Italy & Greece, pt. 1

As usual, I’m way behind on the whole blog thing, but here’s a recap of my ten days in Italy and Greece! Brace yourselves…it’s a long one.

We had a weeklong break here, which meant everyone planned big trips for December 2nd through 11th.  Our first stop was Rome and I was excited to be back. Tradition says that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain you’ll return to Rome at some point in your life. When I was sixteen and visited Rome, I threw my coin in, so a big thanks to the Trevi Fountain for keeping it’s promise and getting me back to the eternal city. We flew into the Ciampino airport pretty late in the evening and had a little bus ride into the city. We checked into our hostels and went to a nice dinner where I had some authentic Italian minestrone. The minestrone was a little disappointing (7.50 euro and not as good as the kind I buy from the grocery store in the US) but the atmosphere was fantastic – rambunctious Italians everywhere and a little man playing Christmas songs on his accordion.  By chance, half of our USAC group was in Rome for the first two days before we all went on our separate adventures and it was so much fun to be there together with everyone. We hit all the big sights the first day – The Vatican & St. Peter’s Basilica, The Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, The Pantheon, and caught a glimpse of the Colosseum as well. The whole city of Rome is like a gigantic outdoor museum, plus the best pizza, pasta, and gelato you’ll find anywhere. Here are a few pictures!


St. Peter’s Square


The Pantheon


Trevi Fountain

After two days in Rome, Kristen and I caught a train to Venice. The directions to our hostel were a little janky – google translated English (aka not real English) – and they said we needed to get to Lido. I saw a bus that said Lido di Jesolo, so we hopped on, rode the bus for an hour, and were dropped off in the middle of nowhere…oh good. Turns out, Lido and Lido di Jesolo are not the same place…so we had to wait an hour, then catch a bus that was another hour back to Venice, then catch the water Taxi all the way up Venice’s grand canal (another hour because we took the wrong water taxi) to the correct Lido, which is an island right next to Venice. SO, we arrived in Venice a little later than we’d planned. All part of the adventure. Our hostel was a little bed and breakfast, 20 euro a night, and it felt like luxury to have our own bedroom and bathroom. Since it was late and we were exhausted from quite literally running all over the country, we treated ourselves to a nice dinner and some tiramisu, then went to bed by 10:00pm. It was so nice to get a full night’s sleep. There was a sweet Australian lady named Babs staying in our hostel as well, and when we woke up we found a note on our door from her as well as a 50 euro water taxi pass that saved us SO much money. Venice’s “metro” is a water taxi that costs 6.50 euro per trip…just one of the things that makes Venice tie with London as the most expensive city EVER (I’m sure that’s not technically true, but try telling my wallet otherwise!). We explored the city a bit, which was beautiful with little canals and gorgeous homes, hotels, and bridges everywhere we turned. We were trying to cross one bridge and the police were holding everyone back for no apparent reason…come to find out, it was because a movie was being filmed and the bridge was in the background. We were curious about the film, not knowing if it was a documentary or something else, so we went to investigate. We walked right up to the set and started asking the people working on the film questions. The conversation was something like this:

Me – “Hello, is this an American film?”

Lady with giant camera – “It’s English.”

Me – “Oh, what actors are in it?”

Lady – “Well, there’s Dakota Fanning (points) and Emma Thompson is in it as well.”

And…there was Dakota Fanning. A group of crazy Australian girls were behind us and started screaming “DAAAA KOWWWW TAHHHH” in their cute accents so she waved at us, and Kristen and I went on our way to find some lunch and attempt to hustle someone for a cheap gondola ride.


Dakota Fanning filming a scene for “Effie”

The standard price is 80 euro for 30 minutes (WHY???!?!), but we met a Jewish couple and ended up splitting the ride with them so it was only 20 euro per person. They were some strange birds…we introduced ourselves and they just stared at us and never told us their names, but they did tell us they were from New York when they were clearly not from an English-speaking country. Anyways, our gondolier was Fabio, and he was a blast. He didn’t speak English, but I spoke Spanish to him and he spoke Italian back and the two languages were similar enough that we were able to have a good little conversation. Good times with ‘ol Fabio, the 20 euro was definitely worth it.


There really wasn’t much else to do in Venice unless we wanted to spend money, which we did not, so we just explored the gorgeous city and went to Saint Mark’s square and headed back to Lido for another early night. Again, it was so nice to relax, not be rushed, and catch up on some sleep.

The next morning we caught a train to Verona, aka the city of love because of Romeo and Juliette. We again had some rough directions to the hostel and ended up taking a cab. We were at another bed and breakfast, Alle Torri, and it was probably the best place we’ve stayed. When we arrived, a little man in tube socks and house slippers greeted us and gave us tea, fruit, and pastries – quite a welcome! Our room was HEAVILY ocean themed just like any good bed and breakfast should be…dolphins and seashells and blue everything everywhere. We only had one day to explore, so we dropped our bags off and hit the town. Verona is definitely in the running for my favorite Italian city – it was so beautiful and easy to navigate on foot. We saw Casa di Gulietta, (Juliette’s house),  Romeo’s house,  a gorgeous Castle, some amazing churches, and a miniature colosseum. There were Christmas markets set up in all of the plazas and lights were strung all over the city, so we were sure to buy some gifts and take about 1,000 pictures. We climbed to a lookout to see the sunset and were not disappointed…


When we got back to our hostel, our little friend that worked there was still in his little house shoes and was jamming to some Lady Gaga. We tried to talk to him, but he didn’t speak any English, so finally I just said, “Lady Gaga?” hoping to find some common ground. BINGO! He piped up immediately, said “FAN NUMBER ONE!”, got up from his chair, and proceeded to show us that he knew EVERY dance, full choreography, to EVERY Lady Gaga song. He was serious about it too…it was so strange, but I was kind of impressed. I took lots of videos, but unfortunately they were on my ipod touch, may it rest in peace (more on that later). He then said, “Leetle Monster”  (Lady Gaga apparently calls her fans “little monsters”) and showed me his official Lady Gaga “little monster” ID, complete with a picture of him looking suave in a scarf and some aviator sunglasses. Kristen and I then headed to the kitchen to cook some soup and pasta, but our leetle monster came in and cooked for us, then cleaned the entire kitchen while we ate. We felt like royalty. They literally waited on us hand a foot the entire time, including driving us to the train station in their car at 6:30 the next morning to catch our train to Milan.

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