Hello everyone! This will be my official last blog post from Spain since I am leaving tomorrow. I just wanted to write about my fabulous six-day trip to Italy and a reflection on my final days and how my semester has gone.
First off, Italy. I went with one of my roommates and two friends from my program, so it was a nice small group. My friends planned all of the planes and trains to each destination between 6 and 7am every other day, so needless to say, we took a lot of naps at our hostels. Our first stop was Milan, the fashion capital of the world. Although we did not find lots of fashion districts, we did walk around the business district which reminded me so much of downtown Boston. There was even a skyscraper which looked bizarre to me after not having seen one in four months.
Our hostel was less than ideal. When we finally found it, a group of boys from Tuscany told us the lady was never around to answer the door. Great. We asked them to hold the door open since we didn’t want to just wait outside forever, but there were clearly some communication issues since they closed the door. Luckily, as we continued to have a conversation with them, the lady showed up to let us in (she had been walking her dog). The room was okay, but the lady was disorganized and did not know English, so communicating was not successful.
Apart from the hostel, Milan was very much just a normal, big city. We tried to go see famous sights (such as the Last Supper), but we were unsuccessful, so instead, we walked around exploring the city and walked through a park. We really were able to see a lot of the city and there were parts that we probably would not have stumbled across had we stuck to a strict schedule of sightseeing. Although Milan was probably my least favorite out of the three cities we went to, it still was a fun adventure. Besides, it’s really hard to beat Florence and Rome.
Our next stop was Florence. It took us a while to find the hostel (as it did in Milan), but we finally found it only a couple of blocks from the Duomo! This hostel was the best out of the three. It had nice rooms (ours came with a couch) and the guy at the front desk was incredibly friendly. He told us everything we needed to see in Florence, referring to David as “the naked man.” We decided to explore a little bit and stumbled across the Duomo. I couldn’t believe it was so close to our hostel! It was a lot different than I had remembered. I swear it had a blue theme instead of green, but clearly my memory is not the best in all aspects. One of our friends was sick at the hostel, so we waited to do all the sightseeing until the next day.
Alas, who knew that everything would be closed the next day? And I mean everything. We tried the Duomo (closed), the museum with the real statue of David a.k.a. “the naked man” (closed due to a ticket office strike-no joke), some really pretty gardens (closed during the winter), and the Galileo musuem (closed). After striking out four times, we were frustrated to no end. We ended up walking a famous bridge (I forget the name of it. Actually, I don’t think I ever knew the name of it.) with lots of jewelry stores and we were able to see the fake David, along with many other statues of mythological beings. At this point, I was really hoping Rome would be a lot more successful than our past two experiences. And it was!
After sneaking into first class on the train (Italians don’t care where you sit apparently), we found our own compartment with a door that locked. It literally was like the Hogwarts Express train from Harry Potter, complete with red plush seats and views of the European countryside. After arriving at our hostel (not as great as the one in Florence, but better than the one in Milan), we decided to venture out to the Vatican museums. We made our way through rooms filled with Egyptian and Greek art and sculptures and finally made it to the Sistine Chapel. Against my father’s wishes, I did not remember the Sistine Chapel at all (I had gone with him really early in the morning during our family trip). It was gorgeous though! The famous painting of Adam and God touching their fingers together did not stick out as much as I imagined, but I still was able to find it easily.
Day 2 in Rome brought many sightseeing opportunities. First off was the Colosseum which recently opened its lower level to the public, so we were really able to get a neat view of the ground floor with all the old cages. Our Colosseum ticket also let us in to see some archaelogical ruins, such as the Roman Forum and the Palantine. Next on our list was the Trevi Fountain which is gorgeous no matter what time of day you go to it. The Pantheon was right nearby, so we went inside for a little bit and saw the many paintings and open ceiling which lets in light and the natural weather. After a short break at the hostel, we ventured to the San Pietro church in the Vatican city. We saw the famous white marble sculpture of Mary and Jesus, and the real dead body of either a Pope or a priest (which brought back terrible memories of Hannah’s and my fear and disgust as we saw the same body when we visited five years ago). That was our last main stop in Italy, and the next day, we flew back to Spain, relieved to be in a country where we knew the language.
That was my only problem with Italy. I really had a difficult time understanding Italian. For all those who think Italian and Spanish are extremely similar, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. Although there are some words I understood when I was reading advertisements, I could not understand the language as a whole and no way could I understand someone who spoke it directly to us. We found (for the most part) that Italians preferred it when we spoke English to them instead of Spanish, so we were able to get by everywhere we went. I would speak Spanish by accident a lot when I said “Hola” instead of “Buon giornio” or “Gracias” instead of “Grazie.” I guess my mind just works in Spanish no matter where I am! Overall, the trip to Italy was pretty successful and we all had a lot of fun.
On a side note, before I talk about my final days here, I wanted to let you guys know that I have been continuing to see movies here in Spain. Most recently, I saw the new Harry Potter movie and the new Chronicles of Narnia movie (don’t worry, I won’t give anything away). Before this semester, I definitely would not have been able to sit through a movie in Spanish without any subtitles and understand it all, but I have been able to understand every movie I’ve seen here (a total of six). Not only has my speaking improved, but my understanding and listening has improved immensely and I owe it all to this program and semester, and of course, my professors.
I am finally wrapping up my amazing semester in Spain. This week, we had finals and our last classes which were a lot harder emotionally than I expected. My literature teacher, who is my absolute favorite, hugged us all individually and wished us luck for wherever we may be going next. I am definitely going to miss her the most. She was an amazing professor and a fabulous woman. I’m going to miss all of my professors just because they were all so helpful and enthusiastic. I am trying to imagine having my classes taught in English, and it is freaking me out a little because it just seems so bizarre. It’s going to be weird to hear English on the streets, in my home, and in stores since I am so used to hearing Spanish everywhere. I’m not making any promises that I won’t accidentally use a few words of Spanish when I talk with you guys! I know I am going to have to deal with reverse culture shock, but I know I can overcome it because I have such amazing family and friends. I will never forget my experience here and I am definitely coming back to live here someday! Adios España! Nos vemos muy pronto (We’ll see each other really soon)!
P.S. Look in the next post for photos. I have a feeling I don’t have any room to put them in this post.
Since my post was clearly too long, here are some more photos that I wanted to share from my trips to Barcelona, Segovia, and Avila:
Our Barcelona hostel (our beds were on the top bunks- numbers 1 and 1b)
King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella’s castle
Group shot on wall (Elizabeth, Ashley, Alysha, Kara, Kelly, and me)