This past week I embarked on the trip of a lifetime. Literally. My entire life I have dreamed of going to Italy. Italy is not only the place of some of the best food in the world, of ancient classical history, of a rich and vibrant culture, but also the place of my own personal roots. I am half half Hispanic and half Italian. The Italian comes from my mothers side of my family, and although it is such a large part of my family identity and my biological makeup, I don’t think I ever fully resonated with that cultural part of myself. I look more Hispanic than Italian, and I know some Spanish and zero Italian; and while I love the food and culture I knew I needed to see it first hand to truly embrace that part of myself.
I embarked on my fall break trip to Italy this past week: eight days in Italy which began in the “heel” of Italy, flying into Brindisi, and ended in the top, flying out of Milan. It was breathtaking and full of joy, but also full of many challenges of travel and many unexpected trials that it was hard to maintain positivity through. It is hard to summarize all the things I learned and experienced so it might take a couple blog posts. We’ll see.
Day 1: Travel to Italy & Polignano A Mare
The beginning of my day started at 3am when I overslept my alarm to leave for the airport. So my travel break began in quite a rush. Another girl and myself travelled to Brindisi to meet the rest of our group (eight in total) and then to Polignano A Mare where we stayed for the day and night. Polignano was a dream and a perfect beginning for our travel break. It was the perfect first impression of Italy—a beautiful local town with the most breathtaking view of the ocean and a quaint rock beach.
Day 2: Naples
We travelled from Polignano A Mare to Naples, aka the “armpit of Italy.” When I spoke to other Italians that I work with and I told them I was going to Naples, they told me to be careful. Now first, I’m sorry if you are from Naples but from my impression, these people I spoke to were right. Naples was not the greatest place. I felt unsafe at many times, and pretty much all the city is covered in graffiti. Not the greatest place. However, I did love Pompeii, the History major I am. I went near the evening when almost everyone was gone, the weather was beautiful, and the sunset was breathtaking around the ruins.
Day 3-4: Amalfi Coast
I know the Amalfi Coast can be a pretty stereotypical place but I truly have been dreaming of going there for years. We stayed in a small village about a 20 minute bus ride from the town of Amalfi and it was BEAUTIFUL. There are no words to describe this place. I was overwhelmed with joy and amazement frequently while I was there. I transform into this person I like to call “travel Maria.” This is a new person I’ve discovered recently that oozes positivity, joy, and sentimentality, aka everything opposite than what I naturally am. More on what I’ve learned about myself through traveling in a later blog post. In Amalfi, I was “travel Maria” quite frequently because it was just that beautiful. We spent a lot of time exploring the town of Amalfi and Positano, which was also beautiful. Amalfi however was really hard because we lost three members from our eight-member entourage. One girl in our group contracted a really bad infection behind her eye and had to go to the hospital in Sorrento then transferred to Naples and was there for five days receiving antibiotics; two girls stayed with her to keep her company and all three of them lost all the money they invested in the trip. Not to mention the girl who got that infection was the one who essentially planned this whole trip for us. This event was really hard for us, it was really hard to maintain positive attitudes while we knew our friends were having a terrible time. Regardless we attempted to have a good time.
Day 5: Rome
Rome in a day, impossible? Challenge accepted. Rome, the city of dreams, we attempted to do in a day after traveling from the Amalfi Coast. Throughout the rushed exhausting day we saw Vatican City, St. Peters Basilica, the Coliseum, Roman Forum, then explored, dinner, gelato and then Trevi Fountain. What a day. Needless to say we were exhausted and it truly was an amazing city but it also was overwhelming, filled with tourists, and lots of amazing ruins. I understand when people say Rome was magical but honestly it was not my favorite and I think it was because I tried to experience it all in one day, looking back I wish I had more time to chase the magic in this city.
Day 6: Florence
Florence was perhaps my favorite city, other than Amalfi. Although we were there for only a day and a half it was probably my favorite days, filled with wonder, art, and relaxation. We arrived in the late morning and first went to a market with streets of stalls selling the famous products of Florence—leather goods like purses, belts, backpacks, wallets etc. We went to famous food market and then went on the most incredible Tuscan wine tour. This tour was exactly the relaxation we needed after fast-paced days of travel. We traveled out into the Tuscan countryside to breathtaking views, two vineyards in the chianti region, and a medieval Tuscan village called Greve. That night on return to Florence we went to see the Duomo di Firenze and then the Piazza Della Signoria. The next day I went back to see the Duomo, go into the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, and then rushed to spend a very brief time in the Galleria di Uffizi before my train. The Uffizi was truly incredible. Although I wasn’t there long I rushed to the most famous works and my favorite artists there, I saw some Michelangelo’s, Da Vinci’s, Botticelli’s, Raphael’s, Caravaggio’s, and Rembrandts. You know just an average day. The museum itself is art, with views of the whole city and incredible architecture as it is an old converted Medici palace. Florence with its renaissance art and incredible architecture but not overwhelming tourist population was really one of my favorites.
Day 7-8: Cinque Terre
We ended the trip with Cinque Terre, an area of five towns to explore, incredible views, hikes, and beaches. Unfortunately, it stormed the entire time we were there and we were unable to hike the infamous trails because they were closed, but the rain did however force us to rest at the end of an exhausting week of travel that was supposed to be restful before we began our second half of the semester. I was able to actually sleep and rejuvenate and still have time to explore the winding beautiful streets of three of the five towns.
I am not an experienced traveler and I learned A LOT while traveling during these eight days, including about myself, how to travel with other people who have different traveling styles, and how to adapt to a country with a language barrier. Stay tuned for what traveling has taught me about myself.