Sienna and I boarded our train in Zug at 7:30, and met the other exchange students who had boarded in Zurich a half an hour earlier. It was hectic, but we were able to both find seats together and squeeze our suitcases in the compartments above our heads. The ride from Zug to Milan is about 3 hours, and we spent most of our time talking and watching movies on her iPad. When our train got to Milan, all the exchange students transfered to our next train to Rome which would take another 4 hours. This ride was absolutely gorgeous! We all had a reserved car, and were able to laugh and play cards and watch the Italian country side go by. We finally arrived in Rome at around 3, and then put our stuff away, so we could head to to Colosseum!
|Just like in Sparticus!|
|It is so much bigger from the inside|
|Issac, Emmeline and Sienna at the Colosseum|
|Italian Parliament buidling|
Being in the Colosseum was absolutely unreal. Standing in this historic monument which you have seen pictures of your entire life is unexplainable but amazing. Sienna and our friend Emmeline and I toured this ancient building for an hour, and marveled at it's timeless intricacy in the beautiful Italien sunset before going back to the hotel for a three course dinner! Hard life.
|Exchange Student photo! Love these guys|
On Tuesday, we all got to go to Rome and explore the city in the morning. I was really grateful for the freedom Rotary gave us. We all had subway cards and maps, and they told us they trusted us enough to be safe and be back on time. I guess it makes sense since we all have been living alone for a year anyways, but I was still glad they trusted us enough to explore on our own.
Sienna, Emmeline and I went shopping to take advantage of the Eurocrisis and even bartered for some things on the street. Sienna needed some help with her poker face, but was a pro by the end! We then all met again to go tour the Vatican.
|Such beautiful buildings! And such a small country too!|
|One of the thousands of statues in the Vatican|
The Vatican is one of the few things in the world, I feel, that truly is every bit as wonderful as you expect it to be. The buildings were lined with thousands of pieces of ancient artwork, and the floors designed with glossy marble. There were even priest walking around, just like something out of the Da Vinci Code. Of course, the flood of tourists crowding the halls did take away from the romanticism of it a little bit, but it was still unbelievably gorgeous.
Now for the (somewhat) embarrassing moment of my tour of the Vatican: about an hour into our tour, I started feeling a little dizzy. This happens to me a lot, so I wasn't that worried, but then little black spots started appearing and I knew things weren't going good. I wanted to discreetly sit down, but when I tried, a guard starting yelling at me in Italian about it being a holy floor or something, and then my knees went weak, and I fell down. It was so embarrassing feinting in the Vatican! Luckily for me, one of the ROTEX (Rotary exchange students from Switzerland who are back from their exchange) was able to help me leave, and he made sure I was OK. But of course knowing our luck, we somehow managed to get lost in the massive building and couldn't find our way out, and had to wonder aimlessly through the hundreds of statues until we ended up in the Sistine Chapel, totally lost.
You are not allowed to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, but here are some I took of St.Peters:
|The chapel had painting like this all over the ceiling|
|St. Peters from the outside|
|So many beautifully constructed buildings!|
|These guards have been Swiss for centuries, because of Switzerland's|
neutrality. Had to get a picture of my Swiss buddy!
We spent the rest of the day exploring and eating Gelato, and then another three course meal in downtown Rome, compliments to Rotary. We just had to be back in our hotel by 11, so the other exchange students and I got to see Rome at night too, which was really cool.
On Wednesday, we got to have a guided tour of Ancient Rome. This was one of my favorite days, because the history we were able to learn was so fascinating! It seemed as if every building we would walk pass had some story, and many were unbelievably fascinating. A city as old as Rome just has so many stories, and it is a little hard for an American like me to even comprehend it. Stories of war, family disputes, and the church, from Ancient Rome all the way until the 1800's.
|The Spanish Steps|
|A fountain in Old Town Rome|
|A present given (or stolen, either way you see it) from the Egyptians|
|We made a wish!|
We spent the rest of our 8 hours of free time shopping, eating Italian pizza, getting harassed by Italian boys and almost dying from the crazy driving in the streets. It was a beautiful day until it started raining right before dinner, but that only made for great pictures! One of my favorite moments from my exchange year happened this day, right after our dinner: Emmeline, Sienna and our friend Isaac were all trying to find our way back to the subway. It was a warm night, and the stars were glistening over our heads. It was completely peaceful until in a matter of seconds, we were surrounded by a crowd of shouting Italian protestors holding torches and signs, screaming about the Eurocrisis.
I remember looking at Sienna as we were both completely encircled by the protesters ,and just laughing. We were in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, in the middle of a protest, could not speak the language and had no idea where we were. It was one of those moments when your are just so happy and feel so lucky to be alive, and just want to be drenched in every moment of it.
|Love my exchange student friends!|
|Emmeline, getting some REAL Italian pizza|
|Swiss Francs and Euros!|
|Rome in the rain|
|Rome at night|
|They made it out of the protest alive!|
On Thursday, we boarded our train for Venice and arrived at around 3 pm. It was a pretty rainy day, but Venice is so beautiful, that is was able to shine through the clouds. We walked the streets together taking pictures and watching the gondolas go by, and it was magical. Venice is famous for it's masks, so many of my friends bought some from the local street vendors, and wore them for the whole day, not caring that other people were staring or giggling. We're exchanges students, we can't get embarrassed! And as my friend Patrick would say: "YOLO" (for those of you who aren't high school boys, its a joke teenagers say which stands for 'you only live once', which was used about every five minutes during our trip).
That night after everyone was a little high on life, some one got the idea to do some dancing in our masks in the street, which then turned into a mini-parade down the road. The Japanese tourists sure loved us, and I think our ROTEX got a kick out of us too. Definitely one of my favorite moments from our trip.
|Having fun on our three hour train ride|
|Seattle girl knows how to deal with the rain|
|My two lovely friends on the bridge of sighs|
|We are not tourists|
|The most I have ever laughed in one night. I love|
|Mini-street parade in Venice? YOLO|
On Friday, we started the day by riding a ferry through Venice's Grand Canal. With the sun shining and the breeze blowing my hair, it truly might be one of the most beautiful places I have been in my life. What can you say? It's Venice! It is romantic, ancient and sinking--which makes it's story even more tragic, and even more beautiful. We also got to have a historical tour of Venice, which was fascinating. We learned about the making of the city, and the history of the church there and the Venetian dialect, as well as the architecture of the many old buildings . One of my favorite parts of the tour is when our tour guide took us down on some of the alley ways, to see the "real" Venice. Anyone who has been to Venice will know that that high of a concentration of tourists is such a small space can be a little overwhelming, so it is lovely to see how the real people of Venice live.
|Is this real life?|
|It was so nice to be on a ferry again!|
|Really, how could a city be more beautiful than this.|
|The ships people ride to and from their houses|
|Venice's famous clock tower|
|The church of San Marco|
|Beautiful paintings on the walls of San Marco|
|Some gondolas under the Bridge of Sighs|
Half way through the day, it started raining again sadly, so we found some shelter in a Gelato shack and got some amazing Italian coffee, and then spent the rest of the day getting lost in Venice. That night, Rotary took us on a night boat tour of Venice and to a very nice Italian restaurant to celebrate our last day in Italy. On our way back on the boat, it started pouring, and we all were drenched by the time we got back to the mainland. We were ran back to the bus laughing, and one of my friends totally wiped out on the bridge, and ended up sliding back to the road on hist butt. All our shoes were soaked and our hair sopping, but it was a fantastic way to end a magical week.
|Eatin' some gelatto in Venice|
|We ain't scared of no rain!|
|Such a beautiful city|
|Lovely Venice at night...right before the storm!|
I loved every moment that I had in Italy--it was gorgeous, the food was delicious and I had such a fun time exploring the cities with my dear friends, and having so many adventures and fun times with them. It was a little sad going home on the train to Zug, because this is the last time we are all going to see each other again, and I really do feel like a part of a 75-person family now. I guess the short year we had together just makes me enjoy every moment we shared even more, and really appreciate these great people I met and all that they thought me about being brave, curious, and not being afraid to look a little stupid. I'll miss you exchange students of 2011-2012, and if I don't see some of you again before I leave, I wish you the best of luck in all the adventures I know you are going to have!