Our time is winding down here in Spain… just under three weeks left. This past weekend was our last BeE group excursion and just a few days before that was our last solo trip to Italy, where we spent three days in Rome and one day in Florence. WARNING: This blog will be full of pictures of delicious Italian dishes. Do not read on an empty stomach.
We took the dreaded five our bus to Madrid at 1:30AM to arrive on time for our 8:30AM flight. After arriving at the airport, finding a cab company to take us to the other’s hostel (Iz and I stayed with her friend Jackie who was the BEST hostess EVER!), and then finding the other girls, it was time for our first REAL Italian meal! I had spinach and ricotta filled ravioli in a red sauce with parmesan cheese on top. My mouth is watering just typing this… It was amazing. We then split up into two groups to start our sight seeing. Izzy, Olivia, Lia and myself went to find the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, since we were going to be in Florence on Sunday, when the others planned on going.
Thanks to our handy dandy three dimensional map of Rome, Izzy and I were able to direct us to the Trevi Fountain first. Located in the Trevi district in Rome, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous in the world. The name comes from the fact that it’s located at the intersection of three roads “tre vie”. It also marks the end point of the revived “Aqua Virgo”, an original aqueducts that brought clean drinking water into the city. The scene depicted on the fountain is the finding of the source of pure water that was said to be discovered by Roman technicians with the help of a virgin. Anyone who throws a coin in the fountain is “assured” a visit back to Rome in the future…Let’s see if this actually happens.
After much picture taking, we broke out the trusty 3D map again to find the Spanish Steps. They are located between Piazza di Spagna at the bottom and Piazza Trinita dei Monti at the top. It is the widest staircase in the WORLD! It is composed of 138 steps. It was such a lovely day that we were able to sit on the steps and relax after all the walking we did.
Izzy and I then made our way to the metro station to head all the way across the city to get to her friend’s apartment. Jackie is Izzy’s friend from home who had been studying in Rome for the semester (she went home last week already). She and her roommates were kind enough to let Iz and I crash in their apartment for two nights since we waited too long to get a hostel and there was nothing reasonably priced. Instead of heading back to the other girls that night, Iz and I got dinner in the area and pigged out on an eggplant appetizer, two different kinds of pizza to share and of course we ended with yummy gelato!
The next morning, we were up pretty early… I was headed to the Vatican for the day with the others while Izzy went off with Jackie and her roommates to relax in a park and do some shopping. I was unaware of this at first, but Vatican City is a landlocked sovereign city-state consisting of a walled “enclave”, meaning a separate territory within another portion of territory, in this case the entire city of Rome. So, Vatican City is the smallest independent state in the world in terms of population and area. Crazy!! It was established in 1929 by the Lateran Treaty, signed by Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Gasparri, on behalf of Pope Pius XI, and Prime Minister/ Head of Government Benito Mussolini, on behalf of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. It is not the same as the “Holy See” which dates back to the early Christian times and is used in international relations to refer to the central government of the Roman Catholic Church.
Here are some interesting facts about the city:
- The Vatican has its own Post office and issues its own stamps. The Vatican mail system is widely used by Romans as in most cases is a lot quicker than Italian mail.
- The Vatican City issues its own passports; the Pope, cardinals, members of the Swiss guard and clergy being the recipients.
- The Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage Site; the only site to encompass a whole country.
The Pope lives in the Apostolic Palace, located in Vatican City, along with St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine chapel. Although it is not considered the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church, St. Peter’s Basilica has the largest interior of any catholic church in the world! The letters outlining the inside, measure a whopping six feet six inches high! That’s incredible.
The Sistine Chapel is of course the most well known chapel in the world and houses some of the most famous frescoes by Renaissance artists such as Michelangelo,Sandro Boticelli, and others. The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo is one of the most famous paintings found on the ceiling. I have to say, I think my favorite part was the Basilica since it was the most impressionable church I have visited.
After about four hours of touring everything, it was time for a gelato break at arguably the best place in Rome, called Old Bridge. For two euro, you could get a medium sized cup OVERFLOWING with three different flavors and whipped cream on top. What more could one ask for? I got Nutella, coffee, and stracciatella (vanilla ice cream with pieces of chocolate). It was to die for.
We then parted our ways to freshen up before dinner. This dinner was definitely the best throughout our whole time in Rome. We went to an authentic Italian restaurant, not frequented by foreigners and this was obvious since the waiters barely spoke English. This made the experience even better though. I had spaghetti with eggplant sauteed in garlic and oil with parmesan cheese on top. It was a bit of a shot in the dark as to what I was ordering since there were only menus in Italian. It was quite funny trying to decipher everything. We also made a nice toast to the birthday girl, Becca. It was a great evening!
The next morning, Iz and I were up again SUPER early to catch out train to Florence! Since we had been out the night before celebrating Becca’s 21st, we had hoped to get some sleep on the train but quite the opposite happened. We wound up meeting an old retired couple, Bob and Tina, who were traveling with Bob’s 89 year old father! How incredible! We spent the whole train ride sharing stories from the semester, what we plan on doing for careers, how we wound up study abroad and how Bob, Tina and his father wound up traveling in Rome. He was especially happy when he found out Iz is an engineer at Bucknell, since he is a retired chemical engineer. I really hope they enjoyed their stay in Florence and that their “buddy” Rick Steves helped them get around ok!
We arrived at our bed and breakfast, the Leonardo House, after having the customer service man draw us a map on a sheet of paper. We didn’t have an awesome 3D one yet like for Rome. So anyway, we got to the B&B and we greeted by the awesome Leonardo who gave us a tutorial on what we should see and do in Florence…complete with a drawn in ice cream cone where his favorite gelato place is located! It was such a cute little place too! Just six rooms and two full bathrooms. I would definitely recommend it to anyone looking for a place to stay that is awesomely located in the city (just five minute walk from the Duomo) and at a reasonable price!
Iz and I took a little nap while we waited for Olivia to get there… she was on a later train. Then we freshened up and headed out. First stop was the Duomo, the cathedral church of Florence. Construction began in 1296 of Gothic style by Arnolfo di Cambio and was finished in 1436 with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The outside of the Duomo is made of polychrome marble panels in different shades of green and pink, outlined in white. It’s located in Piazza del Duomo along with the Baptistery and Giotto’s Campanile – all three buildings making up a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which is a place listed by the UNESCO as of special cultural significance. We didn’t enter the cathedral but the outside is in itself a sight to see.
We then walked through the Palazzo della Signoria where the original statue of David stood, and where there is a copy today. The actual David by Michelangelo is housed in the Accademia Gallery where it was moved in 1873 to protect it from damage. It is a biblical representation of the hero David created between 1501 and 1504 of the Renaissance art style and came to represent the defense of Florentine civil liberties. It is enormous and I wish we would have been able to see it in the museum; however, the line was a two and half hour wait (in the rain) and we didn’t see it worth it when there were other things we wanted to see.
After walking through the plaza, we reached the Arno River, and thus where the famous Ponte Vecchio stands at the narrowest part of the river. In the past, the shops along the bridge were occupied by butchers and today are housed by jewelers and souvenir shops. It is most famous since it was the only bridge not destroyed by the Germans in WWII to stop the Florentines from leaving the city.
We made our way up the quite large hill to the Piazzale Michelango where there is an amazing view of the city. Here is another copy of the David statue. After our delicious dinner with Izzy’s family friend, Rudy, we got another view from the Piazzale Michelangelo but this time at night. It is certainly breathtaking.
The next morning, we headed back to Rome to get to our tour of the Colosseum, where we were able to meet up with Sarah Dubow (a fellow blogger for France and Theta Sister), Nick Stetz and Tricia Sherrard. It was a Bucknell in France meets Bucknell in Spain reunion. We had the luck of taking a private tour just the six of us, thanks to Brent from Baltimore. The last tour had closed at around 3PM but one of the tour guides standing outside the entrance came us to us asking if we had a reservation and wanted a tour. We took him up on it and it was a great decision! Brent knew quite a lot about the Colosseum and also kept us laughing the whole way through.
To start, it’s construction began in 72 AD and was completed in 80AD and the original name of the Colosseum is the Flavian Ampitheatre. In fact, it is referred to as the Colosseum because of the colossal statue of the emperor Nero which was later removed leaving just the base standing. Moving on, the Colosseum is a circular ampitheatre that is in fact missing a piece at the top due to an earthquake in 1349. The stone that fell was used to make other palaces, churches, hospitals, etc. It used to be used for gladiator fights, animal hunts (where exotic animals for the times such as giraffes were brought). There were levels under the central stage where the animals were kept and the gladiators as well before they came out to perform for the roman citizens. It surprised me to learn that the shows were free because Nero wanted to entertain the citizens.
We then made our way to Palentine Hill, the centermost point of the seven hills in Rome. It overlooks the Roman Forum as well, which is where the ruins of several roman government buildings lie. Palentine Hill is where many wealthy Romans had palaces and it is where Benito Mussolin’s summer house is located.
After this tour, Olivia, Izzy, and I decided to head to Old Bridge for another cup of the best gelato. Then we headed back to the hostel before dinner to change and try to meet up with the others. It turned out, they were still far from the hostel and weren’t going to be back any time soon so the three of us decided to meet up with Sarah, Nick, and Tricia near the Pantheon to get dinner together. It was a meal full of bruschetta, pasta, pizza, and dessert. The restaurant was in a really awesome location too…near a lot of different restaurants and gelato places. I wish we would have found it sooner.
The next morning we left early to head back to Granada. Two days later, we went to Nerja with the Bucknell group; however, the weather was not ideal for the beach on Saturday so we left early. Friday was nice and I can definitely say I will be going home with a nice layer of tan for the summer!
Next week is the last week of classes before finals start. I am also taking the DELE, which is the Spanish proficiency exam equivalent to the DELF I took last semester. I have quite a lot of preparing to do before finals