How long have I longed to be in Italy? When was the first time I dreamed of riding a gondola down the canals of Venice, or of seeing Juliet’s balcony, or gazing upon the wonder of the Sistine Chapel?? And in such a short time all of these dreams have come true??
My first impression of Venice, despite being incredibly tired from having traveled since 1 AM (yeah, I really don’t recommend that) was that it was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. The canals filled with gondolas and boats crossing under the many arching bridges were just just as I pictured them, a first in my travels. I couldn’t help but stare at everything, even as I wandered the down streets with my friends, looking for our hostel. Tired and hungry, the three of us stopped at a restaurant with wifi to refuel and get directions. It was at that restaurant that we had our first taste of Italian food, pizza and pasta for HannaKate and Kaitlyn respectively, and shrimp salad for me. IT WAS SO GOOD. And of course, it wouldn’t be a first day in Venice without gellato!! So after we ate lunch, we headed over to get some. Italian gellato, by the way, lives up to expectation.
Once we finally checked into our hostel, ,we decided not to do much for the rest of the day but relax. HannaKate and I were still sick with a cold that was going around our house in Oxford, so an early night was fine with us. We got to meet our roommates for the weekend though, which was awesome! One was a girl from NYU who was studying in London for the semester. It was really cool getting to talk to her and learn about her life. The other girl staying with us was from Germany and was (surprise!) gluten intolerant! It was really interesting to learn about her life and how to eat gluten-free in Germany, a huge help for me as I’m going there in a few weeks! As much as hostels get ragged on, and as much as I really do prefer apartments when possible, I believe everyone should stay in a hostel at least once in their life. You never know who you will meet, and you might end up with some really cool new friends!
The next morning we rose early to go to Verona! All three of us were big geeks and were HUGELY excited to go and see Juliet’s Wall. Honestly, I was never a big fan of the play – they’re teenagers who decide to kill each other after they’ve only just met? – but Juliet’s Balcony and wall are just two things that every Shakespeare fan must do. And it was totally worth it! Seeing the wall with all the notes from the lovers asking for blessings on relationship, and touching Juliet’s statue for luck in love (well, that’s what they say, I hope they’re relationship doesn’t end up like hers) was so beautiful – that is, if you get past all the couple making out nearby.
Satisfied we had seen all we could there, we left and stumbled across a market nearby! There were so many cool-looking souvenirs, everything from Venician masks to small glass animals and lovely postcards of Verona. Overall we had a wonderful day exploring the city, seeing Verona’s arena (similar to the Colosseum but smaller), shopping, and eating good food. It was fun, but when we got back to our hostel we were ready for sleep.
The next morning was another very exciting day because….wait for it….. WE RODE A GONDOLA! It was one of the coolest experiences ever. We shuddered a bit when we saw the price (a little less than $100 for 30-40 minutes!) but it really is a once-in-a-lifetime thing. Our gondolier gave us a tour of some cool places in Venice, taking us on the Grand Canal (the main large one that cuts through Venice) for a moment, but spending most of the time in the smaller back canals. He even started singing to us in Italian at one point! It was so beautiful in the cold and silence of the morning, fog rising off the canals. It really felt like something out of a fairy tale, even without a Prince Charming!
The rest of our day we wandered around Venice (literally, we didn’t know where we were going, but Venice is tiny and we had our iPhones), until we found Saint Marco’s Square. It’s a beautiful sight and one of the must- do things in Venice, but I think my favorite part of the day was taking artistic pictures and souvenir shopping. I have always loved masks and tried to collect them, so buying my two Venician masks was a huge accomplishment!
Overall, I think Venice was my favorite city of my study abroad experience thus far. I know most people don’t agree, but I really think it’s one of the prettiest cities in the world. I loved every second of my time there, seeing masks and small glass-blown items (Venice is known for glass-blowing), and riding the canals – it honestly broke my heart to leave! Venice left a huge impression on my heart, but I was still excited for what was coming next – Rome!!