I want to preface this by saying the trip to Florence my friends and I went on this past weekend was incredible. I recommend going if you can. That said, everyone has horror stories of their first real trip outside of where they study. Unfortunately, this applies to the adventures my friends and I had. So read along as I share the ups and downs of planning a last-minute trip to Florence. I hope by the end you take away the painful lessons we learned from this experience.
The first issue arose when my friends and I sat together with one goal: to plan a weekend trip to Florence. On the Wednesday of our weekend trip. Problems arose fast; too many problems to count. We only had two laptops for the whole group and not everyone traveling was at the meeting. The worst of all was the eagerness we had to finish the planning as soon as possible. The first lesson is to never do anything I mentioned. Planning a trip anywhere is a process that takes a great deal of time and research. You will not find the best hostel in your first google search. You might not be staying in your temporary housing long, but you do not want it to be the bare minimum. And getting a general idea of what you want to do while traveling is important. Yet, despite our eagerness in planning, we found good train tickets, hostels to stay in, tickets to the Uffizi gallery and plenty of food recommendations from friends and siblings (thanks Sarah!)
The second problem to be aware of when planning any trip is timing and the mismanagement of it. Our train leaving Rome was at 9am but the reputation of the Italian rail system did not reassure us, anything could happen. My alarm was set for 7:30am. I was expecting to meet everyone in the lobby around 8am. From there we would take the metro to the train terminal and board the train with time to spare. This could not be farther from what actually occurred. A combination of miscommunication, oversleeping, and sheer laziness almost produced catastrophe. What happened was that we sprinted through Roma Termini at 8:58am, almost missing the train. One of us actually threw up on the way. While this was the most extreme example of timing issues, it was not the end of them. After we arrived, we wanted to go to the Boboli Gardens, but due to lack of planning, none of us knew they closed at 3:30pm. We found this out at 4pm. So always make sure you know the timetable of your day.
The last problem to mention is the most crucial: knowing what you want to do when you travel. Once you pick out your place to stay and confirm your method of transportation, it may seem like the work is over. This is a lie. There is a fine line between exploring the city you find yourself in and having no idea what there is to do in said city. The Uffizi Gallery was beautiful but there is a limit to the paintings of Jesus and Madonna I can take. The simple truth is you need more than one event per day. Plan a good amount of things, too, instead of banking on one museum or park. Every city presents its own opportunities and challenges. The hours for the museum you want to visit could be different on that weekend. Instead of waiting in a line to see David, pre-purchase the tickets in advance. You only might be traveling somewhere for a long weekend, do not waste any time!
So, what have we learned? First, take more than one evening to plan out a full trip itinerary. Second, always make sure you have the timing of every aspect of the trip nailed down. Third, know the what, the when, and the where of all places you plan on stopping by. I actually have not mentioned the most important aspect of any trip: have fun! No matter where you study abroad, you need to take advantage of all the opportunities in front of you. Traveling within your country of choice or to other countries nearby is a gift to use. I plan on going on many more trips both across Italy and Europe. But after this weekend, I know what not to do and I hope you now know as well.
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Hey! My name is Ian and I am a junior at Ithaca College, where I major in history meaning long papers are my specialty. I play on my school's club ultimate frisbee team and we even went to the national tournament! I am from New York City so navigating public transit is a refined skill of mine. I am beyond excited and grateful for the opportunity to study abroad in Rome, eat amazing food and see places I've dreamed of seeing my whole life.