Monday, May 3, 2010


I know… I did it again… for almost 2 months I have posted nothing! But I think to make this easier I will catch you up a little at a time this time. J But a lot has happened in the last sixty-plus days, so here are some of the highlights…

A few days after my last post was Carnilvale! Italy’s biggest Carnivale celebration is in Venice, but Amanda, Christina, and I decided to visit Viareggio, which is less than 2 hours away by train.

Viareggio is on the coast of Tuscany, so we were excited to check out the beach and the celebrations.

On Saturday, we had a late start leaving Florence, so we did not arrive in Viareggio until early afternoon. When we finally go there, we were so excited! The sun was shining and the town was so cute. As we walked from the train station towards the beach, we could not believe how empty the streets were! We came across a very cool outdoor market and when we finally reached the coast, there were kids in costumes, candy stands, performances, and a lot of expensive shops. Also- there was confetti everywhere from people playfully throwing it on each other! First we got coffee and pizza, then we checked out the beach and walked down the main road along the coast. We were very entertained by the people in costumes and all the Puffy Jackets! (Everyone in Europe has a puffy bubble jacket! J )

When it was time to head back to the train station we were tired and chilly and ready for home. We hopped on our train and relaxed… an hour or so later, the ticket checker came by for our tickets, and he told us we were on the wrong train. In broken English he explained that we had been riding a northbound train. Florence is EAST of Viareggio…. So we hopped off the train at the next stop. This apparently was a very bad idea. It was dark and freezing outside and the train station was small and seemingly abandoned.

After freaking out a little because there were no more trains to Florence, we found a new route, and waited for another train… we ended up back in Viareggio before we could catch a train to Florence, and by the time we were home it was nearly midnight! Such a crazy day… but this one was my second and last bad train experience (knock on wood!), so I hope I have learned all my lessons about train travel in Italy!

The following day was Valentine’s Day. It was a slow day for us, and for dinner- we made a lovely feast. Christina is a pro at cooking comfort food, so she took the main course. I took care of salad and bread, and Amanda (who is less fond of cooking J) provided wine and a frozen dessert! It was a beautiful dinner! It was delicious, and full of Love! J

That week was also my first time climbing up to San Miniato in Florence. I went with my Art History class, and it was a terribly rainy day. Despite the poor weather- the view was magnificent! Not only is San Miniato my favorite view of Florence, but it is also a beautiful church, and the oldest in Florence- as in, it was constructed in the 11th century!

The next weekend- my 3 roommates and I headed to Rome with two other friends- Corey and Sam. Corey also goes to Clemson, and Sam is his roommate abroad. Our trip started with a €16 train ride to Rome for about 4 hours- not a bad deal. When we arrived, the temperature was significantly warmer than Florence, so we were all so excited to be in Rome! Before we even reached the city center we were taking pictures of EVERYTHING! I’m sure we looked like the ultimate tourists with our backpacks and cameras trekking around the city. Before finding our hostel we managed to see the Trevi Fountain (and toss a few coins in), eat pizza, and have gelato.

Our hostel was across the city from the station, so it was a long walk, but we eventually threw our stuff in our (sketchy) room and headed for Piazza del Popolo. Then we caught the sunset with some wine on the Spanish Steps. We later hit the grocery store and returned to the Trevi Fountain- a wonderful place to sit and watch…

Saturday morning, after surviving our first night at a hostel, all 6 of us went to the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel. That was all we knew to expect, but it was really so much more than that! The museum is filled with priceless art, and with our audio tour- we were totally wrapped up in the history. My favorite works were the Frescos in the Rafael rooms. This is where the famous School of Athens is, and I loved the other walls and ceiling as well!

After the museum- the sun was out! FINALLY! J It was wonderful, so Christina, Amanda, and I sat in St. Peter’s Square for almost an hour before deciding to cross the city again to find the Roman Forum!

Also- quick side note- there is a picture of me filling up a water bottle in St. Peter's Square. This was very exciting for me because, tragically, one cannot drink free water anywhere in Italy except from these public fountains. Because I am not accustomed to paying to drink water at restaurants, I am ALWAYS looking for these fountains! J This one was especially good because it was Vatican Water!

When we finally reached the Coliseum, it was closed, so we couldn’t go inside, but it was lovely to look at. Once it was dark, we left the forum to wander and take in the city.

Sunday morning, we checked out of our hostel and headed straight for the Vatican. We not only wanted to see the Basilica, but we were on a mission. We wanted to go to mass and see the Pope.

We slipped into one of the many masses for the day, and it was the coolest mass I have ever been to. This was the first Sunday of Lent, and there were priests from all over the world involved. Different parts of the mass were said in different languages, and it was awesome.

After the mass, we literally ran out of the basilica and into the square. We were not going to miss the Pope’s blessing! J I tease Amanda that she knocked over a few nuns and plowed a tour group because she was so determined and thrilled to see the “PapĂ .” The blessing was also a very cool experience. The Pope spoke out his office window in 7 different languages to everyone there.

From the Vatican- we headed to the train station, making stops for more gelato and the Pantheon along the way. At the Pantheon (which is the world’s oldest in-tact structure- from 30 A.D.), Christina was determined to find Rafael’s tomb. She was hysterically searching for it because her high school art history teacher told her that is was under the oculus. J Well, it wasn’t under the oculus but we eventually found it along the wall in a rather obvious location!

Finally we headed back to Florence, home sweet home. Rome was such a great time, I loved it, but it is always nice to come back to charming Firenze!