Posts Tagged ‘italy’


6 May 2009

Goodness I’m taking forever with all of these updates. Sorry about that.

So this brings us to the final stop on European Adventure! Part 1. Venice. 


The land of a million canals and tiny bridges and many overpriced gondolas full of tourists.



Venice was probably the smoothest city of the trip…no major inconveniences or travel annoyances. Though I thought the directions for how to get to the hostel were particularly hilarious. It was like clues on a magical treasure hunt.

I’m not kidding. These were the directions, word for word:

Once you walk out of the train station , you will see a big bridge to your left. Walk over this and turn right so the canal is now on your right (fondamenta S. Simon Piccolo) . Continue walking along the canal cross a small bridge always canal on the right walk turn left and pass a green bridge on your right contiue walking (canal on your right) , pass a white bridge(on your right) walk over a little wooden bridge and go straight on (fondamenta del rio Novo) than follow round the left where you need to pass one bridge but walk over the second , turn left so that the canal is on your left, turn right at the end (into Rio de Santa Margherita) , cross the second bridge( on your left) and continue straight on until you come to a big square , Campo Santa Margherita, where Hotel Antico Capon is opposite and slightly on your right . Welcome.

But it turned out that once we actually started following the directions, they were very detailed and clear, and we had no problem making it. On paper though, it’s kind of hilarious. Our hostel was in this square:


It had a leaky sink and no hot water in the shower (it was like bathing in a melting polar ice cap) but we only stayed there one night. Our second hostel gave us a free upgrade to a three person private ensuite room, so that made up for it in my opinion. And it was also Venice culture week, so the art museum (full of Venetian masters of course) we went to was free! Yay!

In Venice, you encounter lots of surprising things on boats. I was particularly enchanted by the farmers’ market boat


and fascinated by the garbage boat.


It had a crane arm, much like the short lived garbage-can picker-upper claw that used to come through my neighborhood at home.

Obviously, I climed to the top of the Cathedral.



Actually, it’s more accurate to say “walked up a staircase to like the third floor of a normal building.” It wasn’t very high, but in my book, it still counts as being on top of a Cathedral.

Remember that scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Indy goes into that library place


and ends up in some catacombs and has to exit through a manhole cover into a square?


So that’s actually the church of St. Barnaba, which was around the corner from our 1st night hostel.


Some stewpod guy walked right in front of my photo, so I just put Indy on top of him. Speaking of fun with ghetto Photoshop Paint, this is me in my Carnival outfit:


My date though…he was rather bland, unfortunately.

Venice is pretty. It’s all about wandering through streets and getting lost along the canals and then magically figuring out where you are again. I will be sad when it eventually sinks into the ocean.

From Venice, I had a rather uneventful vaporetto (like a bus but water) ride to the bus station, and then it was on to the airport on the mainland. My flight was empty, so not only did I get to sit by the window while we flew over THE ALPS, I also had a whole row to myself.

The rest of the pics are here. There are some interesting little details and tidbits in the captions.

So two weeks after getting back, I’m finally done chronicalling EA!P1. It was an amazing experience: full of ups and downs, sprinkled with misshaps and moments of incredible life romance. I’m really proud of myself.

EA!P2 planning is well underway. I should be studying, but picking hostels and booking flights and researching sites are all way funner activities.

Still to come in the updates department: Greenwich, Brick Lane, Abbey Road, and Winchester/Chawton (aka Jane Austen-ville).


Choose your own Rome cliche!!

1 May 2009

It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure, but significantly less exciting.

This post needs a title. Do you choose:

a) All roads lead to Rome
b) When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
c) Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you chose a), please start reading now. For b and c, keep scrolling.

All roads lead to Rome  

But that doesn’t mean you won’t face obstacles trying to get there. 

The scene: Milan, early morning. Sunny and warm (it’s ALWAYS the best weather on the day you have to leave).

The Team rises from their comfy faux-sleeping bags to shove all of their worldly belongings back into too small bags. Dressed in clothes long since sullied with the burden of travel, they depart their lodging and make their way to the tram to the metro to the 9:30 train to Rome. However, as The Team approaches the tram stop, there appears to be a mass migration of people walking down the sidewalk next to the tram tracks.  The Team waits a few moments, and then decides that they are either caught in the movie The Happening or the train is not running. They decide to walk to the metro, along with many other unhappy commuters. Approximately 7 trams pass going the other way during the 15 minute walk.

Alarm begins to grow in some members of The Team. 0900 comes and goes, and time ticks forward with an uncomfortable rapidness. On the metro, each stop seems a lingering frivolity, a cruel game intending to toil with emotions. The Team consults their watches and ponders their accuracy.

Finally, The Team arrives at Milano Centrale and begins the epic dash from subway to train tracks. Time, the coyest of temptresses, seems to slow. The Team is running through the magnificent neo-classical halls of the station. The hands of the giant station clock click to 9:30 as The Team passes under with barely enough time for a slow-mo turn around and a weirdly deep “NOOOOOOOOOO!” But then, the track comes in to view and, lo, miracle of miracles, the train IS STILL THERE. The Team refuses to be lulled into complacency, and finally skids to a stop in front of the first car, frantically pushing the “Door Open” button. “No,” they think, “No this isn’t happening! We made it! We’re touching the train! Let us in! LET US INNNN!!”

And then, tragedy strikes. Before their very eyes, the train pulls away, sending The Team to their knees, grasping at the air in anguish.

Fade to black.

End scene.

Ok, maybe it wasn’t quiet that dramatic, but I swear, at one point, I heard the music from the Qui-Gon/Darth Maul Star Wars EpI fight playing softly in the background. It was a little bit hard to make out though, over the pounding of our sneakers on the marble floor and the exaggerated heavy breathing noises that always accompany slow-motion running sequences.

After we stood on the platform in shock for a few minutes, we went to the ticket office and managed to change our reservations to the 10:30 train with no extra fee. But we seriously perplexed the ticket man in the process. I may write to the phrase book people and tell them the phrase “We missed our train” should be included in future additions.

And then we got on the 10:30 (Eurostar! posh) and passed through Genova and Firenze (I caught a glimpse of Brunelleschi’s dome on the Cathedral!) on the way to Rome. YAY.

If you chose b), please start reading now. For c, keep scrolling.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do.

It’s hard to evaluate the truth behind this cliche because I don’t even know if I saw any Romans while in Rome. I think the city is made entirely of tourists, only some have been altered to work in places in order to cater to their fellow tourists. This was good because everyone spoke English (huge sigh of relief on my part, since almost no one in Milan did), and maps were almost not needed because we could follow either signs or the tide of other tourists. This is bad because there were a lot of tourists, and tourists are annoying. Except for me. I am a good tourist.

There are SO MANY amazing things in Rome, and in 2 full days + 2 partial days, I think we made a good effort, but we still barely scratched the surface. 

To give you an idea of what we covered, here is my beloved trusty friend:


Pretty good right? And with the exception of the Metro to the Vatican (not back), that was all covered on foot.

Wait, I’ve just thought of something that the Romans and (smart) tourists do: Ignore the HORRIBLE street hustlers who try to sell you roses and tripods and noisemakers and light-up toys and ugly bean bag things and pictures in front of Trevi fountain.


No thanks, dude. I’ll take my own.

Oh and Romans have their gas stations on the sidewalk.


And they go to church. Though with something like 900 churches in the city, there’s really not enough space for everyone to worship. It’s a problem, and they should do something about it.

Seriously though. The Vatican. Blew. My. Mind. There are no words, so I will show you a video:

Taken inside St. Peter’s. And that doesn’t even account for the aneurysm of awesome I had in the museum. Guess what I did after shooting this video? That’s right. Climb up a death-defying 551 steps to the top of the basilica! And you have to go between the two layers of the dome and walk leaning sideways.


Ta da! Rome.

Here’s more of what I’ll call “Essence of Rome”

If you chose c), please start reading now. 

Rome wasn’t built in a day

In fact, Rome was built over the course of many, many, many days. 2762 years worth of days, to be exact.

Yes. 2762 years. And I know that because it was ROME’S BIRTHDAY while we were there. And WHEN IN ROME for Rome’s birthday, EVERYTHING IS FREE. Ok, not everything, but all of the state museums, including all the ancient ruins and all that. Silly Rome! You’re supposed to GET presents on your birthday, not give them to others! That’s not to say I’m not incredibly greatful, because srsly, thanks.

So in honor of Rome’s bday, we stumbled upon (and by stumbled upon, I mean saw people lining a street, inquired via my Italian skillz, and waited for like an hour) a PARADE OF ANCIENT ROMAN SOLDIERS IN COSTUME.


Except that the moment the parade finally started, it began to rain. Here’s a new cliche for you, Rome: When it rains, it POURS. It rained so hard. My shoes were wetter than marching band practice in a thunderstorm. We eventually had to take cover under the mighty edifice of the Colosseum, along with some of the paraders.


Most of my time in Rome was spent being utterly perplexed by how OLD everything is. Like walking around in the Colosseum and the Forum and looking at ruins like this:


and being like, “Oh, of COURSE there was a Temple here. And of COURSE Caesar and all those other famous ancient Romans hung out here thousands of years ok. Yes. That is totally reasonable and easy to imagine.”


It is impossible to fathom. My mindgrapes were thoroughly blown.

But it’s a great city, and I wish I could’ve spent more time there.

Photo roundup: I am not exaggerating when I say I took 700 photos of Rome. Seven. Hundred. So here are the best of the best, because the only person would ever want to see all of them is probably my mom.

Album 1: Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum, St. Peter’s

Album 2: The roof of St. Peter’s, Castel Sant’ Angelo, Piazza del Popolo, Trajan’s Column, VE II Monument, the parade, Ara Pacis, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon

Album 3: Chiesa del Gesu, Capitoline Museums, the Forums (foro, whatevs), the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, Circus Maximus, and the Bocca della Verita

In conclusion,


Lake Como and Milan

28 April 2009

Ok. For real this time.

I was distracted by some work I had to do for Barnard (shocking, right?). But now all is well.

So where was I? Right, Lake Como.

Now, this is not Lake Como the neighborhood in Orlando.


Nor the elementary school where I went to gifted one day a week in 2nd grade.


This is the Lake Como that was the basis of the Naboo lake country in Star Wars EpII where Padme and Anakin fall in lurv.


However, before we could enjoy its radiant beauty, The Team and I had to get there. It was supposed to be a simple 1 hour train ride. But as we all learned from EA!P1, there is no such thing as a simple train ride. First, the automatic ticket machine would only let us buy one ticket at a time. Then it wouldn’t take JP’s euros. Then it spit out tickets with this mysterious instruction to “Validate” before getting on the train. At that point, the train was about 2 minutes away from departing, so we ran like crazy, all the while frantically trying to determine how and where to “validate” the ticket. We got to the train and just decided to get on, throwing validation caution to the wind.

So a few minutes into the trip, Mr. Conductor comes through. When I give him my ticket, his brow furrows, and the following exchange occurs.

MR. CONDUCTOR: I am speaking in Italian, so you can only understand what I am saying from body language and context clues based on what you learned in that little pocket guide to Italian. I’m shaking my head and pointing to where it says Validate on the ticket.
ME: Yes, oops, about that…Also, I am not sure what you are saying.
MC: Kids these days. I shall now pull out a large notebook that contains the Naughty List. Babbo Natale will be hearing about this one.
ME: Mi dispiache?
MC: Here is a carbon copy of your Naughty List entry. Now give me 5 euro each. Which is the fine. For not validating your tickets. Even though you bought them from a machine that seems like it would dispense immediately usable tickets.
THE TEAM: (pays).
MC: Now, don’t you ever not validate your ticket again. This is a horrible crime. You could be fined 50 euros! Though there seems to be a hole in my logic because I did not take any identifying information from you that would in anyway lead to a record of this offense. Now I shall say something probably at your expense to the Italian lady sitting next to you and be on my way. Ciao!

And then we almost missed our stop because I didn’t see the sign and The Team was sleeping. Save for a little Italian lady who probably asked me how many more stops to Chiasso (the only word she said that I recognized), we would’ve ended up in Switzerland (this we didn’t learn until later, upon consultation of a map). So we lept off the train at the last moment.

After a bit of wandering, we found some food, an ATM, the Tourist Information (my new best friend) and, most importantly, THE LAKE.


Lake Como is shaped kind of like an upside down “Y,” and Como is the city at the bottom of the left “/” We took a bus along up to Belaggio, which is the town where the “/” and the “\” parts of the lake meet. More or less.

On the bus, I had to stand at first because there were no seats, but then I kept standing because it was kinda fun to hang my head out the window and take pictures during the hour long drive along windy narrow cliffside roads.


Dogs: You are definitely onto something with this head out the window of a moving vehicle idea. We should talk.

From Belaggio, we took a short ferry across to Varenna.


And climbed that GIANT hill of hugeness. At the top, we found both a castle and stunning vistas.



It was truly incredible. The Team and I marveled at the fact that we were just chillin on top of a hill in the middle of Lake Como in Italy. I had lots of “OH EM GEE REMEMBER HOW I’M IN ITALY RIGHT NOW??” moments during the trip. Also, after we saw the little tiny village at the top of the hill, with the three old ladies on the bench chatting up a storm in Italian, and heard various churchbells from all of the mountains chime 6’oclock, I tried to explain “life romantic” to The Team. It was a life-romance-explosion.

We had a bit of gratuitous sleeping in the next day, due to post Lake Como exhaustion, and got a late start in Milan. Still, I managed to summon the strength to climb on top of Il Duomo.

And that was pretty cool.

Milan was interesting. It wasn’t my favorite city of the trip; it’s a lot more like a commercial/business center for Italy rather than a tourist havin, but I was glad we went.

Milano: Not just a delicious cookie.

26 April 2009

Milano cookie:

milanoMilano, Italia:


Well, technically, I suppose that’s a postcard, but it illustrates my point.

So where were we? Leaving Nice, heading on to Milan via train. I think now would be an appropriate time to digress a tiny bit and talk a little bit about the Eurail Pass. 


The Eurail Pass is a magical little document that you buy ahead of time for a certain number of days of travel/combo of countries. And then you just flash that baby, theoretically, and it works like a train ticket. It comes with a booklet of all the timetables of all the cities and all the trains you could ride on with it. The timetables are written in code, and as we came to find out in the time leading up to EA!P1, all of the trains we would be taking require reservations ($$$).

So, we’re leaving Nice. At the train station, I validate my pass, and we do the Super Official Thing that is required: write the date in the box. This was the one train that didn’t need reservation, so we just hopped on. It was one of those double decker trains like you sometimes encounter on NJ Transit. We had a layover in Ventimiglia, which is about an hour from Nice (but in Italy). From there, the train to Milan required a reservation. Of course, the 1st train was delayed, so we missed the connection because we had to wait in line (with only one ticket agent) to make the reservation for the next train. No big.

Talking to the ticket lady was my first Italian!Victory because she didn’t speak English. High five, me. We got reservations (the cheapest ones too…only 5 euro) and wandered down to the beach and sat on a bench and people watched during our layover.

Back at the train station about 2 hours later, we found the train and got on the right carriage and discovered what can be best described as Hogwarts Express compartments. With slidy doors and luggage racks and curtains. And this annoying bushy haired girl came in asking if we had seen a nerdy kids toad. No jk. It was normal-seeming Italian teen girl (and we acquired a middle aged music fan/guitarist, a businessy man, and an adorable old man along the way).

When we got to Milan, DM’s friend C, who we stayed with, met us at the train station and kindly ushered us to his dorm, which was a bit of a hike. It was nice to be with someone who knows the way around for once. We had to ride the Metro, and then a tram to get out to his place. It was waiting for the tram that a crisis arose. The front desk guard from his building was also waiting. Unbeknownst to us prior to this, overnight guests were technically not allowed to stay, and Mr. Guard had just seen C and all of us burdened by backpacks, clear Overnight Staying Indicators. We formulated a stealth plan that evolved into us hiding behind bushes while C walked back in the building with his friends who were also getting back at the same time. Then we snuck in a secret side door that he opened from the inside, and ran into his room. Paranoia continued to plague our guilty minds–phantom boots (a la The Telltale Heart??) were heard in the hallway, so we spent about 5 mins huddled on his balconey with our belongings until danger passed. Then everything was totally fine. C’s friends donated extra blankets and pillows to make pseudo-sleeping bags, so thankfully we weren’t sleeping on the cold tile floor.

Wednesday morning, we got up bright and early for our day trip to Lake Como…

Sorry to leave you with a cliffhanger, but I’m going to have to say “To Be Continued”