Italy was gorgeous, and the Italian food was to die for. I left the country with two main desires: to get back on my workout schedule and to stomp on the dang patriarchy. The workouts because the pizza, pasta, and gelato, but the patriarchy because classical art all over Italy (not just classical art and not just in Italy) prioritizes men as artists and icons. All week long, I admired exquisite statues of David and Neptune, saw breathtaking frescos created by men long ago, and enjoyed galleries (even modern collections) full of work by men. As one wise woman wrote on the bathroom stall at the Galleria dell’Accademia which houses Michelangelo’s David: “Recordemos que el arte es un reflejo de la sociedad. ¡Abajo el patriarcado!” (We record in art a reflection of society. Down with the patriarchy!)
Carbs & patriarchy aside: Holy Week 2019 allowed me to check Italy off my bucket list. I traveled to Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Venice, along with thousands of other tourists and two travel pals, Janey and Bryanna. If I ever have the opportunity to return to Italy, I hope to find myself in a village far away from the hordes of tourists and under the Tuscan sun.
One direct flight from Santiago brought me to Rome, and within an hour of stepping off the plane, I was exploring the city. I was able to take in a few main sights before I was joined by Bryanna and Janey, my travel pals for the week.
I have added a short description from google/wikipedia for each place so that I am able to share a little bit of the history behind the photos.
“Villa Borghese is a landscape garden in the naturalistic English manner in Rome, containing a number of buildings, museums and attractions. It is the third largest public park in Rome.”
Piazza del Popolo
“Piazza del Popolo is a large urban square meaning “People’s Square”, but historically it derives from the poplars after which the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, in the northeast corner of the piazza, takes its name.”
Rome is overflowing with beautiful sights. On every corner, there is some gorgeous relic, whether left by the Roman Empire or the house of Dolce & Gabbana.
“The Trevi Fountain was designed by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Giuseppe Pannini. Standing 26.3 metres high and 49.15 meters wide, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world.”
I threw a penny (euro 1 cent) into the Trevi Fountain. Fingers Crossed.
Pantheon on Palm Sunday
“The Pantheon is a former Roman temple, now a church, in Rome, Italy, on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus. It was completed by the emperor Hadrian and probably dedicated about 126 AD.”
“The Spanish Steps climb the steep slope between the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Trinità dei Monti, dominated by the Trinità dei Monti church at the top.”
The Vatican was the most crowded place in all of Rome. Trying to get to the Sistine Chapel was like being an a can of sardines for hours. Michelangelo’s fresco is amazing, but the atmosphere is horrible. I would not return to see the Sistine Chapel again, once is enough with those crowds! The line for St. Peter’s Basilica was hours long as well, probably because we visited during holy week.
The Sistine Chapel
“The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Michelangelo began work on his famous frescoed ceiling in 1508. He worked for four years. It was so physically taxing that it permanently damaged his eyesight.”
No photos were allowed inside, oops!
Saint Peter’s Square & Basilica
“The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, or simply St. Peter’s Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.”
While spending the morning at the Vatican, I discussed the crimes of the Church with Janey and Bryanna, both raised Catholic. Despite the beautiful buildings and long history, there is something deeply broken inside the Church. Until known sex offenders in the Church face legal prosecution, women are allowed into ALL levels of leadership, and priests can to marry, I foresee a further clouded with more injustice and abuse.
*Cue the Gladiator soundtrack*
Visiting the Colosseum was my favorite activity in Rome. I replayed the sounds of Gladiator as I stood inside the massive structure. Today, all that remains is stone, but with a little imagination it is more noisy than Memorial Stadium on a game day in Lincoln, NE, with metal clashing and Maximus (Russell Crowe) shouting, “are you not entertained?”
The Roman Forum
“The Roman Forum, also known by its Latin name Forum Romanum, is a rectangular forum surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome.”
Amazing ruins right next to the Colosseum.
The food in Rome was equally breathtaking as the ruins. One plate of pasta took the prize as the best meal of the trip after being prepared in a flaming wheel of cheese. Gelato, truffle pizza, and açaí bowls at brunch were also main highlights.
Next up was Florence. We traveled north on a quick train and arrived in the city in the pouring rain. The sightseeing continued regardless.
“David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created in marble between 1501 and 1504 by the Italian artist Michelangelo. David is a 5.17-meter (17.0 ft) marble statue of the Biblical hero David, a favored subject in the art of Florence.”
The Galleria dell’Accademia is home to Michelangelo’s David, which is much larger than I expected. We waited for over an hour in line to enter the museum, but honestly I think that the wait was worth it because David really was larger than life!
Hidden in the back room were also beautiful sculptures of women. I began to feel the weight of the patriarchy in the museum and was comforted by a quote on the stall door in the women’s restroom: we record in art a reflection of society (@david), down with the patriarchy!
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and the Duomo
“The Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore was begun in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi”
“Giotto’s Campanile is a free-standing campanile that is part of the complex of buildings that make up Florence Cathedral on the Piazza del Duomo in Florence, Italy.”
The line was over two hours to enter the Basilica, so we decided to only enjoy the church from the outside. Once again, holy week made the lines slightly ridiculous.
Boboli Gardens at Pitti Palace
“The Boboli Gardens is a park in Florence, Italy, that is home to a collection of sculptures dating from the 16th through the 18th centuries, with some Roman antiquities.”
To get away from the lines and tourists, we brought a picnic lunch to the gardens and enjoyed walking around and hanging out in the sunshine.
Views of Florence
Florence was my favorite city of the trip. It is the perfect size to explore in a couple days, unlike Rome which is sprawling. However, there were still a lot of tourists and really long lines to museums and cathedrals. Also Florence must be the home of the majority of study abroaders from the US in Italy; English can be heard from gals in sorority gear on every corner.
YUM. Florence was full of spectacular gelato, my favorite truffle pasta, amazing truffle salami sandwiches, margherita pizzas, and American style brunch.
The third city of Semana Santa in Italy was Bologna. Once again, a short train north brought us to our next destination. Bologna is fairly small, way less touristy, and dominated my university students. It is also well known for food.
Piazza Maggiore and Basilica di San Petronio
The main plaza in Bologna was full of students sunbathing and snacking in front of the main cathedral. We spent a lot of time in the sun relaxing, chatting, and doing sudoku in Bologna. Here to visit the cathedral, we walked immediately inside (no lines!!), which was very refreshing after Florence and Rome.
Views of Bologna
Bologna is known as a university city, a food capital, and for its beautiful porticos (that made it hard to walk on the sunny side of the street). We took time to slow down and relax in Bologna because there are a lot less sights for tourists but still a lot of culture to take it!
We organized a cooking class with Antonio through Airbnb experiences, and WOW was it an experience. Antonio was quite the character. In addition to learning how to cook pasta we learned his life story and the two hour cooking class ran over four hours!
We made a tagliatelle pasta in a ragú sauce and tortelloni with ricotta (and some other things I have forgotten) in a sage and butter sauce. Antonio said I was a natural, made me his sous chef, and told me I had a big brain and asked intelligent questions (okay I now love Antonio at this point). It was overall a wonderful experience!
Climbing the Tower
“The Towers of Bologna are a group of medieval structures. The two most prominent ones, known as the Two Towers, are the landmark of the city.”
One of the towers is apparently the tallest in Italy. After climbing and a quick photoshoot at the top of this structure, we hurried back down because we did not feel too safe!
Bologna offered the best food for the lowest prices of the whole week. Every dish was amazing, and the opportunity to learn to cook was so much fun.
Finally, we took a third train north to Venice and arrived overlooking the Adriatic Sea and canals. Venice is breathtaking, even from the station.
Saint Mark’s Basilica, Square, and Clocktower
“The Patriarchal Cathedral Basilica of Saint Mark, commonly known as Saint Mark’s Basilica, is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Venice, northern Italy. It is the most famous of the city’s churches and one of the best known examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture.”
“The Carnival of Venice is an annual festival held in Venice, Italy. The Carnival ends with the Christian celebration of Lent. The festival is world-famous for its elaborate masks.”
The Peggy Guggenheim Collection
“The Peggy Guggenheim Collection is a modern art museum on the Grand Canal in the Dorsoduro sestiere of Venice, Italy. It is one of the most visited attractions in Venice.”
This collection is housed in Peggy Guggenheim’s former home. It is filled with works by many of the world’s most famous modern artists (cough, patriarchy, cough). Peggy sure had an eye for art, seems to run in the family, and one of the best views over the Grand Canal of Venice!
Views of Venice
Venice was easily the most beautiful city that we visited in Italy. We spent a lot of time sitting on the waters edge, soaking in the sun, and enjoying our time in the city.
Views of (Emma in) Venice
I made sure to take advantage of the city as an instagram backdrop as well.
Venice had the worst food of all places we visited. Not only was it outrageously expensive, but it also was not very good. After a day of wasted money on really expensive and not great food, we started picking up more street food which was both cheaper and better tasting. The gelato was still pretty great though.
Coruña Easter Brunch
Janey, Bryanna, and I flew back from Venice to Coruña. I spent the night in Coruña and was able to celebrate Easter with Janey, Bryanna, Natalie, and Julia (all TAs in Coruña, Galicia) before returning to Ourense by train.
Brunch included mimosas, mojito slushies, chocolate covered strawberries, breakfast sandwiches, waffles, pancakes, chicken wraps, lattes, eggs, bacon, and toast with tomato all for only 16 euros each.
I was so grateful to be surrounded by friends on a day that so many people from home were able to be with their families.
Thank you for reading about my holy week in Italy. It really was a bucket list trip, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see Rome, Florence, Bologna, and Venice!
This is the last big trip of my Fulbright year. There are a few more small trips to come in my final SEVEN weeks in Spain. I cannot believe that time has passed so rapidly, but I am really excited to give my all to my students in my final weeks and to return to the US to prepare for law school so soon! Until next time, thanks for reading and ciao!