To start the post off, the title of this blog post is inspired by the (almost too) catchy and weird song, Batches & Cookies by the fabulous Lizzo. My sister and I replaced ‘batches and cookies’ with ‘piazzas and pizzas’, due to the insane amount of piazzas we went to and pizzas we ate. You probably won’t like the song but trust me it will grow on you.
From Annecy, France, my mom and sister and I took a train to Florence, Italy. The first thing I noticed was the enormous amount of American exchange students. How could I tell they were American exchange students? Easy. I took a step outside and suddenly heard the overwhelmingly loud conversations of students passing by. While standing in line for a pizza, I overheard how a girl ‘literally spent over $1000 on Starbucks and gas alone’ last summer. I don’t need to know that, but cool. I think many American students forgot what they learned in kindergarten; use your inside voices.
In Florence we used Airbnb and stayed in an apartment that felt like stepping into a museum. Every block that you pass there’s something completely new and rich with history to look and ponder at. Florence is relatively small, so it was incredibly easy to walk around. No underground subway, and no need for one!
Favourite sights in Florence:
–Santa Maria del Fiore. It truly is an amazing cathedral. The line was long, however we came back 30 minutes before it closed and walked right in.
–Uffizi Gallery. The famous art gallery in Florence. Again, the line was too long, but we came back right when it opened the next morning and only had to wait about 40 minutes, rather than a few hours. The Uffizi gallery is home to one of the few Doryphoros statues, with one of the other galleries that houses them being the Minneapolis Institute of Art. Quite the fun fact! We spent probably three hours in the gallery. Long day at the office! (another fun fact: uffizi means office in Italian. The building used to be offices). There’s so much to see that even the hallway to the exit is a gallery. We definitely got our moneys worth. In this gallery I got a discount because I am a student in the EU, however if you’re an EU citizen you get a discount in almost all of the museums. It seriously pays to live in Europe.
–Pizza from Gustapizza. This was a suggestion from the man we were renting the apartment from, and one of Katie’s friends who recently studied abroad in Florence. We each got our own pizza, walked to the bridge, and ate it overlooking the river. I tend to judge places by how many places there are to sit and what the atmosphere is like. This was one of the best places I’ve ever sat.
–Church of San Lorenzo. This is the oldest church in Florence, dating back to 393 a.c. Being in something that old is almost a humbling experience. It was also great because there was no line, even when we went in the middle of the day.
After a few days in Florence, we took a train to Rome. When we got to the station, it looked very run down and sketchy. We walked around for an hour and a half searching for our hostel which was apparently only two minutes away from Termini station. We asked around for directions but no one spoke English. After buying some maps and re-reading the directions, we realised we weren’t at Termini station, we were one station ahead. Lesson learned, make sure you buy tickets for the correct station and look up directions before you leave.
Instead of using Airbnb in Rome, we checked out the Beehive Hostel. They were all booked up but they had partner companies that they worked with who rent out sections of apartments and turn it into hostels. We got our own bedroom with three single beds, and had shared kitchens and bathrooms. I would definitely recommend this place!
Favourite sites in Rome:
-The Colosseum, of course. No news here when I say that it is an incredible thing to experience. I also spotted a cat in the lower floor off-limits section of the Colosseum, and if that’s not badass I don’t know what is. That cat is my spirit animal.
-Palatine Hill. This is one of the most ancient parts of Rome, and undoubtedly the oldest thing I’ve ever stepped in. To put it into perspective and to think that all of that stood through thousands of years of life and wars and even just weather, and it’s still standing there today, is insane.
Long lines were a problem for us in Florence and Rome, but we found a few solutions: get there early, get there right before it closes, or don’t go at all. One of the worst things you could do is waste half of your day waiting in line for something, even if it’s the line into Vatican City, for example. My mom and I ditched out on that ridiculously long line and roamed around the city instead. From that came wonderful things: a delicious lunch of flatbread and salad, champagne and baileys gelato, and a friggin’ cat sanctuary! They held at least 80 stray Roman cats and I pet as many as I could. It was my heaven.
Tip: avoid restaurants near touristy areas. It’s overpriced and not the best genuine food. Don’t believe when restaurants have ‘free wifi’ signs. They do indeed have free wifi, but it doesn’t work.
One of the recommendation books in the Beehive Hostel recommended to visit the small town of Sperlonga, about an hour from Rome. We quickly found accommodation on Airbnb and bought a train ticket to leave. Long story short, the accommodation was nothing like the description. We rented it out for the week but then decided we wanted to leave. We packed our things up, went to the nearest internet cafe and revoked the booking. You can do that within 24 hours of making the booking or cancel the whole booking except for the first night, which you have to pay for. After that, we found a cute hotel and decided to stay only one night.
Sperlonga was a beautiful beachside paradise and I’ve honestly never met more friendly people in my life. Sorry Minnesota nice, but we’re talking people walking up to me in the grocery store and helping me pick out the best wine, or people helping us buy a bus ticket right when we got off of the train. I’m honestly not used to people helping me when I’m traveling because I assume that it’s a scam. It normally is, but not in Sperlonga!
The only problem with Sperlonga was that it was April. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I assumed Italy was hot throughout the whole year. Sorry, it’s not. It was Sperlonga’s off season. Things were closed and streets were deserted, waiting to open again in June. I would go back again, but definitely in June-September.
(side note: if a hotel has signs that say ‘absolutely no eating in the rooms’, don’t eat in the rooms. It’s probably because of an ant problem. It was because of an ant problem. Sorry Sperlonga hotel…)
The next day, my mom and I had to come up with a plan. We didn’t have any place to stay and we had a little less than one week left. We thought about going somewhere else in Italy, but as we were craving the heat we decided to search elsewhere. We found a cheap flight to Barcelona that left at 9pm that night, and we were off! We spent the rest of the day on a bus, train, in the airport, and then on a plane, until we were in Spain.