I have been way overdue for an update and I apologize. I returned yesterday from a 12 day Italian spring break and I had zero minutes to take time to update everyone on what is going on. So here it goes. It started Wednesday the 24th when I went to my first Barça futbol game. The stadium was beyond impressive; it holds 120,000 people and is the biggest in Europe. They played Osasuna that night and won 2-0. It was great to be able to see that stadium erupt in cheers and chants after the goals were scored. The thundering of their noise made me miss the actual goal, but you can get the idea from this:
The next day began the extensive journey from Barcelona to Venice. It began after my first class. I rushed back to the apartment, threw 12 days worth of things into my little backpack and took the metro to the bus station. From there we went to Girona, which is an hour bus ride, and took our plane from there to Traviso, Italy. Then it was another hour bus ride until we finally arrived in Venice. Thanks to Ryanair for turning a simple flight into a full day’s trip, at least it was cheap. We found our B&B that we were staying at and then went and explored the city. It was a very quiet and peaceful place that is a romantic’s paradise. So being in the company of four other guys was humorous. We went and had our first authentic Italian pizza and I must say it was everything I dreamed of. I got a mushroom, artichoke and cheese pizza, downed it and couldn’t wait for the next one. After dinner we walked around the city some more, sampled the gelato and called it a night. Since the place was called a B&B, I would assume half of our money went to the “bed” and the other half to the “breakfast”. We waited until 11:30 for the breakfast part and then we decided that we wouldn’t stand for this. We went to the front desk and got 20€ from guy running it and we went out and got pizza with the girls from our program. This pizza was my favorite of the entire trip. It was cheese, prosciutto, and an egg in the middle. Essentially it’s a breakfast pizza and since no one believes in authentic breakfasts here, this is the best I am going to get.
We walked to Saint Mark’s square and did the touristy things around there. Saw some large cathedrals and just took it all in. It was foggy and cold unfortunately so we didn’t get to see the “real” Venice that day. The following day it was sunnier and it ended up being beautiful. We went to the train station to buy our tickets to Ravenna and then enjoyed the beautiful weather until our departure time. We only had one little scare with the police when they came up to us sitting on the train station steps, basking in the sun and asked for our passports. They were clearly looking for someone and luckily it wasn’t us! We boarded our train and we were off to Ravenna. The train ride was beautiful. Trains are so much better than airplanes. I realized that this is how you see what the true country is all about. Jumping city to city via airplane only allows you to see what the cities have to offer, but trains really give you the whole experience of travelling. Being able to see the countryside and what life is like outside the city is something that was necessary in my opinion.
Ravenna was my favorite city for several reasons. It wasn’t tourist infested like every other city, I heard and saw locals walking around, and I didn’t hear English everywhere I went. We lucked out on the weather there; it was in the mid 60s and sunny. We walked to the center of the city and checked out the tourist office to see what they had to offer and we discovered that we could rent bikes for the day FOR FREE! Of course we weren’t going to pass that up, so we filled out the papers and we were off to explore the city with our bright yellow bikes. We made our way to the first and most impressive basilica in Ravenna: Saint Vitale Basilica. Here we got a ticket to visit 5 different places for one small price. Ravenna is best known for its mosaics. It was unbelievable how intricate and beautiful these pieces of art were. I can’t describe in word how impressive it was, it is really something that needs to be seen first hand. We biked from sight to sight, enjoying the beautiful Palm Sunday. We stopped for lunch in a nice plaza that was surrounded with restaurants. I ordered a delicious tortellini with prosciutto and cream sauce. As the day came to an end, we returned the bikes and walked back to the hostel where we played some foosball and pool.
The next stop for us was Florence. We took a train to Bologna and then from Bologna to Florence. Somehow we got a ticket for a high-speed train on the second leg, which was quite the experience. We got there in 30 minutes, but it was tunnels most of the way, so the sights were limited to the few seconds of a gap between the tunnels. I was really surprised at just how many tourists were in Florence. I heard English everywhere I went. It was packed with students and tourists from the UK and the USA. I took the philosophy of, “If you can’t beat them, join them!” So we went off and saw the sights. We climbed the steps of the tower by Duomo, we toured several museums and we even waited in the Disneyland-esque line to see Michelangelo’s David sculpture.
My favorite part of Florence was getting out of the city and seeing the real Tuscany. Brian and I split off from the group and headed for the hills. We just started walking. Eventually we ended up on this narrow road heading out of the city. The sun was out and it was absolutely beautiful. We made our way around the hills and headed back in the direction of a castle and the lookout where a copy of David stands. All of a sudden there was a torrential downpour with lightning right over our heads. At one point I saw the lightning above me and instantaneously I heard/felt the cracking sound it made. We took shelter at the overpriced gelato/café and waited it out to be pleasantly rewarded with an amazing sunset overlooking the city. This made my trip to Florence complete. And with that, I was ready to move on to Mecca (aka Rome).
Rome was impressive to say the least. There is so much history and so many things to see, it is overwhelming. We did all the main attractions and I kept my eye out for its hidden treasures. So we come walking out of the Vatican and I ask, “Alright, so is there anything else anyone would like to see while we’re over here?” Brian replies, “The Pope.” So we are walking out and decide to go explore to the right of the Vatican, which we found out was the backstage side. We see a gated area with about 40 people patiently waiting for something. The sheep in us told us to join, so we did. We turn around to look where we came from only to find that the gate we entered had been closed and we are trapped like sheep. In front of us are a parade of police motorcycles, secret service men with earpieces, dark glasses and suits, and lots of security. So my first assumption is that the choir must be leaving or the Swiss guards need escorting out because they might get attacked due to how silly they look in their non-threatening outfits. And then came the black Mercedes. It quickly pulled up to us, rolled down the back window and there was the Pope, dressed the part, smiling and waving at me while I stand maybe 15 feet away. He must have needed to get some groceries (I like to think of all people as humans, despite their position in the hierarchy of society, therefore groceries are a necessity and he must shop every once in awhile). That was a very cool moment of the trip. Everything we sought out for, we accomplished. We ended the trip with a relaxing day in an amazing park. It was a sunny day and a nice change from the tourist traps of the city.
We then stayed a night outside of Rome, by the coast, at a “country club”, which felt more like a summer camp. It was cheap and very relaxing. The night consisted of a calzone the size of a baby, lots of cards and meeting a young guy from Cambridge and another from Brazil. We talked and enjoyed each other’s company. The next day we caught a train to another coastal town where we then took an extremely long cruise to Barcelona. It was very relaxing and a pleasant way to end the long adventure. El Fin.