Oh the joys of the annual exodus of college students to tourist destinations during ‘sprang brake’. I always have loved celebrating the midpoint of the semester with friends away from academics and everyday life. Being in Europe though, I will admit that my spring break was a little less of the ‘lets go to PCB or Fort Lauderdale’ and more of the ‘let me visit places that I have heard about and dreamt of my entire life’. While this may seem a bit haughty, I suggest the haters to study abroad for themselves and share in on the once in a lifetime experiences that it offers.
My spring break actually began ON MY 22nd BIRTHDAY, woot woot (which also happens to be St. Patrick’s Day)! The first weekend I spent in Paris. Yes, I went up in the Eiffel Tower, I visited Notre Dame, I walked under the Arch de Triomphe, and I saw the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. All of the above were as advertised and are a must for anyone who comes to Europe to do! However, my favorite part was a day trip I took to the gardens and palace of Versailles. Prior to this trip I did not know that the French basically pioneered modern democracy and that King Louis XIV, who built Versailles, had a major role in it. The castle was the most ornate building I had ever seen (until something else stole its place later on during my trip haha) and the gardens were pristine and neurotically designed. My visit to France was most definitely completed by getting to see my parents and my younger brother in Paris while they were on a trip with my brother’s high school. All in all, Paris was a great place to be on my birthday weekend I must say!
The next leg of the trip was the classic ‘tour of Italy’. I flew from Paris to Venice where I was immersed in a world of islands, canals, and of course, gondolas. Since the venetian islands are so small, cars are not permitted, so transport by water is the only way to get around! (Its pretty cool to ride in a water taxi I must say!) Naturally, I wanted to make a trip to Italy as a food pilgrimage for me because I am an Italian food aficionado and I love anything with cheese, pasta, and tomatoes. Disclaimer alert: the amount of spaghetti, lasagna, pizza, and gelato I ate during this trip is not recommended because I think I ate my weight in Italian food four times over. Venice was a great change of pace from Paris, but after two days it was time to board the train for Florence.
I have to admit that before arriving in Florence, I didn’t know much about it or its significance. I guess I planned the trip because going to Florence was ‘a thing to do’ so to speak and that Jersey Shore filmed a season there so I knew it had to have a great vibe. After arriving, I quickly learned why it is such a great destination. Being in Tuscany, the city is nestled in a beautiful river valley and is host to beautiful cathedrals and extensive vineyards. The outlook from Michelangelo Hill in Florence was breathtaking and that in of itself was worth the trip. I highly recommend Florence.
The final stop on my spring break trip was 4 days in Rome, the city that has arguably more historical importance than any other on the planet. I was also fortunate enough to meet up with my family again here and we had a great time feasting on some mean lasagna and gelato before succumbing to the cliche coin toss into the Trevi Fountain. Good stuff. When you arrive in most cities and look at a map, the major attractions and historical sites are usually marked by a photo or another distinguishing feature. In the average city, I would presume that there would be maybe 10 or so said points of interest. The interesting thing about Rome is that the map was literally dotted everywhere with these sites of interest. Like Rome has more places to see within it than like 4 other cities combined! Therefore, when in Rome, I had a challenging but exhilarating task of making the most of the city. I got to see the Coliseum, tour the Palatine Hill, visit the Pantheon, see the Sistine Chapel, visit St. Peters Basilica (sorry Versailles, but the artwork and decoration of this place is the most beautiful structure I have laid my eyes on), and I got to see the pope. I also found time to spend a day at the beach about 30 minutes outside of Rome. What else could anyone want in a week? Rome, and Italy for that matter, were very kind to me!
All in all, I could not have asked for a better spring break trip. As I write this after the fact, I can’t believe that everything I did actually happened. It seems so surreal. But, now that I am back in Berlin and can reflect on the experiences I had, I must say that without studying abroad, none of this would have taken place. And for that, I am forever grateful.