Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Mission Italia

My spring break expedition to Italy was awesome and exhilarating but not without casualty. Seven cities, five trains, and three flights in the short span of nine days is a recipe for aching muscles, blistered feet, and lost items (RIP Korean scarf and Nordstrom top). But, of course, the physical pain and material losses suffered are definitely overridden by the memories (and possibly weight) gained. So without further ado, I eagerly debrief to you the happenings on Mission Italia.


I would not say that Milan is the best introduction to Italy, mainly because it was nothing close to how I've always pictured Italy in my mind. It was a hustling, bustling city with boxy buildings and too much traffic. Furthermore, it was Fashion Week and, let me tell you, I've never felt more underdressed in my life. I felt like a sad, poor hobo the entire time I was there. It was also alarmingly hard to find food the first day we were there (which was SO not okay because I had been dreaming of pasta and gelato all midterms week). But thankfully, we found a pretty decent restaurant the second night.

Main attractions in Milan included the Duomo Milano, Castello Sforzesco. It was in these places that we fell prey to swindlers offering bird seeds (to feed pigeons) and friendship bracelets and then demanding money afterwards...so uncomfortable.

Missions Completed in Milan:
"Eat pasta until you can't fit any more in your belly. Have a friend take a video of you tasting your first bite -- it will be the best moment you have in the country by far."

(Note: it wasn't the best moment I had in the country, but it's up there!)


Pisa was a completely spontaneous trip inspired by Carol Parsons, who sent me on a mission to see the Leaning Tower while I was literally on a train to Florence. Part of the beauty of living in Europe is this ability to hop on a train at a whim and be in a new place within a couple hours. It's a type of freedom that I've never been able to appreciate until now and I'll definitely, definitely, miss it when I'm back in the States.

The Leaning Tower was fantastic...it really is leaning at an absurd angle. We basically spent the day in Pisa taking wacky photos and rolling around in the grass, which we realized was wet a little too late. Whoops.

We also met this very nice lady who was born in Brazil but grew up in Scotland and had literally just moved to Pisa. She made us shout "sexy" before taking the picture...lol. Embarassing tourists. Tsk tsk.

If I had to live in Italy, I would without a doubt, one hundred percent pick Florence. The city is beautiful, clean, and so picturesque. Interestingly enough, I think I saw more Americans than Italians on the streets of Florence, so I guess we all have the same idea. Haha. My best memory here was sitting on the bridge at Ponte Vecchio eating gelato and sandwiches. Nothing could have been more perfect.

Attractions included the leather market (note to self: must return after acquiring a steady income), Duomo Firenze, Ponte Vecchio, and the lucky pig at the flea market.

Unfortunately, the one full day we were in Florence was Monday, which is the only day all the museums are closed. So we did not see the real Statue of David or other cool things.

Missions Completed in Florence:
"Rub the nose of the lucky pig at the Mercato Nuovo to ensure your return to Florence."
Hopefully the pig's magic works soon! 
"Say 'hi' to David for Carol Parsons"
The real David was unavailable so I had to
settle for this knockoff.
Planking at the Colosseum. Yes I did :) 
It's absolutely impossible to do Rome in two days, so I have to have to return someday (good thing I threw a coin in the Trevi Fountain!). Yes, the Colosseum is every bit as amazing as you've heard it to be. We failed to get into the Forum though (twice!) because they close rather early. I also went to Vatican City and saw the Pope...kind of. I actually got really excited because this tour salesman told us we'd get to meet him and I was all stoked to take a selfie with the Pope, only to have my dreams crushed.

Missions Completed in Rome:
"Go see the Sistine Chapel" -- which I did. But no pictures allowed! So did I really do it? 
"Grab a bottle of wine and have an evening cocktail on the Spanish Steps"
Italian wine is great.

"Go to the Pantheon"
Met some colorful people here too!
"Throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain" (would have done this whether or not I was sent on a mission here.)
Searching for a coin to throw.
"Find the statue of Romulus and Remus at the Musei Capitolini."
Found it!
Okay, I'm very sad to report that Naples was my least favorite city in Italy. It was quite dirty, the men were sleazy, and it kind of stank. But, in all fairness, my views could be very skewed due to the fact that within the first 30 minutes of stepping off the train, my friend was pick-pocketed. So that happened.
The only redeeming quality in Naples was the amazing, amazing pizza (apparently it was invented there!). You'd never guess that seafood belonged on a piece of dough slathered with marinara sauce but it does! It really does.
Oh, the shopping was pretty great too. It was the cheapest city on our list of destinations. So I guess in the end, Naples wasn't all bad. But this is one city I'm not dying to go back to. Which is okay...you're not supposed to love every city you go to.

Ay, ay-oh, ay-oh! Ay, ay-oh, ay-oh!
You best believe we were singing "Pompeii" by Bastille the entire time we were here. Pompeii was amazing and excavation site was so surreal. The town (or what we saw of it) was super small. So small, in fact, that Google didn't know how their public transportation worked. So when we arrived, we walked aimlessly with our ten pound backpacks for about an hour. Fortunately, the hostel was beautiful, cozy, and friendly. If you ever go to Pompeii, I highly reccommened Easy Bed Hostel. It was a family-run business and they offered delicious homemade Italian dinners for really cheap and free breakfast! Bam. It was literally the perfect way to end our trip, even if it was raining cats and dogs. I heard there was an insane storm in SoCal too...strange how we can still experience the same things in different parts of the world.

Missions Completed in Pompeii:
Take a Lady and the Tramp spaghetti picture
This is actually uncomfortably close.
Anyway, thanks for tuning in. I'm back at school now and actually appreciating a bit of stability and routine. It's funny because everyone looks like zombies because no one actually took a break on their spring break. Traveling is hard work! Oh, before I forget...my favorite mission in Italy:

The Gelato Challenge - "Try at least ten different flavors of gelato. Don't be cheap! You can only get this experience in Italy."
1. Kaffee & Crema 2. Pistachio & Straciatella 3. Limone & Fragola
4. Pear & Passion Fruit 5. Mint & Hazelnut 6. Melone & Pineapple
7. Kaffee & Straciatella 8. Magala (rum raisin) & Kaffee 9. Cappucino & Straciatella


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