria-, saw the Domus Galileana and, of course, the famous Leaning Tower with the duomo and cathedral nearby. It was surreal being back in Italy and having flashbacks to my time there in eighth grade. It was cool seeing these places again as an older person, but honestly some of the magic of it all was lost. Regardless, it was really beautiful and exciting to see my friend’s reactions to seeing Italy for the first time. We went into the Cathedral, and they are really strict about not having shoulders showing and legs have to be covered to the knee, which was a slight issue because it was 27 degrees Celsius and we were very hot after the coolness of Scotland! After seeing these main attractions, we walked back through Piazza dei Miracoli and saw Palazzo dei Cavalieri, then got some amazing gelato. That first bite was like nothing else. SO GOOD.
At this point it was mid-afternoon, maybe around 2, and we decided to catch a train to Siena for the remainder of the day. I remembered really loving Siena in grade eight, and the other girls had heard it was nice, too, so we decided to take a trip there, and had such a nice time! It was only about an hour away on the train, and we saw sooo much. It was nice to see more of the city than I had seen previously. We saw the Basilica de Francisco, sat in the main square, Il Campo, had pizza and gelato (of course!), saw the University and duomo, Basilica of Domenico, a huge football stadium, Piazza Della Liberta and Fortrezza Medicea which was a big fortress over a beautiful garden. Everything in Italy was so lush and green with flowers in bloom, and it felt like a proper springtime. The sun was shining so nice, and it was so peaceful and carefree to walk and travel through Italy. When the sun started to go down around 8, we took our cue to head back to our hostel in Pisa. We picked up some groceries on the way, and made a home cooked spaghetti, salad, and cheese bread meal for dinner. Overall, it was a really nice day, and I was very happy to have seen so much in one day.
Day Two: Florence
The next morning, we were off the Florence, which I was super excited about because it was my favorite spot last time I was in Italy and also because my friend from Nashville, Kelly, is studying in Florence so we planned to see each other while I was there! First things first though, we got to Florence and had to find a hostel before exploring. We found a nice place by the train station and were able to get a private room, which is always nice when travelling cuz you know your belongings are more safe. Our wanderings led us to Basilica di S. Maria Novella, Cappelle Medicee, Basilica di S. Lorenzo, through a huge market with lots of leather goods and print outs of David, to a gelato store, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiere, and the duomo. These areas were absolutely stunning, but flooded with tourists, so we were super vigilant with our bags. I again had the sense of surrealism about being back in Italy. The funny thing is, when I left Italy the first time, I had absolutely no doubt in my mind that I would be back. And I did go back! So I suppose it was nice to have that feeling confirmed. Later in the day, we walked by the super famous Galleria degli Uffizi which I remembered seeing before, and we walked along Ponte Vecchio, which is something I hadn’t done before and was really excited to do. We also saw the Basilica di Santa Croce, Palazzo Pitti, Giardino of roses, and went to a lookout on the other side of the river from which to get a great view of the city. The lookout spot is called Piazzale Michelangelo, and the view was stunning. We were up there at sunset, and the colors were just fantastic. The city looked so romantic and everything was right in the world. After disembarking from there, we walked back to the duomo to meet Kelly! It was so exciting to see her this side of the world and catch up. She took us to a really yummy pizza place and we ate outside on the steps of what I think was a church courtyard or something. Then we went to this great gelato place. Yes, I did only eat pizza and gelato on this trip, and yes, I have only been eating salad since getting home. It was totally worth it though. After dessert, we said goodbye to Kelly and went back to the hostel.
Day Three: Florence to Rome
We woke up, packed, and went to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see the David statue; however, the line was massive and if we waited and paid, by the time we got in we would have about five minutes in the museum, so after waiting for a bit we abandoned ship to go find a building with a green roof that we saw from the Piazzale Michelangelo and wanted to see up close. Turns out, it was a gorgeous Synagogue. We weren’t able to go inside because we would have missed our train, so we viewed it from the outside, and went to the station to make our way to Rome! I was really looking forward to going to Rome, because my cousin Giles and his friend Cam, who had just visited me in Edinburgh, were in Rome at the same time and we planned to meet up. The guys met us at the train station, and it was such a relief to connect with them in such a big city. It was really nice to have guys with us in Rome because it can be kinda sketchy there. Also, they had been there already for a day and learned their way around, so they acted as our tour guides, which was great. They began by saying they were gonna take us to Tourist Destination 1. They didn’t know what it was, but on all the maps, this spot was marked as #1. So we went there and it was very beautiful. I told Giles what we were hoping to see, and he told us what they had already seen, and he mentioned that they kept looking and searching for the Spanish Steps but were unable to find them. So as we leave Tourist Destination 1, we go down these stairs, and suddenly I’m like… wait… So I turn around, look at the stairs, and recognize them as the Spanish Steps. I yelled up to the group to tell them, and it was very funny, because apparently the boys had gone up and down those stairs many times, not realizing that they were what they had been searching for! So we checked that off the list! Us girls were really hungry, so our next stop was… you guessed it! Gelato and pizza. In that order. After dinner, there was a free walking tour of the city that we joined. It started at the Spanish Steps and took us to the column of Immaculate Conception, the Keats Shelley Museum, the oldest coffee shop in Rome, the house of Bernini and the church at which his Angels stand called S. Andrea della Fratte, I learned that all 1,500 churches in Rome point to the Vatican, we saw the Buffalo Fountain, Silvestro Square with one of the oldest clocktowers, also the sight of John the Baptist’s head, the Galleria Alberto Sordi, Piazza Colonna, Marcus Aerulis column, the Pantheon- first dome ever built in Italy, St. Ignatius Church, and the tour ended at the Trevi Fountain. Everything was just so beautiful and it was fun to be led everywhere by a local instead of sorting out a map. After the tour, it was getting pretty late, so we set off for the Hilton Garden Inn where the five of us were staying together. It was so so so so nice to stay in a proper hotel with towels and hot water and fluffy pillows instead of grungy hostels with shared bathrooms. I slept like a baby.
Day Four: Rome
We slept in Saturday, then made our way to the city centre just in time for some lunch. Then we ventured to St. Peter’s Basilica, where we climbed a huge, claustrophobic tunnel of stairs to the tippy top of the church for a magnificent view of the city. It was stunning, and worth the climb, but I felt really woozy in the tight corridors, so don’t go there if you’re claustrophobic. We looked all around in the church and saw some choir boys and funnily clad Vatican guards. Our next stop was the Colosseum, which closed at 7:30 but final entry was at 6:30, and us not knowing this, showed up at 6:40 and couldn’t get in. That was a bummer for the others and I felt bad for them, but I remember being pretty underwhelmed by the Colosseum the first time, so I viewed it as saving 12 euros. Instead of going inside there, we walked along the outside and then went to a wine ship, bought a couple bottles, and popped ’em open at the Trevi Fountain. This was probably my favorite part of Rome: Italian wine, great company, as the sun went down at the Trevi Fountain in Italy. It was like out of a book or a movie. On the way back to the hotel though, some random guy tried to pick-pocket me, and luckily Cam saw him and shooed him away, for which I was very grateful. It was pretty weird thinking that someone would want to steal from me, but he was reaching in my “this can be stolen bag” instead of my “this can’t be stolen bag” so it would have been ok. But still, not ideal. Anyways, it all worked out, we bought some candy, and went back to the hotel. We watched a bit of When in Rome, fittingly, but I fell asleep near the beginning, and that is that.
Day Five: Rome to Pisa
The boys woke up super early to make a flight to Germany, so we said a sad goodbye to them at 4:45am, then went back to sleep till 9. We packed up, checked out, got breakfast, then went to the train station to drop Bethany off as she wanted to go to Naples and Pompeii. Jennie and I spent the afternoon in Rome; we went to the Novana Piazza, famous because of its three wells, back to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, then sprinted with our huge backpacks about 20 or 25 minutes to the train station and barely made it on before it left for Pisa. We smelled really badly. Four hours later we were exhausted, and in Pisa. Had some pizza and gelato- what else?- showered, and hit the sack.
Day Six: Cinque-Terre
In our last full day in Italy, Jennie and I went to Cinque-Terre which is a series of five coastal cities that are truly darling and iconic. We went to three of the five: Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, and Vernazza. It was very relaxing, we walked along the beach, had gelato, met some gorgeous doggies, and just enjoyed our last day by the sea. Things got stressful when I realized I couldn’t pay for train tickets with my card because they didn’t have a machine for that. I went to the ATM, and neither of my cards worked, which is just ridiculous as I’ve had so many issues with my banks since getting here, and it was really terrible timing for them to be fussy with me for travelling. Jennie and I had to sneak on a couple trains sans paying until we, or rather she, could buy two tickets back to Pisa. Since we had no money and were leaving the next day, all we ate all day was a baguette, a jar of jam, and an apple. It wasn’t very fun, but there are worse things so we just laughed at it. We made it back to Pisa and went to the airport where we planned to sleep, but we were kicked out at midnight and told to come back when it reopened at 4am. That made us fussy, but what can ya do? We walked back to the city and crossed paths with Bethany who was on her way to the airport, so reunited, we found a new hostel to stay in for the night. It was kinda sketchy but everything turned out alright and that’s what matters.
Day Seven: Pisa to Edinburgh
We did nothing exciting, but wake up, go to the airport, and fly home. It was good to be home safe. I came home, unpacked, showered, and went to Mike’s for dinner and to share stories from the trip. It was such a great two weeks of travelling through Croatia, Liverpool, and Italy, and I’m really thankful that I had that opportunity. It was so relaxing which is just what I needed after school ended and before exams. Speaking of which, I should get off here, and back to studying.
To see my photos from my time in Italy, check out my new blog http://andheresmypictures.wordpress.com/. Ciao!