I just got back from my last big weekend trip of study abroad. Here’s how it went:
Saturday, April 29 – Venice
We got the 04:05 u-bahn to Praterstern, then got on the 04:15 S7 to the airport. We got through security, went to our gate and got coffee. We had a short flight and arrived in Venice before 08:00. We bought tickets for the Alilaguna water taxi to the island. We were on it for about an hour (the blue line) and got off at San Marco.
We had no plan for the entire weekend, so we just wandered. We walked around and went into some shops, then got coffee at Caffé del Doge, it was amazing! We took the bus to our airbnb on the mainland once we could check in because we were tired of carrying our backpacks. The route was direct, fairly quick, and a short walk to the airbnb. We dropped our stuff then got back on the bus to the island. It was late afternoon, so we stopped at a place called Bepe Bigoi and got pasta to go. I got spaghetti bolognese and eating it felt like a hug for my soul. It was so incredible.
We walked to find a spot where we could get a Gondola ride. We found one place and waited in line for 45 minutes until we realized we were in the wrong line. Apparently we were in line for the private ones. We got in line for the group one and waited another half hour. When it was finally our turn, we boarded, paid the 2€ fee, and we were off! And by off, I mean off of the Gondola. Apparently, we were on a Traghetto, a Gondola with two rowers used to cross the grand canal. Dumbfounded? In shock? I have no words to describe our reaction to what just happened.
We rewarded ourselves for our Gondola fail by getting gelato at Suso before going in for another attempt. The line was insane, but it went relatively quickly and was worth the wait. I got a scoop of Moro of Venice and a scoop of Suso on a cone. We ate on a bridge above the water and watched the Gondolas pass through. After, we went to a spot where we could get a private Gondola and did it! The ride was so relaxing and peaceful, I really enjoyed it. It was pretty quick and cost 80€, but it was worth it for the experience and to cross off the bucket list. We got dinner at Trattoris Al Gazzettino, and I ordered a Bellini and alfredo with chicken and mushrooms. Everything was amazing. We got back to our airbnb a little after midnight and went to bed.
- Bring good walking shoes (I was at 21 stand hours and my feet hated me)
- We went to Harry’s Bar, where the Bellini was created, but immediately left after seeing the steep 22€ price for one
- I Tre Mercanti apparently has incredible tiramisu, but they closed by the time we would have gone (12:00-19:00)
Sunday, April 30 – Florence
We woke up and checked out of our airbnb. It was about a 15 minute walk to the train station, and we stopped in a cafe on the way to get chocolate croissants and cappucinos (only $3!!!) We got on our train to Florence and the ride lasted about 2 hours. We walked around and got lunch at Il Bottegone. I got a mimosa and we split a Tuscan cheese board and Bruschetta. We took a tram and a bus to get to our airbnb once we could check in around 15:00. We had trouble figuring out where to get tickets for the tram, but they are right on the street by all the tram stops.
We got to our airbnb about 30 minutes out of the city center and I fell in love with it. Our host, Antonio, was the sweetest person ever. He didn’t speak much English so communicated with us through translate in Italian. The apartment was perfect. It had a fully stocked kitchen, gas stove, fridge, sugar, spices, moka pots, espresso, coffee machine (literally everything). The bedspread and curtains were so cottagecore I was obsessed. The thing I will miss the most though, is our beautiful balcony. It had the cutest ceramic table and was decorated with so many flowers. The place was also pristine and so clean. If you’re ever in Florence, you can find the link to the airbnb: here.
We chilled in the apartment for about an hour, then went back to the city center. We walked around some more and found a place for dinner called Il Ricettario. I got a glass of the house white (dry) and oh my gosh it was the best wine I’ve ever had in my life. I wish I knew the name or paid attention to the bottle. I also got spaghetti carbonara which was incredible (the trend of this trip is simply walking and eating pasta, but I have no complaints).
We heard someone playing the violin after we left the restaurant, so we decided to walk toward it. We ended up standing in this square, Piazzale Degli Uffizi, for almost an hour listening to this guy, Kevin Mucaj, play the most beautiful songs on the violin. It was the type of moment where you know while you’re living it that you need to enjoy it because these moments are so rare.
We left to get gelato at Venchi, which was (once again) worth the wait. I got a scoop of the chocoviar and a scoop of the cappuccino in a cup. We walked back toward the square and listened to a couple more songs while we sat on the steps and ate our gelato. By that time, it was getting close to midnight and the street crew had started to clean up. We left after we finished our gelato and took the tram toward our airbnb. The bus wasn’t running anymore, so we walked back to our airbnb. The walk was fine, but once again, I wish I wore more comfortable shoes.
Monday, 1 May – Tuscany Day Trip
I was feeling impulsive last night and bought a tour through Get Your Guide. My friend had a lot of homework to catch up on, so she stayed in Florence and we each had our solo moment. I got up early (again) at 06:20 and caught a glimpse of the sunrise. I walked out onto our balcony and the sound of the birds chirping was lovely. I packed my bag the night before, so I was quick to head out.
Since May 1 is a public holiday (Labour Day) in Italy, I wasn’t sure if the bus would be running so I decided to walk to the tram stop. It was a beautiful morning and so peaceful. I got on the tram then found my group in the ticket room of the train station. There were more people than I had anticipated, and we were on a double decker bus! I got lucky and scored a front row to myself on the top level.
We had an hour drive to Pisa. The tower was, in fact, leaning. I took photos and strolled around during our free time. I met a sweet man who took my photo and we talked for a little bit before I went back to meet the group. There’s a selfie of us on his phone somewhere.
We drove to lunch at Taverna di Bibbiano and the drive was so scenic. The lush green rolling hills and Tuscan countryside was everything I had dreamed of. Wild poppies grew everywhere and it was perfect. When we got to lunch, they already had our first course waiting for us: salami, cheese, bruschetta, and an assortment of bread. We also got to taste some wines, starting with a white and ending with Chianti. Our second course was a plate with some type of red tomato sauce with meat, like bolognese. For dessert, we got biscotti that we dipped in a type of organe/rosé wine.
We had a little time to walk around after and take in the beautiful vistas before getting back on the bus. It was a short drive to San Gimignano, a small medieval hill town in the province of Siena. I walked around with a woman I met who was also solo travelling. We went into shops (I bought some soap, a pasta magnet, and a postcard), then made our way to the main square where we got gelato. Our guide recommended the world champion Dondoli gelateria, but the line was outrageously long and we didn’t have the time to wait. We settled on Gelateria dell Olmo which was right next door and had a shorter line. I got lemon gelato and it was really good!
We walked and took in the views, then made our way back to the bus. We stopped in a truffle shop, where I got some samples and bought a mini jar of truffle honey. We had a 45 minute drive to our last stop, Siena. My main goal for this spot was to find a Nannini cafe and I was successful! I got gelato (for the second time in one day) and it was lifechanging (I’m running out of ways to say that all the food we had was simply the best). I got a scoop of Cioccolato Fondente and a scoop of Caffé Nannini (which I believe was made with their own espresso). We got back on the bus to Florence and luckily hit no traffic. I met back up with my friend at the tram stop and we walked to dinner for our 20:00 reservation at Boccadama. I got the rigatoni with tuscan pork sausage and black truffle cream and a glass of the house white. For dessert, we split affogato and tiramisu. Everything was perfect. We went back to our airbnb and went to sleep around midnight.
Tuesday, 2 May – Vienna
We had a painful 04:00 wakeup and I felt like death. We packed our bags the night before, so all we really needed to do was get dressed and go out the door. Our airbnb host, Antonio, drove up to the front gate where he picked us up and took us to the airport. It was a short drive, but we were so grateful that we didn’t have to figure out a taxi. We got there at the perfect time because a long line started to form behind us at security. We boarded our flight and had a short layover in Zurich, then made it back to Vienna before 10:00.
This trip was filled with serendipitous moments, from stumbling upon the best restaurants, to listening to live music in the street until midnight, to finding the first airbnb we could and full-send booking it. I’m so grateful for all the places study abroad allowed me to go and for the people and all the memories. I loved everywhere I traveled, but I still can’t imagine studying anywhere except Vienna. Italy was a dream and I know I will be back someday. I hope, to whoever might be reading this, that you find wonderful experiences wherever you go. And if you face challenges, just think about our Gondola ride, and remember that unfortunate experiences can make the best stories. I’m so excited for all the adventures that await. The lessons I’ve learned from traveling are more valuable to me than any grade I could ever get in school. This trip showed me how to fall in love with being alive.
I can’t think of any better way to describe the feeling of this trip than this: “take the moment and taste it” (Taylor Swift). I made a playlist for this trip, which you can find: here.
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Hi! I'm Lily and I'm from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I currently attend Washington and Lee University in Virginia. I'm always down for spontaneous adventures, catching sunrise/sunset, and taking pictures of food:) When I graduate college I want to renovate a van and travel the country, visiting every U.S. National Park as I go. Hopefully I'll have a golden retriever with me too. I love meeting new people and gaining new experiences, so I am extremely excited for this term in Vienna!