You see that wall? You see just a wall. But each brick that makes up that wall is different. And I can see that. – An Irish Proverb
So, it’s not really an Irish proverb, but in Italy last week, Kameron became friends on a city bus in Florence with an Irish woman who was traveling by herself. She was probably in her late 50s-ish. We got to talking, and I basically romanticized everything she said because as Kameron put it, it was like we found our own leprechaun to follow around. The above phrase is a romanticized paraphrase of a petite conversation we had with her.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
To begin our first vacances, Kameron, Emily, and I decided to do a tour of Italy. We would spend roughly 3 days in Rome, 3 days in Florence, and 1.5 days in Venice. (Looking back, I wish I had scheduled more time in Venice, but hindsight’s 20-20). We got to Rome about 4 in the afternoon, but we had to wait for a really long time to take a super long bus ride (aka 30 minutes) to the actually city of Rome. We were dropped off at the train station, and I bought a map to get us to the hotel. Then, when we were just about to our destination, what do we find but a nice little taped-off crime scene. Welcome to Rome! At that moment, I wanted to turn around and catch the next mode of transportation back to France. But instead, we had to take a seemingly sketchy alley around the building to get where we needed to go.
That night, I ate some corkscrew pasta, which was really good, but I have to be honest in saying that France blows Italy out of the water when it comes to bread. The bread is nothing short of pretty awful, actually. Olive Garden does a much better job with their breadsticks.
The next day happened to mark the first Saturday without the Pope and the day we decided to visit what seemed like 4682 monuments. But it was only like 5. The Sistine Chapel was of course incredible, but St. Peter’s Basilica was my favorite part of Vatican City. After that, we tried to find the Trevi Fountain and ended up finding the Spanish Steps instead. And we eventually wound up at the Pantheon, where we found gelato, gladiators, and rock and roll music. Go figure.
On Sunday, the only thing we had left to see was the Coliseum, and I was so disappointed in the tourist trap that it has become. A glass-walled bookshop inside the Coliseum? Really?
So on Monday, I was very happy to move on to Florence. Florence has an awesome market with all sorts of leather goods and knick-knacks – and you can negotiate! That was probably my favorite part besides the Piazza de Michelangelo. That’s where we got the full panoramic view of the city and saw a red Ferrari. That’s also where we learned lots of life lessons from our Irish friend. She gave us career advice to really do what we love, and I really enjoyed hanging out with her. The second day, it started to rain and that’s how it was for the rest of the week, so we found ourselves in a lot of museums. (Another point for France: they give student discounts like everywhere, aka we got in the Musée d’Orsay fuh free). The pieces of art that intrigued me most were The Birth of Venus and Spring. Next to The Birth of Venus, there was a 3-D cast mold so that people who are blind could feel how it looked. I thought that was a really cool idea, but I’m pretty sure that was the only one. The titles of the other works of art were sometimes pretty laughable, too, which made the trip a little less monotonous. For example, there was a painting of a young man with a medal called “Young Man with a Medal.” Genius.
So, after we wore out our welcome in Florence (where the food got better), we boarded a train for Venice. Best city ever. The public bus is a BOAT. There are no cars on the streets so that was super nice for sleeping at night, and we found gelato for a euro. On Friday, we took the public bus boat to St. Mark’s Basilica, which was undoubtedly gorgeous. (Minus the construction going on on the outside of the building, but we’ll let that slide). Life in Venice felt much more relaxed and much less tense, especially compared to Rome. It actually felt like a vacation by that point. No itinerary, just exploration. But I have never seen so many carnival masks and glass objects in my life. I loved it.
The bus-boat station
To summarize, this is what I learned from Italy:
- French bread is way better.
- French food is so much healthier.
- Olive Garden does a great job with their Italian food.
- France needs to be cleaner. Italy has way less “gifts” on the sidewalks.
- Italy needs to calm down with the service charges. I don’t want to pay to sit down.
- Italians are very friendly and willing to help.
- Italian sounds like Spanish.
- There is a difference in the beauty of Italy and that of France.
- Italy is better for tourism, especially when buying souvenirs.
- I love France. J’aime vraiment la France.