Italy has to have been my favorite country on the trip. It was the perfect mix of feeling like you are in a foreign place without being too overwhelmed with all that is around you. The food is awesome, the landscape was beautiful, and too many sights to see in one visit. The language barrier even seems non-existant at times due to the high number of tourist, most of the people speak enough english to make interactions simple and less complicated than in other countries. At times, it felt like more people spoke english here than in England itself. If all else fails, just throw in a "prego" it's pretty much interchanged for any word here.
Our stay began in Como, a city technically in Italy but right on the Switz boarder so it made day trips into Switzerland relatively easy. Como, Riva and Lugano are all situated on these huge lakes with grand mountains running right up to the shores. The beauty of this place attracts people from all of the world, including George Clooney, who has a summer house on the lake. Unfortunately, not saying I didn't try to, Dr Doug Ross was no where to be found.
Venice was our first true Italian feeling city and easily one of the best experiences on the trip. The most amazing thing about Venice is the fact that you are dropped off in a large plaza and after you cross the bridge, you will not see any car within the city. Implemented across a series of canals with crossing streets, it can be a little confusing finding your way around first, but when you find the main waterways, it becomes a little easier. It is by far not the cleanest city and you'll experience some smells that will take your breath away, but is one of the most interesting places you could ever hope to visit.
|Looking Back into Venice|
Exploring each of the narrow streets and watching the gondolas drift by and under bridges is a experience you will miss when it's over. The main streets are filled with people visiting the countless number of stores and restaurants that give life to the area. Murano glass is the big seller in the city and the number of fine glass stores seems to be infinite with each one selling at lease one unique thing. Of course during our stay here, we were missing Halloween back home, so several of us took the opportunity to purchase a venetian mask to wear to dinner that night. Even though you are in Venice, wearing one of these long nosed masks will still get you plenty of strange looks.
In our studies, we visited the Scarpa museum in Venice, which incorporates the canals into the building, and a Tadao Ando modern art museum that had some of the strangest exhibits I had ever seen...everything from a horse with it's head stuck 3/4's of the way up a wall to anime character statues that at 23 years old, I couldn't stand in the room without blushing. The real draw of the city, really most Italian cities, is exploring the streets and the places in between.
|Ally of Venice|
After Venice came Florence and although it was a little strange seeing cars again, it was still a real treat to navigate through the connecting streets. Our hotel this time was only one block over from one of the buildings I was most excited to see, Santa Maria and the Duomo. One of the most important buildings in the history of architecture, the dome marked the advancement in technology and engineering thinks to it's designer, Brunelleschi. There is no more powerful feeling in Florence than walking down an ally and catching a glimpse of this massive cathedral in the distance.
|View of Duomo from street|
|Overlooking Florence on the Duomo|