Italia! Land of carbs, breathtaking views, the friendliest people, and currently where my heart resides. Yes you read that right, I have fallen in love and I can't get up. Well I mean I can and I am currently back in the real world but you get the gist.
P.s. You probably shouldn't read this if you are hungry.
When I was abroad, it was easy to find cheap flights in between countries. I knew that Italy was at the very top of my bucket list, and when I happened across a $47 flight to Rome, I knew I couldn't pass it up. The capital city was the first stop on a three-city weekend adventure. Scroll past the photos for more details!
With it's colorful characters and bright architecture, Florence was easily my favorite city that we visited. An easy 3 hour trip on the train from Rome, this medium-sized city stole my heart and my stomach.
The small town of Siena resides in the Tuscany region and is something out of a fairytale. You can walk around the entire town in one day, but the beauty is so breathtaking that you'll want to spend a few days here soaking it all in.
We started off late Wednesday by taking a bus to Malaga. Our plan was to spend the night at the airport to be able to make our 7 a.m. flight. Has anyone ever tried sleeping on a tiled floor? It was pretty awful and by the time we boarded, we were all happy to get the heck out of there. Our plane landed in Rome around 9:30 and we took the bus to our hostel. By then we were anxious to get out and explore (mostly eat). After a quick metro trip, we arrived at the Colosseum. Let me tell you, I was not prepared for how gigantic it was. It was incredible to be there and see this monument that has lasted for so long (built in 70 A.D.!). The rest of the night was spent walking around the area, eating pizza, eating gelato, and stopping at a pub for a beer before returning to our hostel. We had planned to get an early start on our day the next morning to be first in line for the Vatican but our sleep schedule had us waking up at 9 and out the door by 10. The metro workers were on strike so our plans definitely didn't go accordingly. We wandered in the direction of the Vatican and stopped to see the Trevi fountain. I had wanted to go to this fountain ever since I was a little girl and it completely blew me away. I suggest that if you haven't been you go google the image right now because (no joke) it looks exactly like that. The stone sculptures are so detailed and the water is the perfect shade of turquoise (i'm guessing a large amount of chlorine helps). By 2 p.m. the metro was still closed due to the strike and we were getting anxious to make it to the Vatican before it closed. We broke down and payed for a taxi but it was completely worth it because it was amazing. I took a tour of the museum, the Sistine chapel, and St. Peter's Basilica. I put my camera down during this time to be able to pay close attention so please forgive the lack of photos. After the tour, we headed off for another one, but this time a food tour! Yes I am completely serious. I also don't have many photos of this but take my word for it, if you travel to Italy, it is in your best interests to take a food tour. Our guide was so lovely and she took us to 5 different places tasting cheeses, cured meats, authentic pizzas, creamy pastas, and "real" gelato. Of course wine was included with all this. By the time it was finished, we were feeling very full and very happy. I fell asleep pretty quickly after getting back to the hostel so that I could manage the early wake to catch our train to Florence.
Of all the places we had planned, I was most excited to visit Florence because I had previously gone with my grandparents and it had been my favorite place. Side note: the train trip was so much fun and I loved being able to see some of the country side. First train experience! And through Italy to boot. We arrived around 11 and set off to find our Airbnb. When we were in Rome, we had become used to the fact that walking anywhere took time and that the metro was a good option, but Florence was definitely smaller and it was great not dying on the walk to our accommodation with all our luggage. I was so happy when we arrived at the very top floor of our building because it was the most lovely little apartment. The cream accents with the brick walls and flowery bed spreads were just the perfect amount of home away from home for us. By the time we had all showered and settled in, we were starving and made our way into town for food. My friend Rachel from California was studying in Florence for the semester and she graciously pointed us in the direction of some of her favorite spots. First up was Antico Vinaio, a sandwich place where everything was pretty much 5 euros and if you're a college student abroad, that's golden. Rachel had told me how popular it was but when we arrived, I was still surprised by the line of people out the door. When we finally made it to the counter I was so overwhelmed that I didn't know what to order (also the menu was in italian) that I just went with the one I could identify (porchetta). Let me tell you right now; this was the best sandwich I had ever eaten in my whole life -- and i've eaten a lot of sandwiches. The meat melted over the spiced eggplant and truffle spread and we ate outside sitting on the curb which just made it even better. To top it off, we were sitting across from a group of very stylish and loud italians around our age, so it was entertaining to watch them all mingle and laugh and be boisterous. Think authentic Jersey Shore type group, with no Snookie or J-wow. Afterwards we wandered around for a bit and came accross a Christmas market. It was the coolest thing and we tried hot wine and bought candy and enjoyed the festive atmosphere. Funny enough we saw the group of Italians again and had a good laugh about that. Sunday was our last full day in Florence. We started off with some breakfast at a corner café and then made our way to the Duomo. I don’ t know about everyone else but I was not prepared for the giganticness of the monument. It was enormous and seemed to reach the sky from where I was standing. The square was decked out in Christmas decorations and lights, which added to the magic of the scene. It is possible to climb the Duomo but the line seemed too long if we wanted to get other things done so we decided to skip the ascent. From the square we saw a Lindt chocolate store and after a short stop, we were back on track exploring. One thing I must say I love about Italy is its abundance of vintage clothes shops. We ducked into one and I walked out ten minutes later with a new hat. Man how I love Italy. From there we made our way to lunch at a place that we stumbled upon. Lucky for us, it turned out to be one of those hole-in-the-wall places where the owner is gruff and snarky but delivers a helluvah meal. We toasted the day over more sandwiches and wine and talked about how lucky we all were to be able to travel. I know, it sounds uber cheesy, but the great views combined with the wine had us feeling emotional. Sunset in the wintertime is around 4:30 p.m. and we knew we wanted to make it to the vista point by that time in order to take in the views. We found ourselves short on time and ended up racing up the hill with our lungs burning in protest. Good news: we made it. Not so great news: it was crowded as heck. It was still incredibly beautiful and we managed to run into a couple people from our school who were also spending the weekend in Italy. The rest of the evening was spent napping, eating pizza, and walking around a bit more.
My friend Julia and I woke up on Monday and were out the door by 11 to catch our blahblah car. For those of you who don’t know, blah blah car is a ride sharing website that is super popular in Europe. The driver turned out to be a really nice guy named Giovanni who was a jazz musician and didn’t speak much English, but we made due with broken Italian and Spanish. He was so kind and even took time to show us Monteriggioni, which is a small village located between Florence and Siena. It was so small and quaint with it’s one hotel, one church, and one restaurant. They were hanging up Christmas decorations, and it couldn’t have been a more perfect time to take a pit stop.We arrived in Siena in the early afternoon and got dropped off at the bus station. It was quite a walk into town but we got to see a lot which was nice. We dropped our stuff off at the hostel and set out to explore the town. I had been to Siena once before almost 12 years ago with my grandparents so I was excited to be back and explore the area. We walked around and saw the different plazas and ended the night with some pizza and champagne sitting in front of the Torre. The next day was our last day so we packed up early and left our bags at reception. Our bus tickets were for 5 p.m. and we wanted to get as much done as possible. The line to climb up the Torre opened at 10 and we were there fashionably late at 11. Now, anyone who knows me well knows I don’t like heights very much, but I managed to climb every floor and we were rewarded with amazing views and pretty awesome pictures. When we got back down to the ground though our knees were definitely still shaking. We followed that up with a small picnic before taking a rest break to charge our phones and cameras. We took the last couple hours to walk around the outskirts and buy more pizza. Our bus ride back to Rome was uneventful except for a bit of rain. Four hours later we were in our hotel room, setting our alarms for early wake up calls for the flight home. All in all, Italy was amazing and I was so happy to have gone with such a great group of people. The food couldn’t have been better, the weather was phenomenal, and the timing was perfect – right before finals!