Wednesday, May 7, 2008


I'm back from Italy!  Actually, I got back on Sunday, but I've been swamped with homework and classes since then, so I haven't had a chance to write about my trip yet.  Italy was AMAZING.  We went to so many different cities and really got to experience a little of nearly each piece of the country.  Each city and little town was so distinct, but they were all so cool!  
We started our trip in northern Italy where we stayed with some friends of a friend who are living in a smaller town called Aviano, about 45 minutes outside of Venice.  That afternoon we took a train to Venice and spent the rest of the day winding our way through the city.   
Venice was really pretty, but it was a lot smaller than I expected--especially the basilica in St. Mark's Square.  Too bad everything in Europe is being renovated, though....all the scaffolding just doesn't make things look the same.
The next day we headed to Florence, which I also loved.  They city was big, but just small enough that I never felt like I was going to get lost.  The Duomo was just as gorgeous as all of the pictures, and we even climbed the 414 steps in the campanile (the bell tower) to get a better look at it (as well as an amazing view of the entire city).  We went to the Academia museum and saw the David (he was so tall!), saw the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Duomo and Baptistry, and even got to stay in the beautiful Tuscan countryside.
We stayed in the "Hostel Heart of Tuscany" which was about an hour outside of Florence, but they picked us up right from the train station and took us back into town each day, so it was really quite convenient.  To make things even better, we had originally booked rooms in the hostel, but our friends decided to join us, and the hostel was too full for all of us, so they gave us our own private house (which used to be the old winery) in the villa!  The villa was complete with an infinity pool and the whole area was just absolutely gorgeous.  We almost ended up staying longer but decided we should just spend the next day in Florence and head out to visit friends in Orvieto.
On the second day in Florence I made a trip to the Palazzo Pitti art gallery.  I went there to see a painting (the Madonna and Child by Murillo) which my great great grandmother had copied during her days as a copy artist.  The painting has been hanging in my Grammy's living room ever since I was born, and I have always loved seeing it each time I visit her.  Seeing this painting proved to be a lot more difficult than I thought it would be, however.  First of all, the museum was HUGE!  We only had a couple of hours left in Florence before our train left, so I thought that was more than enough time, but we almost missed it!  Once we got in line to get into the museum, we realized we actually had to buy tickets on the other side of the building before getting into line.  After looking at the line we were already in and the ticket line, we knew we wouldn't have enough time to buy tickets and still make it into the museum in time.  So, we made it through security and into the museum courtyard, and we thought we were in.  However, it turns out you need a different ticket to get into each of the areas of the museum.  Luckily, we talked one younger ticket taker into letting us into the museum gardens.  They were so pretty, and we had a great view of the city from there.  On the downside, you still needed another ticket to get into the museum galleries to see the paintings.  We were about to give up when a couple in the gardens asked us to take their picture.  In return, we asked if we could buy their gallery tickets, but they ended up just giving them to us as a gift for the photos!  We finally made it into the galleries and were nearly running through the museum to look for the painting.  Like I said, the museum was gigantic, and we were about out of time.  After searching an entire floor, we realized it was on a completely different floor, so we headed down there.  When we finally found the painting, it was in about the third to last room of those galleries.  I had almost given up--swearing I had either overlooked it or that it was in one of the roped off areas.  I would have been so sad if I had been that close and missed it!  When I finally saw it, I recognized it immediately.  Conveniently, there was a bench right in front of it, and I was able to sit and just admire the painting for a while.  I must have had a pretty awe-stricken look on my face (due to the fact that I had finally found it--just in time, and because I was seeing a little part of my family history in person) because all of the other museum-goers noticed my intent stare and also stopped and looked for quite a while.  After seeing the painting, I felt like my trip to Florence was complete.  I had just enough time to grab a couple postcards, eat more gelato, and hop on a train.
That afternoon we took a train to Orvieto where a lot of the K-State architecture students are studying.  There are two different programs in Italy, and several of the students from the other program in Santa Chiara visited us in Prague during their spring break.  I've really enjoyed visiting our friends over here, seeing where they go to school, how they live, and what types of projects they're working on.  Orvieto was a cute little town, but it was a lot bigger than I imagined.  Above is a photo of the duomo of Orvieto, which I heard has the most ornamented facade of any church in Italy.  We went out to dinner at one of their favorite pizza places and just hung out and caught up with all of the people studying there. 
The next morning we took another train to Rome.  WOW.  There was so much to see in Rome--it was incredible.  The city was so big, and there was entirely too much to see, but it was wonderful.  I think we hit all of the highlights, but there were many more sights our friends recommended that we missed out on because it just wasn't possible to see it all.  Each place we visited was so cool, and it was amazing to be seeing all of the things we had spent so much time learning about in our three semesters of architectural history.  St. Peter's was gigantic, and I think that's one of the reasons it was so impressive.  We've been in a lot of cathedrals, and after a while they can start to get a little boring, but St. Peter's was definitely not boring!  
The Colosseum was also so incredible and big!  It's so cool to imagine actually being there and thinking about how the Romans actually used each of these buildings and monuments--and the sheer fact that they could actually build these things always astonishes me.
The Pantheon was also amazing.  Everything looks exactly like the pictures, but there is no comparison to actually visiting and seeing everything for yourself.  
The Trevi Fountain was way bigger than I thought, and it was probably one of the coolest things in Rome.  It was so pretty and such a nice place to just sit and enjoy the city (despite all of the crowds and guys trying to sell you things every five feet).  There is just so much to say about all of the places and sights in Rome, but I think my pictures probably show it the best.  This city is definitely one of the best places I have visited so far!  However, after a ton of walking and some very sore feet, we were happy to move on to southern Italy for some beach time.
We ended our trip in Sorrento, which is about an hour from Naples.  We were planning on going to Naples as well (especially for the pizza!), but decided against it when we heard it was dangerous, and honestly, we were tired of seeing sights all the time.  We wanted to relax in the sun, and Sorrento was the perfect place.  From the huge rock cliffs to the little houses tucked into the hillsides, the whole coast was so picturesque and beautiful.  We stayed in a camping village in a little green cabin, and the grounds had a restaurant, mini market, swimming pool (which wasn't open yet), and a private beach!  The beaches in Sorrento are actually just giant rocks, but we were glad to be in a warm city where we could just lay outside by the water and read a good book.  The city of Sorrento was also very cute--a very touristy city, but really nice nonetheless.  It was the perfect end to an amazing trip!

I have a TON of pictures of my trip to Italy, so be sure to look at them!  Here are links to my albums for Venice, Florence, Orvieto, Rome, and Sorreto.

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