To briefly preface this, I would like to say that I had the time of my life on this trip and would highly recommend this to anyone. I gained so much knowledge about not only academic material but life in general. I will remember this trip for the rest of my life, and I will cherish the friendships I gained on this trip.
Day Zero (Travel Day): Wednesday, May 9th, 2012
Jennifer and I started our experience in the Omaha Airport. I almost forgot my coat in the car but thanks to Jennifer’s boyfriend Matt, I managed to make it on the plane with it. The check in line was rather slow due to the several people in front of us that had a large amount of luggage. When we finally got to the kiosks to check in my passport wouldn’t scan so I had to enter it manually. The United employee working the desk had to help me complete the check in process. Going through security was pretty problem free. We flew on a small commuter jet that held less than 75 people. We landed in Chicago a little over an hour later.
Chicago O’Hare airport is somewhat difficult to navigate when taking a departing international flight. Jennifer and I landed in in Terminal 2. Terminal 5 is the international terminal and to reach this terminal you have to ‘leave’ the secure area of the airport. We asked directions from the airport security, followed the signs, and ended up in the wrong elevator that took us down under the airport to some sketchy tunnels. Thankfully, the tunnels lead us in a big circle back up to the baggage concourse we started out on. Finally, we found the correct elevator that took us to the tram. The tram took us to the terminal where we waited to check in at the Swiss ticket counter. Once we had printed our boarding passes, we converted some of our money to Euros. Then we waited to meet Aaron who had a later arrival flight. Then we went through security again. We found our departure gate and waited several hours before boarding. We boarded the Airbus A330-300 around 6:45pm. It was a quick take off. Several hours into the flight we were served dinner. I had vegetable tortellini, a small salad, and a roll. I tried to sleep some but I unfortunately had a middle seat with a small amount of legroom. I watched several shows and the movie the Iron Lady. I continued to try to catch a little shuteye but all attempts were futile. A few hours before the flight landed in Zurich, they served us a breakfast of a warm croissant and some yogurt.
Day One: Thursday May 10th, 2012
We landed in the Zurich airport around 10:30 in the morning. I was the first of the three of us off the plane I waited for the other two outside the gate. The first thing I noticed was the cleanliness of the entire airport. This airport put most every other airport I have ever been in to shame. When the three of us made it off the plane, we went to find the gate of our final flight that took us to Rome. We went through security and took a tram to the terminal. When we got out of the tram, we had to go through customs to get our passport stamped. Then we walked to our gate. We saw many nice designer label shops such as Burberry, Omega, and Chanel on our way to the gate. We were all amazed at the luxuriousness of the airport. There were even designated smoking lounges one was even sponsored by Camel and another by Winston. Once we reached the gate, we waited nearly an hour to board the flight. Once we were airborne, it was a quick hour flight to Rome Fiumicino Airport. I had the row of seats to myself so I decided I liked the window seat. As you can imagine I was tired due to the lack of sleep on the previous flight so I napped on and off during this short flight.
When we landed, we waited for our baggage for almost a half an hour. When we finally got our baggage, we made our way out to ‘customs’. We somewhat just walked out to the cabs and wondered why we didn’t have a set place to get our passports stamped. Therefore, we just found a shuttle that took us to our lovely Hotel in the heart of Roma. The nice 30-minute cab ride took us near the Colosseum and the zone known as the E.U.R. in Roma. It truly felt surreal being in Roma, as if I was in a movie or something. We were let off a little ways from our hotel so it was somewhat of a challenge to find our way. We eventually found our hotel and found Dr. Erdogmus. We dropped of our luggage into our respective rooms and decided to explore Roma a little. We discovered that we were incredibly close to the Pantheon. Therefore, we walked down to the Piazza in front of the Pantheon and took some of our first pictures of Italy. When we returned to the hotel, we met more of our group members. It was nice to see some familiar faces in the new city.
Later in the evening around 6:30, the entire group had finally made it to the hotel so we all decided to head to a local restaurant for our first taste of true Italian Cuisine. I wasn’t feeling the best so my meal wasn’t as appetizing as I would have liked it to have been. After the dinner was over, we left as a group to have our first gelato. It was incredibly delicious. The bulk of the group headed to bed early because of the slight amount of jet lag.
Day Two: Friday May 11th, 2012
Breakfast came bright and early at 7:30 where I had a small pastry, cereal, and some fruit juice. After everyone finished their breakfast, we made our way to the Colosseum. On the way to the Colosseum, we looked at the building known as the wedding cake or more formally known as Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II. This building is very large, very white, and to some people very ugly. It celebrates the reunification of Italy under the King Victor Emmanuel and it opened in 1935. Another stop on the way to the Colosseum was Trajan’s Column, which stands next to Trajan’s forum. This column commemorates the life and triumphs of the Roman Emperor Trajan. The entire shaft of the column is covered in reliefs of famous battles that he fought. Trajan’s Forum is an extension of the Roman Forum because the original space had become too small. We finally made it down to the Colosseum where Jennifer gave an amazing presentation over the history and architecture of the building. After her wonderful speech, we were allowed to explore the building. We were encouraged to sketch something within the building. It was fun to walk around a place that held so much history and to see the amazing architecture.
After exploring the Colosseum, the group met up again and made our way to The Arch of Constantine where Keith gave a nice speech about its history. The arch was built in 1312 and it took a total of three years to build. Its purpose is to commemorate the victory and the Milan Bridge. Emperor Constantine was regarded as the first Christian Emperor of Roman where previously all the emperors followed Paganism. It has been said that Constantine had a dream the night before the battle that convinced him to convert to Christianity. Several of the features are borrowed from the Emperors: Marcus Aurelius, Hadrian, and Trajan in order to establish Constantine as being one of the great emperors.
Next, the group walked over to Palatine Hill. This hill is one of the Seven Hills of Rome. In mythology, this hill is believed to be were Romulus and Remus were found by the shewolf. Romulus was the supposed founder of Rome. We had a picnic lunch of cheese, olives, bread, prosciutto, and salami near the entrance to the hill. After we finished our wonderful lunch, we hiked to the top of the hill. At the top of the hill, we found a great open garden area that appeared to have been surrounded by a large colonnade in ancient times. We toured some other interesting gardens and a few other interesting casas. We had great views from several parts of this large hill. We had a great view overlooking the St. Peter’s cathedral in the distance and Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele.
Next, we walked to another part of the hill that overlooked the Roman Forum. This view was incredible especially being able to see Constantine’s Basilica, which would have been huge when it was intact. There is only a third of it still standing at present. The first part of the Forum we had the pleasure of seeing was the Arch of Titus which looks very similar to the Arch of Constantine. The forum is somewhat hard to visualize since a large portion of it is in ruins. We walked around the ruins for a little while and were able to see the house of the Vestal Virgins and the Arch of Septimius Severus. Then we visited a small exhibition that was placed in a reconstruction of the old Senate building. The little exhibition proved to be a nice breather as we had been walking for quite some time by then. We sat around for a short time to catch our breath before we took on the stairs to the top of Capitoline Hill. At the top of this hill is the Musei Capitolini. This museum holds many great artworks and is rather large. One of the most interesting parts of the museum is the dismembered statue of Constantine in the first courtyard. This statue would have been huge when it was fully assembled. The hand alone was taller than a full-grown man. After touring around the museum for a little over an hour, we grouped back up and headed back to our hotel. When we returned, it was getting later on in the afternoon so some of us decided to nap.
Later in the evening, we had our first true group dinner. We started with a bruschetta course that consisted of toasted bread topped with tomatoes and basil. Then came the delicious pasta course where we had a simple Roman classic called Pasta with cheese and pepper. Next, we had a delicious meat course made up by some sort of stewed or slow cooked beef and mushrooms. The side of rosemary potatoes was delicious. Then we capped it off with some cream filled pastries, which were simply amazing. We spent several hours at the restaurant, which was a lot different from what we normally do in the US. After dinner a couple of us walked through Piazza Navona which is a beautiful area filled with fountains and amazing buildings. We watched a couple of spray painters work their magic on some impressively detailed ‘paintings.’ Then I headed back to the hotel to call it a night.
Day Three: Saturday May 12th, 2012
Today was another early start with the same breakfast as yesterday. We had to start because we wanted to beat the crowds at St. Peter’s and we had a reserved time at the Vatican Museum. First, we walked to St. Peter’s Basilica where Andrew and Aaron gave presentations on the basilica and the pope respectively. Both did great jobs for the small time they were allotted. Thankfully, the line was short so we just walked right into the basilica. The inside was amazing and ornately decorated with statues and other little embellishments. The sheer size of the nave was daunting not to mention the large side aisles with little chapels every few feet. We had to rush here because we had an appointment at the Vatican Museum. We gathered up and walked over to the museum. We started out in the Pinocoteca were there was a tapestry replica of the last supper. Then Brian gave his presentation on the Sistine Chapel. He described several of the details of the frescos that depict the life of Jesus and Moses. He also talked about the fresco of the final judgment.
We then proceeded to enter the huge museum. The entire museum led up to Sistine Chapel. Therefore, it was like searching for a treasure. The museum was very interesting and had a lot of impressive paintings, sculptures, maps, and tapestries. The major downside to the museum is the amount of people that visit it on a daily basis. This makes it difficult to truly enjoy everything it has to offer. We finally made it through all the tourists to the crown jewel of the museum, SISTINE CHAPEL! It was magnificent, but unfortunately very crowded with tourists. I got some pictures even though you weren’t supposed to. When we first walked in one of the guards was ‘shushing’ the crowd. Nobody seemed to really listen to him at all, and then part of the way through the guards changed and he didn’t seem to care at all. We spent around 20 minutes in the Chapel just taking in the sheer beauty of it all.
Then we made our way back out of the museum through a maze of twisting ramps. After as group we headed to a restaurant near the museum, I had some really delicious lasagna. Once everybody was full, we headed back in the direction of our hotel. On the way back we made our last stop of the day, Castel de San Angelo. This castle is set along the Tiber River and is now tied to the Vatican. Basically, it is a safe haven for the pope if something happens to Vatican. We were then released to explore the castle, which contains artwork and other exhibitions. Once we reached the top the view was amazing. We could see all the great sites of Rome including St. Peter’s, Vittorio Emanuele, Pantheon, and the Colosseum. We took a group photo and then we walked back to our hotel. I worked on some school work before I laid down for a little while to take a nap before dinner.
For dinner a group of about ten of us decided to go eat near the Trevi fountain. We first walked to the Trevi fountain since several of us had to see it. We finally found a restaurant down a side street near the fountain. Six of us packed into a booth and table of four sat near the rest of us. I ordered the Quattro formaggi pasta. It had four kinds of cheese and a cream sauce. The taste was beyond words. It was simply amazing and for dessert I had profiteroles, which are cream puffs that are drizzled with chocolate syrup. The one downside to this otherwise great meal was the fact that we were overcharged by a large amount. For the six of us we ended up paying over 130€. The part that made the price disappointing was the fact that the waiter was not incredibly friendly, but I guess you live and you learn. We ended our night next to the Trevi fountain where we met some fellow Nebraskans and some students from Virginia. We talked for around 45 minutes then we all headed back to the hotel.
Day Four: Sunday May 13th, 2012
Today was another early day with the Pantheon first on the docket. We all walked as group to the Pantheon a little before nine because that is when it opens. Kyle gave his presentation on the building then we sat outside a little while to sketch. Then whenever we finished our sketch, we headed in to see the inside of the magnificent structure. Next on our list was Area Sacra del Largo Argentina. This area of ruins is was the ‘pilot’ campus of the Roman Forum. It was where governmental affairs took place while the Forum was being expanded. It is also believed to be the site at which Julius Caesar was assassinated. Today Rome’s stray cats inhabit it because it is a no kill shelter. Counting all the cats was a fun activity some even came up to railing level.
Our next stop was Piazza Navona, where Jared gave his presentation on Fontana dei Quattro Fiume. The master artisan Bernini who helped at St. Peter’s Basilica built this fountain. It depicts four rivers from the major rivers in the world including the Nile. We walked around the fountain for a little bit to take in all it had to offer. Next on our program for the day was Campo di Fiori. This ‘parks of flowers’ houses a lively market that sells among other things beautiful flowers. It holds a statue of Bruno, the man who was killed by the church for believing the sun revolved around the earth and not the reverse. There are also some shops and restaurants that fill the perimeter of the square. According to some of the others in the group, the square is lively at night with several bars and clubs.
Next, we made a long trek to the Trevi fountain. On our way there, we saw the Column of Marcus Aurelius, which gets confused, quite often, with Trajan’s Column. Once we neared the fountain, we decided not to go up due to the large and boisterous crowd in front of it. This was okay with the group since most of us had already seen it. After our brief stop outside the fountain, we continued on to one of the most famous tourist spots in Rome, The Spanish Steps. We were allowed around 20 minutes there. The bulk of us climbed to the top and took some nice pictures of Rome. The views from the top weren’t the best I have seen in Rome because it mainly looked down on some non-descript buildings.
The last stops before lunch were Piazza della Popolo and a small Leonardo da Vinci Museum next to the piazza. Walking to the piazza, we saw many expensive shops such as Prada, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. When we got to the piazza, we all sat down on the fountain in the middle and listened to a street performer who was singing opera. We stayed there for about ten minutes before entering the museum. The museum held physical models of the drawings and concepts that were conceived by da Vinci. Some of the ‘machines’ were interactive which was nice to be able to grasp the concepts better. We spent around a half an hour in there. On our way, back we stopped by a little pizza shop just off the piazza that contains the Pantheon. Unfortunately, when I ordered my pizza I failed to realize what its toppings were. It appeared to be just covered with some cheese but under the cheese, there were a ton of onions. I am not a fan of onions at all. I didn’t enjoy the pizza.
Then after lunch, we went back to the hotel to rest before going to our last stop Basilica di Santa Maria di Sopra Minerva at three. This basilica is the only Gothic Cathedral in Rome. It unfortunately is not purely gothic due to the addition of Baroque decorations. It was a very beautiful church to look at. This concluded our program for the day. After visiting this church, many of us went back to the hotel where I took a long nap until about 7pm. I now regret that decision, as I was unhappy afterwards. Oversleeping is not fun. After I finally woke up a group of us went out to dinner. I ordered another pizza and unfortunately, I struck out again. It was a Quattro formaggi pizza and one of the four cheeses didn’t taste right with the others. I ate a good portion of the pizza where the bad cheese wasn’t. After dinner, I came back to the hotel and worked on the internet for a while then decided to go to bed to avoid any more bad experiences with the food. I am hoping tomorrow will return my faith in Italian food.
Day Five: Monday May 14th, 2012
Today started off early with a Scavenger hunt. We grouped up into teams of four and we were given clues to parts of the city that we had already been to and or talked about. I teamed up with Sean, Rae, and Ariel. We had to go to Campo di Fiori, Area Sacra, Basilica Santa Maria, Trajan’s Column, and the Colosseum. We made it to all of the sites but unfortunately we placed a meager 4th but it was fun to test our knowledge of the city. After we made it back to the hotel, we all rested for an hour or so before most of us utilized this free day to go climb the dome at St. Peter’s Basilica. Before we headed to the dome, we decided to get a picnic lunch at Campo di Fiori. I picked up at Panini di Porchetta, which was just a sandwich with some cured pork on it. It was incredibly delectable. We all split some Pecorino Romano cheese, which had a rich and crumbly texture.
Then we made our way to the dome. We had planned on the line taking a long time but fortunately, we made it through security in record time. The part that took the longest was the line for the tickets to the top. The first set of stairs was filled with Michelangelo stairs, which are stairs with ramped treads and shallow risers. Once we reached the top of these painful stairs, we were dumped out on to a platform that stood as a break before climbing the harder stairs to the top of the dome. We didn’t stop for long. As the altitude increased, the stairs decreased in width. There were several runs of spiral staircase. When we got even higher, the walls started to curve in the shape of the dome so it became a little disorienting. We finally made it to the top which of course was a little crowded with many tourists trying to get the best pictures. We stayed up there for about 20 minutes. The wind at times was almost unbearable. Overall, I am glad that I was able to go to the top and see the incredible view of Roma. We descended to the mid-level above the ground and stopped at the gift shop. I bought several postcards to send to friends and family. After everybody purchased what they needed we headed back to the hotel. Most of us rested until dinner. A group of about eight of us walked to a restaurant near the Pantheon where I had some decent lasagna. We capped our night off with a stop at a gelato shop where I got a crepe. Unfortunately, I didn’t particularly care for the filling. Other than that little mishap, I really enjoyed the day.
Day Six: Tuesday May 15th, 2012
Today was our last day in Roma. We started out around 8:30 with a walk over to the engineering building of Sapienza University. We listened to several presentations on current research in the field of structural engineering. I found all of the presentations to be very interesting and insightful. It was neat to see the ideas and work of others in the engineering field. I especially enjoyed the presentation on piezoelectric devices. These can harness electricity form vibrations in many moving objects such as the cables of a suspension bridge. They transform the unusable vibrational energy to usable electric energy. After we listened to the presentations, we toured the rest of the building before heading to lunch at a local pizza and panini shop. I had a slice of Margherita pizza, which was a little lacking in flavor. After everybody finished lunch we headed over to the main campus of the university via the metro system. It was an interesting experience being on a subway in Rome. The trains were tagged with graffiti and were rather dirty. They somewhat reminded me of the subways of New York City. When we got to the campus our guide from the university told us, that enrollment at Sapienza is in upwards of 145,000 students. This number seems ridiculous to me and makes me thankful for the small class sizes at UNO. As the group walked through a park on campus, all the students stared at us, which felt a little odd. When we finished touring the campus, we took the metro back to Colosseum where we then walked back to our hotel. We spent the rest of the afternoon at our hotel.
For dinner, a group of ten of us walked back to the restaurant where we had been previously ripped off to give them a second chance. I again had the great four-cheese pasta and profiteroles. Thankfully, this time we weren’t ripped off and actually ended up paying less for more food than we had the first time we went there. We finished the night off with a few pictures around the Trevi fountain and some gelato from the famous Giolitti. It was another great day in Italy.
Day Seven: Wednesday May 16th, 2012
Today we left our beloved Roma to see Firenze also known as Florence. We split the group up into several taxis that took us to Roma Termini. We all made it eventually to the station where I had my first McDonald’s in Italy. It is definitely different in Italy than it is back in the states. I couldn’t believe you had to pay 20-euro cents for one packet of ketchup. We took the fast train to Firenze, which was a first for me. I was excited to get to go on a large passenger train again. It had been since I was a little boy that I had taken a passenger train. It was a quick hour and half train ride to Firenze Santa Maria Novella station. Once everybody got off the train with their luggage, we made our way to our hotel. It was about a 20-minute walk from the station. When we got to our hotel, we spilt off into our respective room groups, and then took our luggage up to the rooms.
We met as a group again shortly so we could find something to eat since it was around 1:30 by then. I had some sort of stuffed pizza bread with prosciutto cotto and mozzarella cheese. It was very good but lacked a little in the cheese department. After everybody had his or her food, we headed back to our hotel for a surprise. We had to climb to the top floor of the hotel and it was waiting there for us. The surprise was the beautiful of the Duomo. Once we had taken in the beautiful view, we made our way to climb the dome. At the top we listened to Kate, give a wonderful presentation on its design, architectural style and construction. After everybody got pictures, we walked to a little museum that had an exhibition on Galileo. It was rather neat especially since they have one of his fingers. On the ground level of the museum, a small interactive exhibit demonstrated some of his work. This was our last stop of the day. Later in the evening, a group of about eight of us walked around Florence to find a good place to eat. We finally found one off the Piazza della Republica. I again had some great lasagna. We capped the night off with a stop by the Hard Rock Café to browse the merchandise. I am really enjoying Florence and am looking forward to seeing more of it.
Day Eight: Thursday May 17th, 2012
Today started out with a hike up to the Piazza di Michelangelo. This is a great lookout point over the entire city. After taking in the view for about a half an hour we hiked back down the hill to Basilica di Santa Croce, also known as the church of the holy cross. Construction lasted from 1294 to 1442. This Basilica is famous because it houses the remains of many famous Italians including Galileo, Michelangelo, and Raphael. We continued our church tour of Florence with Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. This church is a perfect example of Italian Gothic Architecture. It uses pointed arches for its vaults, and the nave is closer to a one to one proportion than the French Gothic style cathedral, which prefers the two to one. It was a shame that we weren’t allowed to take pictures because the inside was incredibly gorgeous.
Our last church of the day was the Basilica di San Lorenzo. This cathedral complex was commissioned for the Medici family. The Medici family was the richest family in Florence therefore, they ruled Florence. This again was another beautiful church but like most historical places in Florence, you weren’t allowed to take photos. This rule is really starting to get on my nerves because it makes everything we see run together. After we toured the cathedral, we went to the tomb of Papa Medici, which is just off to the side of the church. We were supposed to go to the Duomo next but due to the long line we decided against it. Therefore, everybody broke for lunch and about nine of us headed to the restaurant below our hotel. We saw yesterday that they had burgers on the menu and we just had to get some. I got the B&B Burger, which was topped with a thick slab of bacon. It was a great tasting burger and I probably could have eaten two or three.
The rest of the day until dinner, I spent exploring Florence and some time at the hotel. For dinner, we had a picnic on the roof terrace. A multitude of meats and cheeses were provided along with some delectable cherries and strawberries. When we had all finished our lovely dinner we decided to hike back up to Piazza di Michelangelo to watch the sunset. Some ran but I decided to enjoy the walk up the steps especially since we had just eaten. The sunset was gorgeous. We all headed back down to the city where we watched a short documentary on the history of the Duomo and Florence. I called it a night after the movie as it was already around 11pm.
Day Nine: Friday May 18th, 2012
Today was a big day of many museums. We started off in the Bargello museum, which was once a fortified prison. The most notable piece of art in the museum was Donatello’s David, which portrayed David, of the biblical David and Goliath story, cast in bronze. It was a lot smaller than the DVD last night led us on to be. This museum was a nice starting place for the day since the crowds were small. Our next stop was, Academia, the home of Michelangelo’s famous David. We had to wait outside the museum for what seemed to be a half an hour just to get in. When we first went in we explored some of the smaller exhibits including an interesting display of musical instruments. I am pretty sure there was even an original Stradivarius violin on exhibit. That was definitely a very cool item to witness. We then headed off to one of the more modern exhibits that used some sort of video of a girl drawing. It was very odd and didn’t really seem to serve a purpose. We didn’t even get to see her final finished drawing. The exhibit next this was a bunch of small flat screen monitors showing different people’s faces. Several of them were pretty disturbing. Needless to say we were ready to see the David after that weird experience.
The statue of David is probably one of the greatest pieces of artwork I have ever seen. It was hard to fathom that it was once a pile of marble at one point in time. The artisanship is incredible and impeccable as to even show veins in his hand. I took about 20 minutes to really take it in. Then I headed off to the room next to David that held a large amount of sculptural busts. There was one piece in this room that didn’t quite fit with the rest of them. It was a polyester man dressed in modern clothes including white and black adidas shoes, crying into a pool. It was supposed to be a representation of Narcissus. When I first walked in I couldn’t see the head so I literally thought it was some person just being stupid and posing there. It was just rather weird and out of place. It really makes me question the motives of modern artists. This was our last room of the museum. We all headed out of the museum and broke up for lunch. I had some cheap pizza and then found the grocery store. Yay for cheap water!
We regrouped after lunch to start our exploration of the famous Uffizi museum. This is a massive museum that houses many great works of art from artist not only from Italy but from all around the world. It holds works from the likes of Michelangelo, Bellini, Botticelli, da Vinci and many more. Sandro Botticelli painted some of Dr. Erdogmus’ favorite paintings. He was an early renaissance painter and two of his more famous works are here at the Uffizi, Primavera and the Birth of Venus. Both of these paintings are incredibly beautiful and show a large amount of detail. They both include elements of mythology and reality, which I found unique. This museum also contains the Adoration of the Magi by Michelangelo. Unfortunately the physical piece was being restored so were just allowed to see a copy. I would really like to see the actual work someday because it was incredible the amount of detail and the great use of perspective. All three of these works were near the first part of the museum. Once we viewed them, we continued to make our way through the rest of the massive museum. Towards the end, my brain went into sensory overload. One person can only appreciate so much artwork in one day. Once we collected the group again we headed back to our hotel.
After taking a little break we decided we should finally go see the inside of the Duomo. It was almost as amazing on the inside as it was from the outside. I would have liked to test the reverberation time in there but decided against it to avoid unwanted attention. Tonight a group of about eight of us headed to a restaurant near San Lorenzo. I had some Bucatini all’Amatriciana, which was basically spaghetti with red sauce, but Bucatini is a thicker noodle. It wasn’t the best pasta I have had so far but it was definitely palatable. After we finished dinner, I decided to stay in for the evening to work on and finish my presentation on the Duomo in Milan. I know I probably won’t have time to work on it tomorrow since we are going to Cinque Terre, which I am really excited to see!
Day Ten: Saturday May 19th, 2012
This will be a brief entry because words cannot truly do justice to the magnificence that Cinque Terre. A group of nine of us walked to the train station around 8:30 to go buy our tickets to take us to Cinque Terre. Our train ride to La Spezia, the first stop before Cinque Terre, was rather long because we took the slower regional train that stops at every station. When we made it to La Spezia, we bought our tickets to Riomaggiore the first town in the five that make up Cinque Terre. This ticket was good for trains in between the five towns as well as the hiking trails. We made it to Riomaggiore and found a little café to have lunch. I had a prosciutto and cheese sandwich and a rich hot chocolate. After all, of us finished our lunches we started out on the first trail, which hugged the rugged coastline. This trail led us to the next city, Manarola.
Manarola is another beautiful town nestled in a cove along the sea. In Manarola, we explored another trail, which ended up being closed as we expected. We waited around for the next boat that would take us to the fourth town of Vernazza. We explored for the next hour or so before the boat arrived. The sea was choppy near the shore so boarding the boat was interesting since the ramp was moving up, down and side-to-side. I was a little afraid of falling off but I managed to make it on okay. The view from the boat was stunning. The Mediterranean Sea is gorgeous even without the amazing coastline. The boat took us by the third town Corniglia then finally stopped in the fourth town of Vernazza.
Vernazza marked our next trail adventure. This was probably the toughest of all the trails between the towns. I was a little nervous about surviving since my shoes weren’t necessarily made to hike what is practically a mountain. Thankfully, I made it just fine and the view the entire way was amazing! Although, some of the ‘stairs’ were pretty steep, but we all managed to make it to the fifth and final town of Monterosso. Monterosso is the most ‘resort-ish’ of the five towns. It has several nice beaches and is just as beautiful as the other four. We spent a couple hours here and grabbed some dinner where I had some good Lasagna.
We decided eventually that we should try to make it back to Florence. We made it to La Spezia just fine. When our train arrived, we bought our tickets to Florence. We ended up having to take two trains back. Our first train took us from La Spezia to Pisa and took less than an hour. The final train took us back to Florence. This train was a small train you would see running in a city. This train was packed and seemed to take forever. We finally made it back to Firenze Santa Maria Novella, which was a welcome sight for sure. Although it is hard to think that, I will be walking back there in the morning to board yet another train but this time to Milano! I am pretty excited to see another new city!
Day Twelve: Monday May 21st, 2012
Today 18 of us headed for Venezia at around 8am. Most of us walked to the metro station together. We bought our tickets and headed down to the station platform. While we waited for the subway train to come in the lights went out which we should have taken as a sign to stay in Milan. Half of us managed to get on the first train into the station because it was ridiculously packed with morning traffic. Therefore, when we got to the stop for Milano Centrale we waited for the other half hoping they made it. Thankfully, they made it just fine so we went up to the train station to figure out the ticket situation to Venezia. We all decided to buy tickets for the fast train, which would get us there in 2 and half hours. The Frecciobianca was a nice train and four of us ended up sitting together. We sat across the aisle from a nice young couple from San Francisco that was just starting out their two-week adventure in Italia. The train arrived in Venezia Santa Lucia station a little after noon. When everybody made it off the train, we decided to make sure of the times there was a return train to Milan. After had checked that situation out we spilt up into little groups and ventured out into the city.
Ariel, Kate, Jen, Rae, and I decided to make our way to St. Mark’s square. This adventure was added to by the fact that it was still raining which it had been since the previous day in Milan. Therefore, I carried the umbrella so Jen could read the map to get us to the square. We stopped at a pizzeria on the way. We ended up spending over an hour in the restaurant. We finally got brave enough to make it back out in the dreary weather. We only managed to get lost twice and both times, it was just a minor misstep. We finally made it St. Marks and by now, my feet were swimming in water. I feared my shoes might have been a complete loss. We spent about an hour in the area before we decided we had enough of the bad weather so we ventured back to the train station. On the way, back I managed to find a little necklace for my sister. I knew she would love it and I loved the decent price. We made it back to the train station where we eventually met the bulk of the others. I along with six others opted for the Frecciobianca back to Milan. I was ready to leave and didn’t think I could handle the slow train from previous experience with to and from Cinque Terre. We made it back to Milan around 7:00. I didn’t do much afterwards other than a load of laundry which was long overdue. I hope to return to Venice someday when the weather is nicer because I think it has the possibility to be a lovely city.
Day Thirteen: Tuesday May 22nd, 2012
Today was a lazy day. I didn’t officially make it out of bed until 11 or so. For the bulk of the day I sat in my bed and worked on journaling and listening to music. Close to one, four of us made grocery store run to get food for lunch. We got some great bread, some fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, some asiago, and salami. Needless to say, we made some killer sandwiches. Then around three, the entire group gathered to go to the science museum that had some more Leonardo da Vinci exhibits. We toured the museum until five when it closed. Unfortunately, we had thought the museum closed at 6:30 so I didn’t get to see everything we could have. After we left the museum, we all walked to a pub where they were having a buy a drink all you can eat special. We spent a couple hours here; a lot of it was just talking and having a good time. After a while, the group split up and a couple of us made our way back to the hotel. On our way, back we stopped for some delicious Grom gelato. After making it back to the hotel, I made another run for groceries for breakfast. I grabbed some eggs, pancetta, and milk. I am glad the day decided to be nice weather wise because Milan was not leaving a good impression. I would like to come back to Milan someday and spend more time exploring it.
Day Eighteen: Sunday May 27th, 2012
Today is the last official and full day of our trip in Italy. All we have done today is take a bus ride this morning from Paestum to Roma. We got to Roma around 1:30pm. Not long after Andrew, Eric, Cam, Brian, and I went out for pizza just outside our hotel here in Rome. After I came back from lunch, I took a nap. I also watched an old TV episode I had on my laptop. Seventeen of us went to dinner around 7:30 to the restaurant we went to the first night in Roma. I got the lasagna, which was delicious.
We walked back to our hotel and waited for Ariel to get back so we could get some gelato. She didn’t back it back until late so we decided to go without her. I treated Jen, Kate, Andrew, and I to some delicious gelato at the shop just down the street from our hotel. It was a great way to cap off the trip. I am not looking forward to the flight home tomorrow mainly because our first flight leaves at 6:50am. It will be an early morning tomorrow for sure!
Day Nineteen: Monday May 28th, 2012
Of course, I didn’t hear my alarms so Jennifer came into wake me up around 3:30am. I thankfully set my clothes out the night previously I jumped into my clothes and headed to the lobby of the hotel with my bags. The cab arrived shortly after 3:40 then we were on our way to Fiumicino Airport. It was sad to see Roma go but I was glad to start my journey back home. Jennifer and I arrived at the airport before the Swiss counter even opened so we had to wait about 20 minutes for that to open. Once we had our boarding passes we headed through security, which is much more relaxed than back in the states. We were allowed to leave our shoes and belts on. Once we made it through security we headed to our gate by then it was a little less than two hours before our flight took off so we just waited patiently by the gate. The flight to Zurich was short hour and fifteen minutes.
When we arrived in Zurich, our first mission was to find food. Jen and I were very hungry since we hadn’t had a breakfast since we left Rome at that ridiculous hour. The moral of the story is never to eat at a fast food restaurant in an airport in a foreign country. We found a Burger King at the other end of the terminal from where we just had arrived. When we were looking at the prices we realized they were in Swiss Francs and not Euros so we had to go back to the exchange office we passed on our way to the Burger King. We each exchanged about 20 euro and headed back to Burger King. Needless to say we were basically robbed over a ‘breakfast’ of chicken nuggets and French fries. After our fast food fiasco, we waited several hours to find out where our gate was for our next flight. We finally found out the gate so we made our way over to the other terminal via the underground tram. We waited for another hour or so to board.
The flight to Chicago was pleasant despite the fact that my television malfunctioned multiple times. I managed to make it work long enough to get a few episodes of tv and one movie. I was pleasantly surprised with the movie The Departed. When we arrived in Chicago, the long process of going through customs began. I was surprised to hear that Jen did not enjoy the man sitting next to her due to his inappropriate flirtatious attitude. We made it through customs thankfully with all our luggage and most of our sanity even though by now we had been up for over 14 hours. We dropped our luggage off with the United workers and headed over to the domestic terminal on the tram. Security went better than expected even though I had to have my hands swabbed which was a little weird. We ate the restaurant we did when we first arrived at several weeks earlier. We then found our gate and proceeded to wait through a maintenance delay. The flight to Omaha took a little longer than expected due to some bad weather between Omaha and Chicago. We landed in Omaha around 8pm, which was a hour later than we were supposed to. Jen and I are definitely grateful to be back home but surely do miss Italy and all of its wonderful sites. This trip was truly the greatest time of my life so far. I am truly sad to leave all the great friends I made over the course of these several weeks. I can’t wait to have a reunion!