by danielle Bunten
My Once in a Lifetime Crazy College Trip to Italy
Meeting up with Donovan and Emma, we went over to Donovan’s home about 15 minutes away from the airport. When we got to his house, we were bombarded by two little fluff balls. After his dogs welcomed us to his home, we were graciously given pastries and cookies from his mom. While me and Emma were munching away on the goodies, Donovan’s mom was double checking his luggage, making sure everything was there. She offered us anything that we had missed; I took her offer on the umbrella, knowing the weather forecast had anticipated rain. After everything was checked over, we headed out to the airport. It was like a small city. I was lost the moment I went inside the doors. Thankfully, Donovan was used to flying, and our small group ran into Dr. Sabo before we went anywhere. With Dr. Sabo leading the way, I felt much more confident and my excitement started building. We went through the lines and through the security check where we found Dr. V.A. We stopped by a restaurant, but since I was already full from the pastries, I just got something to drink. After everybody was done, we went to our gate and waited. Boarding the plane was interesting. I did not care for the portable hallway that we passed through to get to the plane. The plane itself was a lot smaller than I had anticipated. I was seated next to Jaime, who was a little anxious to be flying, but when we took off, we were both more excited than scared. The plane ride to Philadelphia was quick. Landing was a lot smoother than what I thought it would be, I barely felt any resistance when the plane wheels touched the runway. Going through the Philly airport felt confusing, but with everyone together I wasn’t very nervous. Finding the gate took forever, I never realized how big an airport can be. After a delay, a change of gates, and some nachos, we boarded the next plane that would take us to Italy. I felt a lot more confident when it came to takeoff, enjoying it instead of worrying. When it came time for dinner, I was pleasantly surprised the food was pretty good. After finding the classical music channel and a somewhat comfortable position I fell asleep.
Waking up to snow covered mountains is one of the best ways to wake up. I had gotten some sleep on the plane, but without anywhere to rest my head, it wasn’t the easiest sleep I have gotten. Going over the water close to the coastline, seeing the clear water and the sandy coastline of Italy stated to ramp up my excitement. When going through the airport, I felt as though I was just going through any other airport. The only sign that it was an Italian airport were the signs pointing us toward the right direction. My luggage was the last to come out, but once I got it we were off. Meeting Giorgio was nice, but very brief. We quickly walked to the busses and boarded as soon as our bus pulled in. The bus was a lot bigger than what I was expecting for our small group of 9. It was nice, however, to have that much room to be able to spread out. On the way to Rome, Giorgio spoke a lot about cultural difference, namely our tendency to obsess over how far something is, and as we passed different areas he would point out interesting facts. Passing through the entrance to Rome was exciting, the buildings were spectacular and there was so much to take in. We took a little breather once we arrived at the hotel, but we quickly took off. Next door to the hotel was a small pizza shop where we stopped for lunch. It was an interesting setup, and the pizza was completely different than what I was used to. While the group was finishing ordering and paying for their slices, a man and woman showed up. The woman caught my attention more so than the man, her skirt and colorful top tipped me off that she was a gypsy. Thankfully I had read up on them and their tendency to swindle money from tourist. Giorgio started to calmly warn us, calling out “gypsy, gypsy” and after we had sat down told the group about them and warned us to be wary when they are around. After that excited we all sat down and enjoyed our first Italian cuisine. After our quick bite, we were off and exploring this fascinating country. Every place we visited was exciting and everywhere I looked seemed to be absolutely gorgeous. By the end of our day I was tired, but extremely happy. That night we went to a little place where the food was endless and absolutely delicious. We had eggplant, prosciutto, mozzarella with tomato, bruschetta, then several slices of pizza. The pizza wasn’t my favorite, but it was okay, because the rest of the food was phenomenal. The gelato at the end was wonderful. Afterwards we headed to the Trevi. It wasn’t that enjoyable because of all of the hawkers trying to sell their wares, while at the same time ruining some of my shots. But since it was the Trevi I had to throw a coin in.
Riding back to the hotel was a trip. I was part of the group that was stuck in the back of the bus, and one of the few people on the bus without a handle to keep steady. I was swaying all over the place, but it was pretty fun. Going back to the hotel, most of the girls were going to go out, but I decided to go to bed because of the early wakeup call.
The bed was kind of hard, but much better than the plane seat. Breakfast was a lot different than what I am used to. I had espresso, blood orange juice, and a soft honeyed roll. I liked it a lot, even though I would have loved some fresh fruit to go along with it. We toured the Coliseum and the Roman forum. It was so beautiful and historic. I loved it. We hit the Spanish Steps before splitting up. Of course Donovan and Emma decided to momentarily split up before we got to the steps. Before the three of us decided to go anywhere we sat on the steps and planned where we were going to go. We quickly made our decision based on our stomachs. I remembered a small sandwich place right on the corner of the Trevi. We doubled back and got our food. We found a comfortable place right against the fountain and started to eat. A police officer came up to us and spoke something in Italian. We assumed that she was saying that the spot we were sitting against wasn’t for public sitting. A small spot opened up on the bench so we took a seat and started to finish our meal. The same officer came up to us and spoke to us. I realized that we assumed wrong and asked her if she spoke English. She thankfully knew enough to tell us that we were not supposed to eat around the Trevi. Afterwards we went to plaza to plaza, museum to museum, and walked miles. We saw so much. It really felt like Rome as we were going along. Map in our hands, going to place to place, taking a ton of pictures, and trying to find the next best view. The three of us were all very excited and very much enjoyed our afternoon and evening. Donovan mostly navigated and decided where we should go next, but several times we just decided to walk and see where we ended up. We quickly found that all roads lead to the Trevi. Whenever we became indecisive about where we were going next Emma led the way to the next place. Whenever we encountered anything where language was a slight barrier, I was able to speak basic Italian to get people to understand that we knew next to no Italian. When we were tired we decided to sit down on some steps that overlooked the Roman Forum and started to talk. We tried to sit by the Coliseum, but there were too many hawkers trying to sell us a paperweight souvenir. While we were chatting and having fun, we would take a look around us to appreciate the beauty and the history that we were around. Getting back to the hotel was a little tricky because there was no 492 bus at the nearest stop and the busses run at a much lower frequency after 10pm. We eventually made our way back and ended back in the hotel before morning.
Waking up after only 5-6 hours after an eventful day is getting much harder, but seeing as much of Rome as I have, I know it is worth giving the comfort of the bed. This morning we hit the Vatican. I thought all the paintings, statues, buildings, and even the tapestries were stunning. Later that day, I was talking to Donovan who informed me that we completely skipped over an important artist whose big arts are stored there. I felt so small next to all of the large arts. In the Sistine Chapel, I was in awe at several of the paintings and was disappointed that we couldn’t take pictures. I am very religious, and in my walk with God I feel that I am saved and sanctified, and the third piece is being filled with the Holy Ghost. One stain glass inside St. Peter’s really hit me. At this moment I felt that this was the beautiful piece of work I had ever seen. It was a simply, but very powerful symbol to me. Afterwards we left and went to the Catacombs, something that I wasn’t very interested in. I was given about an hour to simply do my own thing. I thought there was a green park around, but instead just wandered about the countryside taking in the sights and sounds. I had to run back to the bus however, since I lost track of time, but arrived before they took off. We came back to the city and went through a part that I would not have even registered as being there. The Jewish Ghetto was very humbling. When Giorgio read the plaque about the 28 out of 6000+ surviving, it was a slap of reality. We left the Jewish Ghetto and split up, me and Donovan were going to head over to St. Peter’s to climb the dome. After taking the right bus the wrong way, passing the others, and finding the right line, we figured that if we saw the top of the dome, the Pantheon would be out of the question. After making Donovan decide, we went on to the Pantheon. There were only a handful of arts, but they were master works of arts. The building itself was huge and wonderful. It does bother me a little that we couldn’t do the Dome, but the Pantheon was very neat. We met back up at the hotel at 7:30 with the rest of the students. We went to dinner after asking the reception desk for a good local restaurant. Passing plates, sharing our food, sampling good looking dishes was very nice and brought a since of togetherness and family to the group. We were all stuffed and went back to the hotel to get ready to go out for desert, gelato. After a few minutes it seemed like most of the students were going to stay in. Me, Emma, and Donovan decided to go out and settle an argument about how to get to the Trevi from a certain point. We figured out the way to get to the Trevi, went thre, and got a gelato. After a while, we started to head back to the hotel. We caught 492 and rode it out, even though we had to wait 20 min for a break, it was still nice.
Transferring to Florence was a beautifully boring ride. Thankfully I had my nook to keep me slightly entertained. The countryside we saw was nice, but I could only take but so much. Right before we entered the city, I tried to put my money pouch on, only to have it break on an unfixable spot. Since that was out of commission, I decided to bring only a little cash and my passport. Since it wasn’t raining, I decided to leave my umbrella in my bookbag. About 30 minutes down the road I regretted that decision. The walking tour of the city was nice, but with the weather in a drizzly mess, I did not enjoy it as much as I could have. The Duomo was fascinating from the floor to the top of the dome. I felt that it was slightly different than what we had seen in Rome and the Vatican, it felt a little different to me. After the walking tour most of the girls went to the Boar Market. It was smaller than what I thought, but looked exactly like the pictures. It was incredible to see all the vendors and it made me very excited for the San Lorenzo market. Time flew by and before I knew it we were heading to a nice little restaurant. It was delicious. It took everything in me not to lick my plates. The three, Me, Donovan, and Emma, went walking around to find anything exciting. With most of Florence being inside, it wasn’t as interesting as Rome. Soon, it became a journey to find a bathroom. While on the hunt we ran into the fortress, it was large and seemed interesting, but since it was so dark we did not get a good look at it, especially with our bladders rebelling. One trip to a port-a-potty and finding the hotel quickly we were okay.
So today I woke up at 6:30, got dressed and put my things together, then went out to meet Dr. Sabo. At the continental breakfast I kept an eye out, but didn’t see him. Breakfast was really pathetic too. Afterwards I went to the lobby where I found Dr. V.A. looking for Rachel. We waited together for about 5 minutes before deciding to go on without them. I went to the Central Market, after realizing the San Lorenzo Market did not open until 9. Immediately I was given a slice of some kind of meat from a guy who I went on to buy cheeses from. I went on to try to find Baroni Alimentari, only to find that they were closed for the season. I did discover a small store that had balsamic vinegar and oil out front. I tried the balsamic, but didn’t care for the ones he had. I went inside the small store and did buy a few salts, some oil, and coffee. I went to go to the San Lorenzo market, but since it wasn’t open I decided to wander around, keeping close to the Central market. I took pictures, admired the city, and was so happy when the market opened. My biggest concern was finding a pink purse for my sister. Unfortunately, I felt that spending 30 euro on a purse is outrageous. I went on to buy myself a small Fireze bag, a shirt, scarves, and a few items for my friends. I did find a pink wallet that I think my sister will like. I headed back to the hotel, but found myself going the wrong way. Without time to correct myself and go to the hotel, I ran to the meeting point. I am so happy that I did not miss it. The ride to the cooking class was gorgeous, and the class itself was so much fun. All the pasta we made was very simple, and the company was great. It was a fantastic meal, and the dessert was the best I will ever have. The Academia was nice, but after a while I got sick of seeing Christ on the cross. It seemed like we started to go to the family dinner right after that, even though we had a little time to go back to the hotel and freshen up. It was good, but I felt that the atmosphere was much better than the food itself. I did enjoy most of my food, but I felt that the cooking class meal far outshined it. After we got back to the hotel I was really starting to get homesick. I missed my parents and was really sad that I wasn’t able to contact them. I found my EF phone card and called them. It was nice to share my excitement with them and hear their voices.
I cannot believe this is the last full day. But, I quickly got over my disbelief and enjoyed my last few hours. Most of us came together and went to the Central market to get cheese. Dr. Sabo went to the guy that gave me the meat slice the other day and us, Jeffrey, Emma, and me, bought cheese. I found another shop with slightly cheaper cheese and got one for cooking, planning on giving the good chunk to my grandma. I went to the San Lorenzo market and shopped around a little more, but quickly went back to the hotel. We were soon off, to “Rome.” Being the only one awake, I saw that we were going somewhere a little off the path to Rome. The wine tasting was okay, but I realized I really do not have a taste for wine. It was somewhat educational, knowing the proper way to have wine, but this wasn’t my favorite stop. The medieval town was fantastic. I got some amazing pictures, and saw an amazing view that made me cry. I ran into Dr. V.A. and was able to take her up to the spot where I thought was completely fantastic. After we got back to Rome, the ones who did not go to the theatre went to dinner. We found a nice spot in front of a beautiful fountain, shocker I know, and had a nice dinner. Afterwards we split up, Hannah and Rachel leaving to go back to the hotel and the rest of us going out and exploring. I really needed to get a few more souvenirs, just little things like a shirt and something little for a couple of friends, but hardly anything was open around 11:30. I felt like we got tired quickly and we headed back in a cab. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t stay out later, but the bed was quite comfy.
Saying bye to Giorgio was very sad, but I was a little excited to go home. After all of the airports and customs, I was happy to be back in North Carolina. After I got back to my dorm I took a picture of all of my souvenirs and was very pleased with what I got.