I have always wanted to visit Italy. Like many girls, it was one of the first destinations I wanted to go to (outside of Paris) when I planned my European excursions. The romance, the gondolas of Venice, the history in Rome, the narrow streets, the enormous bowls of pasta, Gucci and Prada- Italy has everything to fulfill a girl’s every need and dream.
Not only this, but I knew this would be a trip I would be looking forward to from the second I bought a plane ticket because a group of at least 12 of my best friends were studying in Florence for the semester. Florence had never been on my radar before they signed up to study there, but I knew that I had to go there because I would instantly feel comforted being surrounded by so many good friends. It was a home away from home, and an Elon away from Elon, N.C.
Once I arrived at the train station (along with every other girl almost who was abroad in Barcelona from Elon), I was greeted by two of my best friends, Jenna and Kara.
Walking the streets of Florence on the way to their apartment, I was instantly in awe of the beautiful architecture and the narrow, quaint, cobble stone streets.
After a quick lunch at the same pizzeria where the Jersey Shore worked during Season Three in Florence- which was actually really good pizza, it’s just depressing that it feels like you are eating in the guido cast’s laundry room- I finally got to wander my first European flea market. Past the Duemo de Firenze are rows and rows of purses, gloves, leather jackets, boots, scarves, and pottery. With Jenna as our chief bargainer, we wandered through the aisles in search for christmas presents and presents for ourselves. My most beloved purchases- brown heeled leather ankle combat boots, green leather gloves, a Missoni scarf, and a double zip cobalt blue snake skin clutch.
That night we had the most incredible dinner. I had gnocchi that melted in your mouth and I still dream about to this day. We celebrated reuniting, and also the end of their trip. They were all leaving Italy in four days, and this was their last weekend abroad. Lucky for me, they were on the same page about wanting to do everything possible their one last weekend in Italy.
That night, we went to their favorite bar in Florence. I have no idea what it was called (Fire something maybe? my bad), but I instantly felt like I was back in the states. You walk into this bar, and the first thing you notice (besides the dozens of American college students) are the collage of American college tshirts that quilt the ceiling. Covering the walls are hundred of signatures and greek life shout outs. Next to the bar is a list of shots, each dedicated to a different American college. University of Michigan, University of Miami, etc. were all on the list, but of course Elon made an appearance. The classic orange juice and vodka Elon shot was our drink of choice that night.
Surrounded by some of my best friends, all you could hear were shrieks of excitement and all you could feel were slight pulls and bumps from everyone jumping on top of each other to say hello. What made the night even more perfect was the soundtrack- classic American tunes, including every North Carolinians favorites: Sweet Home Alabama and Sweet Caroline. It felt like home.
And then “YOLO” Jenna made an appearance and ordered the girls a round of “Blow Jobs.” Made of Baileys and almond vodka topped with a dollop of whip cream, we each lined up to take the shot, with no hands!
Even though I was enjoying the relaxing atmosphere of Florence and having all of my friends do my weekend planning (for once), I still wanted to see more of Italy. I have an obsession with Greek and Roman mythology, and knowing that Rome was only an hour and a half train ride away, I knew that I had to make that trip.
So, after a long night at the bar, Bridget and I woke up at 5 a.m. for our trip to Rome. Up to this point I had been pretty impressed with the weekend trips that Bridget and I had planned and schedule to a T, but this was by far the most impressive trip. They say Rome was not built in a day, but it is possible to see it in a day. (Bridget, we should really write travel books.)
We arrived in Rome around 8 in the morning, and sprang into our action. We started the morning making wishes in the Trevi Fountain, and then literally ran to our tour of the Vatican. The three-hour tour took us throughout the Vatican, including St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel, both of which were nothing like a imagined. For one, I had no idea the Vatican was that large. The Sistine Chapel on the other hand, despite its absolutely breathtaking frescoes, was much much smaller than I had imagined.
That afternoon, we had a picnic outside of the Coliseum- the highlight of my Rome trip. We ate pizzas and enjoyed the views between the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and another Arc de Triomf. We took another audio guided tour of the Coliseum, walking around the different levels and arches of the arena. I was not aware that the ground floor of the arena had eroded and that it was now possible to see the different passageways where they kept the contenders and animals. I had watched ‘Gladiator’ again right before my trip, so the entire time I was just imaging the thousands of people gathered to watch people kill each other. It was absolutely incredible to be walking around something that played a large role in Roman society hundreds of years ago. What will people think of football stadiums in a couple hundred years? Maybe this is different, but I was still in awe.
Somehow we still had almost two hours to kill before our train back to Florence, so we took the advice of Bridget’s dad and journeyed over to the Spanish Steps. As the sun was setting and with a bowl of gelato in our hands, we climbed to the top of the steps and looked across Rome’s skyline. And of course, directly below us, was Rome’s fashion district- a road of the most infamous fashion designers including Missoni, Prada, and Gucci.
More than satisfied with the amount we had seen and tasted, we trekked back to Florence for another long night. After thirty minutes of throwing on clothes and showering, the girls and I headed out to a birthday celebration at a family-styled authentic Italian Restaurant on the other side of the river. We shared plates of tortellini, penne a la vodka, risotto, prosciutto, cheese, and bread, all in preparation for the night ahead of us.
Their last Saturday night in Italy- we “obviously” went to Space (kidding guys!!!). It was a very cool club, and pretty large for Florence’s going out scene. We had VIP tables overlooking the dance floor, and danced the night away, the thirty or so of us from Elon.
The following day was beyond rough. We had stayed up late drinking and talking, and the night before I had only slept three hours in order to make the train for Rome. Despite this, I would sleep in the crack between two small beds for a minimal amount of hours just to see those girls in Florence.
That day was quiet- a trip to an American diner (finally had a bagel!), last minute shopping (Bridget bought the cutest boots and I added yet another scarf to my collection), and we saw the David, which is actually the most massive statue I have ever seen.
It was hard to say goodbye to these girls, especially knowing that they were leaving to go home in two days. I was jealous that they were returning to their families and our old lifestyles, but I was beyond thrilled that I had a month remaining in Barcelona. I could never imagine spending a semester in Florence, but with such a great group of people there, I could see why they had the time of their lives. It was exactly the trip I needed- to see good friends, to feel like home, but also the comfort of knowing I was returning to Barcelona.