Italian Interlude

Jada Bullen
October 28, 2015
Duomo in Florence

In one of my earlier posts I briefly mentioned buying a plane ticket on a whim to Milan, Italy. Well, that actually happened! Last weekend, five of us took advantage of our youth, spontaneity, and the Islamic New Year Holiday to travel to the land of pizza and pasta. But of course, Italy is so much more than the food and for four days we visited Milano, Venezia, and Firenze, discovering what that exactly means.

 I know that everyone says it, but I am going to say it again, because it is true: Italy is a beautiful country, rich in culture, rich in art, rich in cuisine, rich in language, and rich in some unnamed, illegible element that lingers on your mind—even after you have left their borders and returned to the hum drum routine within your own.

However, I find it a criminal offense to speak about Italy further without allowing you to see it, so I have included visual memories to accompany the written ones.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope you get the chance discover Italy for yourself.

WiFi

I have a deep appreciation for the presence of accessible WiFi in almost every public space; it’s very considerate of Italians. Every restaurant, gelato shop, and café had free wifi and all you had to do was ask for it. The train stations had wifi. The hostels had wifi,  and even the streets had WiFi in Milan ( You see why I have to move there?)  This made traveling much easier, because we rely on  internet to buy train tickets, check flights, connect with each other, and use Google Maps. I don’t know if this is characteristic of Europe in general, but I just had to shout out to Italy for keeping us connected.

 

Food

I ate exclusively pizza, pasta, and gelato this weekend. I know that is extremely touristy of me, but I have no regrets! Milano had my favorite pizza and Florence had the best pasta (which is saying something because I hate ravioli, and it was ravioli that I ordered).  All our meals ranged from 8-13 Euros, which is a lot more expensive than Morocco, but not the worst thing. We saved a bit by booking hostels that provided free breakfast. It also made the choices for lunch and dinner really easy: either pizza or pasta. While on the flight back to Casablanca, I dreamed of this pizza. No lie. 

Milan

 Feel free to visit me in Milano in a few years. I am moving there. I have decided this. It was definitely my favorite city of the three. I loved the urban vibe, the fashion atmosphere (it is the Fashion Capital of the World, I’m pretty sure), and the incorporation of older gothic architecture. It is the type of city where you can work and explore, and coming from Washington D.C., which has that similar characteristic, I really connected with Milan.  

Shameless plug: We stayed at Hostel Ostello Bello, which is the COOLEST place ever. The atmosphere is young and hip and the facilities are immaculate. We pretty much were living in a hotel with free continental breakfast, except we slept in bunk beds. 

  The Duomo, impressive from within and without

 

Milano from the top of the Duomo

Transportation

We spent a good part of our entire trip on trains of some sort. Milano to Venice. Venice to Florence. Florence to Milano. Milano to the Airport. The Italian train system is clean, efficient, and quite easy to navigate. All you have to do is go on Trenitalia.com and buy a ticket. The next day, just arrive at the train station and walk in, or you can buy a ticket right there at the station. The prices for our tickets were not horrible, ranging from 30 – 55 euro. However that does add up, considering the number of times we used the train; so it is something to budget for. 

Venice

The city built on sand and tourism. I might have to return to Venice in different circumstances. Maybe with more money, maybe with more time, maybe with a bae (so I can fit in with all the romanticism oozing from every crevice)  . . .

In terms of aesthetics, it was not a disappointment. The island part of Venice looks exactly as it does in the pictures, but the veneer of tourism was everywhere. I felt as if I couldn’t have a fully authentic experience in Venice because all of its authenticity is also commodified for tourists like me. Also, we simply did not have enough time, one afternoon is not enough. 

I learned that there are two Venice’s. The island is the widely known, highly photographed portion, and the other part is the mainland. Our campsite/hostel Camp JOLLY was on the mainland, but the directions made us believe it was on the island, which is a completely different train stop. My friend and I spent the first hour trying to figure out a metro system in order to get to a shuttle that didn’t exist, and then the next two hours riding more metros, standing in crowded buses, and then just walking and walking until we finally found the campsite.  We had asked directions from the bus drivers, people on the street, and a guy who made calzones but all of their directions were incomplete or confusing. Moral of the story: Venetians aren’t big on directions. 

After recuperating from our frustrating morning, we didn’t return to the island to meet our other three friends until 4 pm.  We tried to meet them at the Duomo but the water taxi took about an hour from one side of the island to another, and when we got off the boat and walked into a maze of buildings, bridges, and canals it was all too confusing. We resigned to just doing our own thing: exploring the alleyways and eating our feelings.

While we ate dinner (surprise! I had pizza), by some divine intervention, and the presence of WiFi everywhere, we were able to communicate with the rest of the group , and guess what? We found each other and realized that we all were staying at the SAME CAMPSITE. Irony. We could have stayed together the whole time . . .

The evening brought fortune. Once reunited, we rode a gondola together for 20 Euro each (100 Euro in total. Steep price). It was worth it;  gondola rides are possibly more beautiful at night. 

All I wanted to do in Venice was take pictures and ride a gondola, which I got to do. So, Venice was a success. 

Firenze.

Also known as Florence. Florence is a beautiful city, the home of Michelangelo, and surrounded by the greater region of Tuscany. The city has preserved its medieval/ Renaissance-esque ambience and although it was packed with people, the artistry exuded an overarching serenity, at least for me. I felt very calm and happy in Florence, and I needed that after Venice.

Above is an attempt at an artsy/picturesque photo in honor of Michelangelo’s city. 

The Squad.

We took a bike tour around Florence (Firenze.) I was initially against the idea, because I am generally against activities that seem like exercise. However, it actually turned out to be a wonderfully splendid afternoon, and I wouldn’t want to see Florence any other way. Our tour guide, Gulia, was so lovely and everything was FANTASTIC!  You must go inside this church, it's Fantastic! Look at these sculptures they are Fantastic! Now, I can’t help but say Fantastic in an Italian accent, my friends aren’t really laughing at it anymore, but I can’t stop. 

Look, another Duomo! 

 

Imitation as a form of Flattery.

  The Statue of Neptune. Apparently, when this sculpture was made, the Florentine people hated it and turned it into a public bath/toilet.  They much preferred Michelangelo’s David. Maybe I would have too, but we didn’t have time to see it. 

Honestly, I did not want to leave, but this trip to Italy was only supposed to be a taste, a quick break, and now I am back to exploring Morocco. I am not worried though, I will be back.

 

 

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Jada Bullen

<p>I am Junior studying in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University. As a feminist by thought and a hipster at heart, I seek every opportunity to break the barriers, disprove the labels, and blur the lines.</p>

Destination:
Term:
2015 Fall
Home university:
Georgetown University
Major:
Cultural Studies
International Studies
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