Another distinguishing factor about my wonderful trip to Denmark was that, unlike my usual weekend rendezvous around Europe, this trip was only the beginning of an 8 day trip thanks to two Spanish holidays and two thrown in “puentes” (bridge days between holidays – a great idea that the US most definitely needs to adopt). 3 hours after saying goodbye to Karoline and Denmark, I found myself (quite intentionally yet still surprisingly) in Italy, where I met up with two other girls from CIDE to embark on a 40-hour journey around the eternal city of Rome. With only two semi-days ahead of us before the departure of our overnight train to Venice, we were determined to start our Rome adventure on the right foot and, when in Rome, that can only mean one thing – Pizza! By 4:30pm we were happily fed and it was surprisingly dark. But fortunately that only added to the fantastic atmosphere of wondering through the half ancient, half modern city. Cue Coliseum by sunset. Yes please.
The rest of the night was spent hopping from piazza to piazza, throwing our coins into the Trevi fountain, and eating way too much gnocchi at an “off the beaten track” Italian restaurant, comprised of only 10 small tables and tons of character. Needless to say, eating at Sals will never compare! Aside from one of the girls I was with causing a slight scene by catching her bag on fire in one of the candles on our table, we were able to enjoy a truly authentic Italian experience, robust waiters and all. We may have spent over 2 hours there – watching our waiter dance the rumba, inventing the language of “Spantalian”, and laughing our heads off. And we’re used to long Spanish meals, so it was no big deal.
Tuesday we woke up bright and early for all things Vatican. After checking our bags at the train station for the day, we were ready for Italian meal numero tres – pastry and cappuccino yumminess. Note to self and any of you that may be thinking about going to Italy, café con leche is definitely the Spanish thing… when in Rome it’s cappuccinos all the way. Kay, now that that’s clear, our route to the Vatican was not the least bit comfortable, in any way. It started with a super packed metro full of people stepping on my toes and squishing me from both sides and then culminated with rowdy tour guides pestering us with their solicitations along the street. By the time we reached Saint Peter’s Basilica we were all a bit flustered but the beauty of the Basilica quickly turned our slight frowns upside down. The Basilica was so large and ornately decorated (even in its more quant side chapels) that I couldn’t possibly imagine going to mass there, but it was extremely impressive and amazing all the same. This church is literally covered with art from floor to ceiling, including the tiles. Pretty insane. And for some purpose, of which I can think of none except to provide a little extra entertainment, the guards at the door were dressed in primary color striped puffy pants – sophisticated sounding, I knowwww, but I couldn’t think of a better way to paint that picture!
Post Basilica we wrapped around Vatican City to the Vatican Museum itself, which was also very impressive. And artistically overwhelming. So many statues!!! Eventually we ended up admiring them from slightly afar as we breezed on, closely following the signs to the Sistine Chapel. Maybe a guided tour would have been worth it after all… oh well, we got what we could out of it and it was a cool experience no matter what! Sistine chapel = unreal! All that artistic detail. On the top of the ceiling. With half of it upside down. I was speechless and very eager for a photograph but resisted the “illegal” temptation and will maybe just have to steal one from my braver friends in the near future. Yes, done and done!
When we’d had our fill of beautiful religious art, we said good-bye to Vatican City and made the trek back into Rome, the whole mile that it is, laughing at how we can’t understand how they are two different countries, but we’ll buy it anyways, whateves. It was now daylight Coliseum viewing time and this time we were going inside, which I have to admit was pretty freaking cool regardless of its slightly morbid associations. Along with seeing the ruins, we found some signs around describing the distinct history of the famous structure. In addition to gladiator fights, the arena was used for fights with animals and labyrinth type competitions. After getting our necessary photographs, we intended to continue the ruins exploration at the Palatine Hill but were unfortunately too late to enter. Oh well. Walking back to the Trevi fountain to people watch while eating gelato sounded like a great plan B. And make that kiwi gelato? Yes please! We killed time being touristy until about 7pm when we headed over to a cafeteria for a risotto dinner and then braced our selves for our overnight train to Venice. Ciao Roma!
Overnight train rides are certainly an experience, especially when your chair has a top and a bottom but no middle section – awkward 7 hour riding position. But we made it to Venice safe and sound and consequently the way we got there quickly became a mute point. At 5:45am the train station was too cold to bear for 5 and a half hours while waiting for the other half of our Venice group to arrive from Florence, so Molly, Jen, and I ventured outside and, viola!! There it was, the grand canal. Gondolas, water taxis and all. VENICE. Of course the city itself was pretty dead at that hour so we parked ourselves at the first open café we found and happily sipped on early morning cappuccinos while ignoring the raised eyebrows our pjs and suitcases were causing. Tourists?? No, of course not! But, sorry what was that last part? Ohhhhh, well we don’t actually know Italian… do you speak Spanish?? And that about sums up our morning.
Upon being joined by the rest of our friends around noon we ventured across our first Venetian bridge – the Gugglie – to the apartment we would be staying in for the next two days. It was adorably Italian and served us perfectly. After pausing for lunch, we set off to do the number one recommended thing to do in Venice – get lost. That’s right. Getting lost in the streets of Venice was actually our objective, the reason for going out without a map. And we were (unsurprisingly) successful. Needless to say, we’d had lots of unintentional preparation. While lost we saw, well Venice – boats, bridges, and little shops selling pasta, glass figurines, leather purses, masks, and your typical souvenirs. One of my friends then decided to get up close and personal with the canal and that ended our little wondering spree as our carefree meandering turned into a pause of hysterical laughter and then hurried ushering back to a warm shower. Never a dull moment. Wrap up the evening with “personal” pizzas basically the size of Pluto and a surprise birthday celebration complete with delicious Italian pastries for none other than yours truly and that was Venice day one.
There’s really only one place to go from day one… Day two: Island Hopping. Instead of a metro system, Venice has public boats, lots of them. So day two we bought our selves 12 hour transportation passes and had pretty much found our entertainment for the day. I’m actually not sure which we thought was more exciting the island themselves, or touring around on the boats to get there – passing rowers, watching waves, and seeing sunsets. But anyways, the first island we visited was Murano – home of the glass blowing industry. We wondered into a storeroom to look around and found ourselves in the middle of a demonstration, learning amazing facts about oven temperatures and colors that I promptly forgot and consequently cannot relay to you… opps. After getting our fill of glass figurine browsing in the hundreds of stores lining the outside of the island, we migrated over to Bermeo – home of the brightly colored summer houses. Upon arrival, it was pretty obvious that this island was a summer dream land and a winter ghost town but the houses were pretty regardless of the lack of habitants and there still just so happened to be a gelateria that was more than happy to scoop out heaping cones of nutella and coffee gelato without worrying about the ridiculousness of it in 4 degree (Celsius) weather.
When we could no longer feel our toes, we bid Bermeo a fond fair well and hopped back on the boat to the main island. After fighting our way to seats in the heated section of the boat, I quickly abandoned mine to go stand in the freezing cold and watch the sunset over the water. Regardless of what my friends will tell you, it was SO worth it! Seeing the sky turn a beautiful red while standing on a boat in your 6th European country in 3 months is pretty impressive. 45 beautiful minutes later we were back on the main island, gathering goodies for a homemade meal in our apartment before heading out to Piazza San Marco to see all the twinkling Christmas lights at night. Although I still couldn’t seem to grasp that Christmas was coming soon, it was a very pretty sight. Before we knew it it was midnight and time to go repack for our return to Spain in the morning. During our 4 hour layover in Barcelona on Friday I had lots of time to reflect on the wonderfulness of Denmark and Italy and how truly blessed I am, watch Elf and still negate the fact that Christmas is approaching, think about exams coming up, and ignore blog writing hehehe.