For the last 10 days, I have been spending time in the magnificent Italian cities of Venice, Rome, Florence, Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa. I was lucky enough to have my grandma Doris and my cousin Zach along for a few weeks! We ate more pizza, pasta and gelato than I knew was humanly possible. Definitely no complaints though; the food in Italy is absolutely amazing.
We began our time in the city of Venice, one of the most interesting places I have been yet. Venice is built right on top of the water, with canals wrapping throughout the entire area as intersections for their narrow, cobblestone streets. Instead of taking a normal taxi in Venice, you take a water taxi (or a gondola if you’re feeling very fancy). There are no cars or motorcycles; only pedestrians occupy the roads, making it more quiet and clean than other places. We took a boat tour through the maze of canals as the sun set one evening, and it was so neat to see how the city stands on water.
We wandered through the streets for hours looking into quaint shops and restaurants, all of which are competing against their neighbors on every corner. I don’t know if you’d ever be able to pick out the best pizzeria in Italy; there are way too many to choose from! Any window you look up at has well-painted shutters with plants greeting those passing by beneath. You could roam through the passageways for entire days without crossing over the same path. Venice’s main square is St. Mark’s Square — a stunning area complete with large cathedrals and palaces bordering the bright blue water. This is the place where many tourists congregate, so we were able to see the number of people that come to visit Venice on a single day, which is very, very many.
We took our next train to Rome, known to many as the “eternal city.” It definitely lives up to that name, as it boasts historical structures such as the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, and the Roman Forum. As the sun began to warm up the streets, we gathered with thousands of other visitors to have our turn at seeing where generations of history unfolded. The ruins of ancient Roman life still remains, allowing you to get a closer look and feel to what society used to be like. Although some of the lines were long, we got to see so much of Rome in those few days. Ornate churches and massive monuments keep your eyes busy for hours.
We spent one day visiting the Vatican museums and the Sistine Chapel. The amount of historical artifacts and intricate artwork in the Vatican is something to envy. Everything has significance to a group of people or an area, and it’s all available for viewing in the Vatican. We didn’t get to see the Pope wandering about the property, but we did stand amongst the walls of the famous Sistine Chapel. Photos are not allowed in the chapel, but I will say that the view was breathtaking. Vibrant paintings cover the entire ceiling and side walls, retelling stories and showing honored people.
The next stop on our journey was Florence, the gorgeous capital city of Tuscany. One of the biggest attractions in Florence is the Cathedral of Santa Maria. The church takes over a large square with its perfect detailing. It has several sections that you are able to visit, including a baptistery, bell tower, dome, museum and the cathedral itself. We had some great pasta in Florence, as well as a meal at one of the only Mexican restaurants in the city. Only some light rain was in the forecast, so we had a great chance to wander around the city and the markets.
During our stay in Tuscany, we also did a day trip to see more of the beauty of the area. Our bus tour stopped in the cities of Siena, San Gimignano and Pisa for us to get a look into the traditional Italian wine country. We visited the Siena Cathedral, another ornate church standing in all of its glory. After a nice lunch and wine tasting in a Tuscan vineyard, we headed to the main square of San Gimignano to taste what the locals consider to be “the best gelato in the world.” Our last stop was the city of Pisa to see the great Leaning Tower. We did our fair share of holding the tower up for the day.
Italy is a country that remains prideful in both its history and its modern culture. Complete with the wide varieties of food and wine, these cities were very enjoyable to visit. I could see that they are very popular among travelers, as we met people from all over the world. They say all roads lead to Rome, and every road in Rome also leads to great food. Pair it with some fun company, and you’ll have the best Italian experience you could ask for.