Pour yourself a generous class of vino and call Domino’s; We’re going to Italia!
What better way to start a reflection on Italy than my total failure of an attempt at the most standard touristy picture there ever was?
I want to start by saying that overall, my experience in Italy was truly amazing. It is one of the most culturally rich and scenically breathtaking places I have ever been, and I hope that everyone has the chance to experience it’s awe one day.
I spent most of my time in Siena (in the Tuscany region aka WINE central) to study at their local uni, but on weekends I was fortunate enough to make my way to Florence, Venice, Rome, Pisa, Cinque Terre and even Madrid, Spain! Before I go further, 2 disclaimers: (1) I am not a travel agent, nor am I employed by Italy’s Ministry of Tourism so my account will hide no truths whatsoever, and (2) My mother reads my blog so you’re going to have to see me privately if you want the juicy stories.
I’m sure a lot of you have never heard of Siena before. This might be because, far from a tourist destination, Siena represents the version of Italy that you read about in history books. From the hilly cobblestone roads to the absence of air conditioning, the little province in Tuscany is a glorious snapshot from the past. For the first couple weeks, the daily routine was basically wake up, drink absurdly cheap wine and be amazed at this totally unique and spectacular world. That said, it isn’t exactly somewhere I’d recommend for a long period of time. As I mentioned, it’s not a tourist destination, and that is certainly reflected in the treatment from the locals. Aside from the few nice servers, and the rare run-ins with the almost non-existent younger generation, the vibe just isn’t very welcoming to outsiders. Mind you this isn’t specific to Siena, but gets more tolerable as you enter the tourist hotspots like Venice and Rome. However, since you’re contributing to their economy, and doing so at an unfavourable exchange rate, don’t let that prevent you from milking the experience!
Piazza Del Campo for the world famous Palio!
Florence was without a doubt the city that sparked my love for Italy. From being a guest at the home of some of history’s most cherished monuments, putting artwork to the familiar names of Michelangelo and Da Vinci at the iconic Ufizzi gallery, to satisfying my craving for an elaborate and electrifying nightlife experience- I would return in a heart beat.
The stunning Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
Unlike Florence, Venice is somewhere I don’t think I’d re-visit. Not at all discrediting the city on its beauty and history-laced ambience, but it’s just too crowded and ‘edited’ for my liking. I was hoping for a more authentic experience than the one I had, but it’s tough to appreciate the beauty when someone is trying to sell you a selfie stick around every corner. Overall I found it to be slightly underwhelming, but the Doge Palace was elaborately beautiful, and experiencing the Jewish Ghettoes first-hand after learning about it for so long made the trip totally worth it. Funny enough, one night after completely disobeying my mom’s orders and talking to strangers (sorry not sorry), I got a tour of the not-so-touristy parts of Venice and they were far more beautiful than the central hub. My advice: hit up the borders and coastal outskirts for the best that Venice has to offer.
Golden ceilings of the Doge Palace
My experience in Rome was quite a whirlwind. For whatever strange reason, the main nightclubs close for the Summer (I know, what?!), so my friends and I ended up on quite an adventure when we tried to find them on the weekend. Putting that aside, Rome is g o r g e o u s. I will admit it does feel a little like a big tourist trap, but it is beautiful enough to pull that off. The awesome thing is that main attractions like the Colosseum, Spanish Steps, Ruins and Vatican City are pretty close together so even though Rome wasn’t built in a day, it can definitely be seen in one. The attractions were neat and the shopping was awesome but overall, the feeling of just being in Rome by itself is simply unparalleled.
Top of the Trevi Fountain (the fountain itself was being renovated)
Does this really need a caption?
Pope Frances’ Hood
CINQUE TERRE is the most beautiful place I have ever been to in my 21 years on this planet (after Trinidad and Tobago obviously). We stayed at the first of 5 towns along the coast, Riomaggiore, and I can’t stress enough how unbelievably perfect this little paradise is. The pictures will do the talking.
Oh yeah I jumped off a cliff..
Quick word on Madrid: I genuinely want to live there. Vibrant and welcoming people, gorgeous architecture, delicious food, UNREAL nightlife (there was a 7 storey club, c’mon)and an epic fashion scene. There is literally nothing more that I could possibly want. Of all the places I’ve been to, Madrid is at the very top of hopeful re-visits.
What was the absolute highlight though? The friends I made. People always want to hear about the sights you saw and the things you did, but the incredible people that lived those experiences with you somehow get shafted out of the stories. Not this time. From the awesome UofT contingent that I went with to the total strangers from around the world who I can only hope to meet again, the connections I made take the cake. Special shoutout to the beauties below who now have enough first hand information on me to ruin my entire life- you make much better lifelong souvenirs than keychains and shot glasses.
Sidenote: I think my renewed commitment to the gym upon returning answers the FAQ- How was the food?
I hope this verbose account of my trip didn’t bore you to tears. If you made it to the end, congratulations! Pour yourself another glass of wine. You earned it!