Fall Break Part 2: Italy

Read about Part 1 of my trip (Greece) here.

Ever since I found out I would be spending my semester in Europe, I knew that I would find a way to get to Italy and Spain at some point in the semester. Those have been at the top of my bucket list all semester, so I was super excited when my friends and I officially planned our Italy trip (and don’t worry – Spain is happening later this month). My time in Rome, Florence, and Milan flew by; here’s a recap!


Before we even left the airport, I was raving about how much I loved Italy. I had two seats to myself on the plane, the airport was new and clean, and our driver was friendly. Good vibes all around. We were starving, so as soon as we dropped off our things at our (cute and colorful) airbnb in Trastevere, we headed to a restaurant that my friends had found. My meal consisted of red wine (rare for me, but it wasn’t dry so I actually enjoyed it), a bruschetta sampler, hot focaccia bread with rosemary, olive oil, and balsamic, and a pizza with sausage and potatoes. Our waiter was hilarious; he kept making fun of Emily, told us to “drink for forget,” and even offered us digestive shots after our meal. This will forever go down as one of the most delicious and fun meals I’ve had. I topped it off with some stracciatella gelato on the way home and we slept hard, ready to fully experience Rome the next day. People had already begun calling me “Italian Robin” to honor my newfound excitement and happiness.

While the others did a walking tour, Sara and I did some exploring of our own as we waited for Alyssa to get it. She had accidentally booked her flight from Athens for a month later and this was the soonest she could get to Rome. We walked to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain. We picked up Alyssa and god cacio e pepe: homemade pasta with a sauce made of melted parmesan, in a bowl of parmesan, topped with, you guessed it, parmesan (and pepper). This is a specialty dish of Rome, so we had to try it while we were there. We went to the Vatican but because so many people were harassing us trying to get us to buy tours and we couldn’t figure out exactly who did and didn’t work there, it was a bit difficult to come up with a plan. We took photos in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and bought tickets to actually go inside the Vatican museum and Sistene Chapel. The museum seemed to just be a way to keep people organized in line. When we got to the chapel, it was stunning to see something that I had studied in real life. The entire room was covered in art; I picked apart different images and attempted to match them to the Bible stories I know. Unfortunately, I couldn’t take any photos, but it was a perfect combination of beautiful and historical. We then walked all the way from the Vatican to the Colloseum, with stops at the Trevi Fountain (again) and a couple cute plazas for Alyssa. I had my second gelato, but unfortunately, I found out that I’m not the biggest fan of creamy/melty gelato. We passed a number of ancient Roman ruins on the way to the Colloseum, but when we finally got there, we found out that it had just closed. We still got a good view of the outside and headed back home to rest a bit. When the others arrived and said they didn’t feel up to going to dinner after all, the three of us found a restaurant in the area with homemade pasta and gnocchi; I had gnocchi with tomato basil and mozzarella. We picked up cannolis and bus passes on our way back and drank some wine as we got ready for our night out. It was Halloween, so we just couldn’t stay in and do nothing! We wore all black because we hadn’t planned any costumes, and Alyssa’s friend told us which bars to go to. These bars are known as “abroad bars” because they cater to young exchange students, aka they’re super crowded but have cheap shots, resulting in an atmosphere similar to that of a frat party. I had a great time people-watching and seeing new parts of Rome, even if it felt like I was surrounded by other Americans.


Our bus from Rome to Florence wasn’t too bad (despite the thunderstorm we got caught in immediately before). We took the tram in and found our airbnb. Once our host allowed us in, it was once again time for food. We had learned that pizzas are different in different parts of Italy, so we put this to the test at a place known for its pizzas. I had the equivalent of pepperoni pizza, and I’m not sure it it’s because it really was that good or because we were starving, but it sure was delicious. And, if you’re wondering, the crust in Florence was much fluffier than it was in Rome, and this pizza also had sauce while my first did not. We got more cannolis (this time they filled them right in front of us), visited the Duomo, checked out the leather market, and went to see the David statue. It was crazy cool to see something so famous up close. The other art in the museum wasn’t as exciting, but I did love looking at all the statues and some of the religious paintings. We returned to the Duomo hoping to go inside, only to find out it had closed, then took a walk by the river and over the Ponte Vecchio, which was a bridge with jewellery shops on both sides for its entire length. We found a random dinner place and I ordered the gnocchi with soft cheese and truffle oil. I decided to go for the small portion, which was a good choice considering how rich and filling the dish was. It was almost similar to a Panera mac and cheese, but the cheese was less sharp, the gnocchi was more dense and filling, and the truffle oil made the whole dish click. Yum. We got some gelato to make up for the disappointing cone I had had the day before, and this time, it was perfection. Chocolate, coffee, and stracciatella. Even once the cone was full, the woman serving me smeared more on the side and scooped more in my spoon before shoving it on as well. This gelato was much more rich and thick; I was content, and maybe also had a bit of a stomachache…


Milan hadn’t been on our original list of places to visit, but after we took the train there from Florence, Sara and I actually had almost the entire day there to explore. That being said, we were exhausted and had to haul our luggage everywhere, so it wasn’t super eventful. We saw the Milan Cathedral and Sforza Castle, and, of course, the Starbucks Reserve Roastery. This might sound too basic, but it’s pretty new and one of only three in the world; it was actually really cool to see inside, ant the tiramisu was delicious. For brunch we went to California Bakery, a place that sounds American-friendly but was not necessarily. They couldn’t understand half of what we were saying, their women’s restroom was broken, and they didn’t bring me syrup for my pancakes until I was almost done. For dinner, we went to a different chain with lots of English on the outside; also not-so American-friendly. To top it off, we barely got off the wrong train before it left for a different Italian city and I couldn’t find a postcard anywhere at the airport. Milan just didn’t like us very much. That being said, we did like it’s gelato.

My impressions: Rome was my favorite because the people were so friendly and there was so much to see and do. Even the streets were beautiful, which made us almost okay with walking over 18 miles that day 🙂 Florence had more town-vibes, but was also tourist-friendly without making me feel like I was completely surrounded by non-Italians. Milan was definitely not my favorite. It reminded me of Paris in that it was busy and had a lot of business happening and the people weren’t very friendly toward non-natives. I was surprised by how much Italian I could (barely) understand when giving some context clues, and Italian Robin even looked to see if Intro to Italian would be offered next semester (and was met with a hard “no”). The food in Italy was incredible, though I don’t think I could last an entire semester on primarily pasta and pizza! I’m happy that I was able to see three very different parts of Italy, even if I was only in each for a day or two, and I look forward to returning to some of these places while also seeing new parts of Italy next time.

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