Limoncello

[dropcap size=small]W[/dropcap]hen I was making travel plans at the beginning of the semester, I was happy to see that our program here in Sevilla gives us not one, but two, week-long spring breaks (we’re spoiled). Last week we were off from classes so we could truly enjoy the week-long festival called Feria, which happens a few weeks after La Semana Santa (Holy Week) every April in Sevilla. Casually, my friends and I decided that this would be a good time to visit Italy. There’s so much to see there, and it would’ve been hard to do in a weekend. On Thursday night we flew into Rome, and later took separate trains down to the Amalfi Coast, Florence and Pisa.

Rome

After a delayed flight and somewhat-broken suitcase (my friend Lauren has learned twice now that you should never buy suitcases from Chinos, or small stores here in Sevilla) Lauren and I arrived in Italy late Thursday night. Lauren and I stayed at a hostel right across from the Termini train station, which was perfect to access the Metro.

On Friday we decided to opt for the Hop-On Hop-Off bus, which is always a great way to get a feel for the city before you run around on foot. We spent a few hours “roamin’ around” the Roman ruins (our personal “dad joke”) and the Colosseum. Although we’re more accustomed to old things and buildings after living in Sevilla, it truly is astounding how ancient Rome is. It seems like every corner there is something that appears to have been sitting there forever, just watching over the city.

The clichés of Rome were also all apparent: the nonexistent traffic lanes, the countless Vespas with hot Italian men (sorry Jas), and the places that made you excitedly scream, “Wait, was the Lizzie McGuire movie filmed in this spot?!”

Before I left, my host mom, Amparo, made me promise at dinner that I would throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain. Lauren and I were more than excited to FINALLY visit the infamous movie-scene fountain, but sadly it was under serious construction. There was still a spot where you could throw a coin in, though, and Lauren and I took turns throwing one in, of course.

After finally getting a feel for the city, Lauren and I explored on foot Saturday morning until our friend Kate arrived from Sevilla. We visited the Spanish Steps and saw the outside of Vatican City (the line was too long to enter). I’m currently reading Angels & Demons, so it was cool to see where the Vatican is since part of the plot takes place there.

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Tossing a coin into the Trevi Fountain!
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What traffic lanes?

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After Kate arrived, we all ate lunch and decided we would have time to show her the Spanish Steps before we left for our train to Naples, which would eventually take us down to the Amalfi Coast. Unfortunately, we misjudged the time it would take to get there and back and ended up missing our train by about two minutes. The fact that it was so close made it somewhat painful to fork over another 30 euro for a new train, but we were happy that the next one came only a mere 45 minutes later.

The Amalfi Coast

After we hopped on the train and arrived in Naples, we took the Circumvesuviana train down to the coast. If you ever visit the Amalfi Coast by public transportation, expect this train to be a bit “janky.” When the train initially arrived there was a huge rush to get into the doors (Italians don’t believe in lines) and the train itself is very old, and rarely on time (Italians are often late, like Spaniards).

We rented an Airbnb in Piano di Sorrento, which is the third-to-last stop on the train. One of our Airbnb hosts, Domenico, met us at the train station to pick us up. We accidently took the train all the way to Sorrento (the last stop) after some confusion, but Domenico was super nice and came and picked us up there instead. As we drove through the small towns (which he endearingly referred to as “countries”), he didn’t fail to point out all the churches, “Look, another church! The people here love their churches.”

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The gate of our Airbnb.

After we arrived at our Airbnb, Domenico explained to us how to take the public buses to and from our place (we were up more in the mountains as opposed to near the coast) and how to secure the place at night. Our temporary “home” was called Casa Fanella, which was a two-bedroom apartment that was completely ours. It came with an amazing view and was very clean, quiet and warm.

Soon after arriving, Domenico dropped us off at an authentic, hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant. Looking back, we should have all known that dropping us off at this restaurant in the country/at night/far from our Airbnb was probably not the best idea because we got lost on the way back. When we were trying to find our way (unsuccessfully, and discouraged after a day full of train mistakes) we decided to climb up to a hotel that we came across. We all stood outside the locked glass door, and a man from the front desk opened it and simply said, “Those look like lost faces.”

The workers at the hotel were incredibly nice and phoned Domenico to ask for directions (part of the reason we got lost is because the card he gave us had the wrong address). A woman even walked us down to the main road to be sure that we were headed off in the right direction when we left. Throughout the rest of our trip, we continued to come across very nice, helpful Italians. I know we were only there for a week, but to us the Italians seemed to be the “Minnesota Nice” of Europe.

Positano and the Path of the Gods

On Sunday morning we took the bus to Positano, which is thought to be one of the oldest towns on the Amalfi Coast. It’s incredible to see all the towns here since they’re all built on the side of mountains and cliffs.

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One of the best sandwiches I had in Italy: fresh bread, local ham, buffalo mozzarella, arugula and tomatoes.
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Looking up at Positano from the beach.
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My friend Lauren is also a junior at UW-Madison!
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Positano is also known for its unique fashions, and Italy in general has lots of fine leather goods.

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DSCN1065DSCN1066DSCN1048After getting directions from a kind, local tour guide who even recited poetry to us, we made our way from Positano to hike what is called the “Path of the Gods.” It’s about a 3.5- to 4-hour hike in total, and we took a bus to Nocelle to start the hike. It had breathtaking views, and we got incredibly excited when we came across mountain goats wandering the path.

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Starting the hike from Nocelle.
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Walking around the bends gave a new view of both the sea and the divets of the land.

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So many mountain friends!
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A mountain goat welcoming us to his home.
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Goats at sunset
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The sunset walking home

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Capri 

The following day we decided to take a ferry out to the island of Capri. There, we took a boat tour around the island, and even got to see the inside of the Blue Grotto. As we went through the grotto, the man who was rowing our boat sang creepily in Italian to add more to the eeriness of the cave. The sun was also reflecting off of the water outside of the grotto, so the water was incredibly blue.

Our ferry
Our ferry
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Riding into Capri
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A look inside the Blue Grotto.

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Capri from the center.

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Pompeii

We got back from Capri a little early, so we headed over to Pompeii. When I was younger I read a Magic Treehouse book that was dedicated to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, which buried the town in volcanic ash in 79 AD. To see the ruins was really exciting for me, and in (probably) typical tourist fashion, we played the song “Pompeii” by Bastille as we walked through the streets.

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The ruins of Pompeii

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My friends pretending to be in jail… We were getting loopy after a long day of running around.
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Human remains found in the rubble after the destruction and eventual clean-up of the city.

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Later that night, my friends and I took the train back to Piano di Sorrento and went to a small Italian market there where we bought fresh cheese, ham, tomatoes and wraps to make dinner. We also had the best, fresh strawberries (my favorite fruit) and an amazing bottle of wine that was only 2 euro.

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Making dinner for my friends and I.

Florence

The next morning, Domenico picked us up to take us to the Circumvesuviana train so we could catch our train from Naples to Florence. I had that sinking feeling that I had forgot something, and soon after we arrived in Naples I realized that my passport didn’t make it into any of my bags in our rush to leave that morning. I panicked the whole way to Florence. Luckily, Stefania, Domenico’s wife, went above and beyond to make sure that it got back to me—she even called the hostel I was staying in to inform them that the passport was on its way (I had already told them, but she wanted to make sure). I feel so incredibly fortunate that of all places to lose my passport, our Airbnb was probably the best one since our hosts were so kind. I’m forever grateful to them for the hospitality and helpfulness!

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The famous bridge in Florence, similar in function to the Triana bridge in Sevilla.
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On top of the bell tower—it was a workout to climb up to the top!
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The city from the bell tower.
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The cathedral. I love how it is decorated in color—this is something distinct from the one made out of stone in Sevilla.
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The cathedral, bell tower and duomo (dome).
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The duomo
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One of the best sandwich places in Florence. I told them to make my sandwich for me, so it’s still a mystery as to what was inside of it…

After we settled into Florence and my passport was on its way, we soon fell in love with the city. Florence is essentially the Italian equivalent of Spain’s Sevilla—it has a river with a beautiful bridge, a cathedral with a tower and, overall, extremely friendly people. My friends and I loved our few days there and would go back again in a heartbeat.

One of the best things to do while studying abroad is to reunite with friends in their “home” cities. This is because they often know of the best restaurants, bars and views of the city. At night my friend Kate met up with her childhood friend Emily who was studying there, and we all went to the Piazza di Michaelangelo to drink wine and eat cheese and crackers. I’ve never seen a more beautiful sunset.

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Friends on the steps with our wine and cheese.
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Tulips are my favorite flower 🙂
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The sunset in the valley.
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After the sunset we went to Gusta Pizza; they’re famous for making pizza in the shape of a heart. This is a pesto and mozzarella pizza.

Cinque Terre

On our second day in Florence, my friends and I decided to go on a guided tour through Cinque Terre, which was about two hours by bus from Florence. Cinque terre translates to “five lands”—it’s named for the five towns that make up the site.

Our trip was with Walkabout Florence, and transportation, lunch and tours were all included. It was nice to go with a guided tour so we could enjoy the day and not have to worry about how to get from town to town, etc. They led us on about an hour-and-a-half hike from one town to another, and my friends and I rewarded ourselves with gelato and fried bread.

They call this "true" pesto because it is made with potatoes and green beans. The pesto from this region is famous throughout the country.
They call this “true” pesto because it is made with potatoes and green beans. The pesto from this region is famous throughout the country.
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Vernazza

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These terraces are used for farming. Our tour guide told us the mileage of all of them laid end to end is longer than that of the Great Wall of China.
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Riomaggiore

A view of what we hiked from a ferry ride.

Troops hiking from town to town

Pisa

On our last day in Italy, we spontaneously decided to take the hour train to Pisa solely to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. We ate lunch there and had fun posing in one of the most famous places in Italy.

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You can see other tourists trying to get their own “cool” picture behind me.

Italy was my last big trip while studying abroad, and it holds some of my favorite memories from the semester. I can’t believe that I will be leaving Sevilla and Europe in only a few days, but I am thankful for all of the experiences I’ve had and the amazing people I’ve met while here. I will miss the food, people and relaxed atmosphere of the Mediterranean countries, but Europe has only made my wanderlust worse, so expect to hear back from me again soon.

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