Sunday Seven – Part IV

I just spent the past eight days in Italy!  I can hardly believe it still.  The great thing about my study abroad program is that they give us weeks off for traveling, both with and without our classes.  I have been fascinated with the idea of Italy since elementary school (one might even say I went through a stage of obsession in 6th grade); it was where my dad studied and home of the best food in the world, after all.  So Italy was a must during my time in Europe.

I spent the first half of the week with my Classical and Renaissance Rome class, in Rome naturally.  Then Wednesday I went off on my own for two nights in Florence and two nights in Bologna.  For this Sunday Seven I will share with you some bits of my adventures…

7 Things I Discovered After 8 Days in Italy:

1. Italian food is the best food

I love Italian food… pasta, pizza, basil, cheese, gelato, and now an even better appreciation for wine.  I didn’t have one bad meal here.  The thing about food in Italy is that it is much simpler than our Americanized versions.  They use less seasonings and less ingredients, and this way you can taste each individual ingredient in the dish.  It is a very intentional and thoughtful form of cooking.  And the ingredients are most often very fresh!  The tomatoes in pizza at a quick lunch stop are just as good as the one’s from my mother’s garden.  I also had gelato everyday; the weirdest and best flavor I had was basil.

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2. So many churches

Italy, is known for having a very Catholic history, and there are some hundreds of churches just in Rome.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is how beautiful and elaborate each one is.  There is no simple or plain church in the country as far as I have seen.  Even the Tempietto, a small one-person prayer temple, was awe-inspiring. As for St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican… it’s unfathomable how big and extraordinary the church is.

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3. Rome in ruins

The cities of Italy, especially Rome, have long histories and have existed for longer than I can fathom.  It was not uncommon to see crumbling walls and other ruins on nearly every street.  Water fountains we were using had been a water source for millions of people over hundreds of years.  Majority of the streets were cobblestone, which were not kind to my feet.  There is not only history in when each structure was first built, but also in how it had been modified or moved or damaged or restored.  There is a dichotomy between the classical ruins and the Renaissance churches.  History overlaps history.  I am grateful that I went to Rome with a very knowledgable instructor who could give background stories and information on everything we saw, even though it was sometimes more history than I could absorb.

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4. Great views are worth the climb

Certainly the highlight of every city for me was the opportunity to climb to great heights to overlook the city.  Italy is pretty hilly (ever heard of Rome’s seven hills?) and so there were always opportunity to see things from high up.  Plus all that climbing helped me burn off all the extra calories I had been consuming.  And if you are ever in Rome, take a peek in the Aventine Keyhole – you won’t regret it!

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5. A pit-stop in Pisa

…because why not?  I left Rome around midday on Wednesday, and because Pisa is close to Florence, I figured I might as well stop by and see the tower.  As my dad advised: “go in, take a picture, and then move on.”  That was my plan: I was going to take a couple of pictures and then get some gelato (naturally) and enjoy the nice weather before heading back to the station to take a train to Florence.  While sitting outside with my gelato, an Italian man asked me to take his picture.  We started talking and it turns out he had spent the past two years in Copenhagen!  We then walked around Pisa for a couple of hours and I enjoyed the city beyond it’s famous tower.  It goes to show that traveling isn’t always about where you go and what you see, but rather about who you meet and what you experience.

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6. Get lost!

I tried my best to avoid using my phone to navigate and instead used a good old-fashioned map.  This was not easy to do because like Copenhagen, street names in Italy like to change every block or two and are not often not clearly labeled.  It is easier to navigate by the shapes or lengths of streets then by their actual name.  But there is nothing wrong with getting lost in an Italian city, because there is always something interesting to see.

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7. Traveling alone for the first time

I was really excited to travel alone.  As an introvert, spending 4 days all by myself sounded like a dream.  I could do, see, and eat what I wanted, when I wanted. I was solely responsible for only myself and was in total control of my experiences.  I can’t say I ever got lonely because I met and interacted with many people along the way.  I was often challenged to break out of my comfort zone and socialize with strangers.  The irony is that most of my favorite moments when traveling alone were when I interacted with other travelers or locals.

 

 

But nonetheless, being on my own wasn’t easy.  When I got scared or stressed, I had no one immediately to advise me or console me.  If I was in a bad mood, no one was there to lift my spirits.  Eight days in Italy doesn’t necessarily mean eight days of paradise – you get tired, irritable, and stressed at times.  Learning how to react and adapt to strange or difficult circumstances isn’t easy to do by yourself.  But (as cliché as it might sound) I really learned a lot about myself during these past four days.  I think the greatest thing that discovered was that I really can travel all by myself, and that idea is not as scary anymore (even though it’s still a little scary).

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… and now I am back in Copenhomen!  As great as Italy was, it feels good to be back to this cold, hyggeligt country.????

Ciao!

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