Wow!! This past week literally flew by. I don't know where to start. To begin, I am starting to feel better. I can't remember whether I blogged about it but I've had a pretty serious cold since last Thursday. Finally, after a week and a half of taking medicine I am starting to feel better, which is great news.
The really big news for me though, is that my friend Lilian came to visit me during Penn's spring break for an entire week. Saturday night I went out and stayed out much later than I intended too (4AM) but the next morning I was up at 8 so that I could be at the airport in time to pick Lilian up after her flight. I was able to get to the airport without any problems and finally seeing her was great. We then headed to the train to head into the center of Milan and then to my apt. Unfortunately when we got on the subway in the center of the city, it was so packed that I had to use her big suitcase (she packed almost as much as I did for 6 months for her 1 week visit) to push people in so that we could fit. I was relieved when we got out of the subway so that we could breathe again and thought the worst of it was over, until Lilian realized that her wallet wasn't in her purse. Yes, she literally got pick-pocketed within 15 minutes of arriving in Milan!!!!
We knew there was no use worrying about it because there was no way her wallet would ever be found but this was definitely not the best way to start a vacation. Later that day I took Lilian to see the Duomo in Milan, along with the big castle near the center of the city and Via Monte Napoleone so that she could get a sense of the importance of fashion in Milano. I ended up buying a light jacket for the spring and a watch with a brown band. Unfortunately, when I got home I realized that the ticking of the watch's seconds hand is super loud so now I need to return the watch. I normally would not mind but I can literally hear the watch while it is by my side. We also drank an espresso so that she could taste an authentic one, and as you can see from the picture below, she thought it was a little bitter! For dinner I took Lilian to a pizzeria near my apartment so that she could have her first real Italian pizza and we both thought it was delicious.
The following day I had class all day but I only went in the morning so Lilian wouldn't have to be alone for as long. After I got home from class we went to the grocery store and bought food because Lilian wanted to cook a special meal. She decided on making steaks and I tried to pay attention to the recipe because it was delicious!! The next day Lilian came to classes with me and it was funny because in class I answered a question and got a free loaf of bread from Princi, one of the best bakeries in Milan. As soon as we got home we tried the bread and it was certainly as good as was promised. In between classes we came home to find my french roommate almost having a nervous breakdown because we had not washed the floors in nearly 3 weeks and the shower was broken so I spent a couple hours vacuuming everything and scrubbing the floors and even some walls in my room, the kitchen, foyer, and kitchen. Later in the day, our landlord had our shower fixed and it ended up being 100x better than before it broke. It wasn't the most exciting 3 hours of my life but it's always good to do some spring cleaning and someone has to help keep the American-French relations peaceful. That evening, Lilian outdid herself in the kitchen again with the chicken she made and after a pleasant meal we planned our trip to Roma!
Fortunately, my Italian roommate, Federica, was home and was able to call the bed and breakfast in Rome to make the reservation and make sure the place seemed legitimate. After everything was booked we all sat and shared stories until like 3am over a bottle of white wine. The wine and spirits here in Italy are incredibly inexpensive compared to the US, so having a glass of wine for dinner is about as common as eating pasta here.
On Wednesday, I had to go to class to take a quiz before we could leave to Rome and it was shocking. I had heard that cheating was common practice in Italian classrooms but I never imagined it could be THAT bad. I was wrong. Students were literally talking aloud to eachother and even shouting to friends across the room. I finished as quickly as possible and left because there were like 7 people trying to copy my answers. The professor kept pretending to be upset but she never actually did anything to stop everyone an it was a really dissapointing experience. There is a chance that I did the worst in the class since everyone else cheated but I don't care because I can atleast think for myself.
After my quiz Lilian and I ran to the train station to depart for Rome. Unfortunately when we got there we found out our train had been cancelled due to the weather (it was snowing) so we left 2 hours later than we wanted. I think I brought the bad weather to Italy with me but I don't mind bringing bad weather wherever I go because I think I also bring a lot of humor and laughter with me too! The train itself was delayed once we got on it so we didn't get into Rome until 9 at night. The man sitting next to me was from Rome and I talked to him for most of the 2nd half of the trip. At first I didn't want to bother him because he was like 50 years old and looked tired but then he looked bored so I figured my attempts to speak Italian would at least be entertaining for him. We ended up speaking about our love for soccer and I told him about the trips I have taken and I also learned more Italian so it was great. Those kinds of things are what makes traveling fun.
I was VERY excited for this trip for a few reasons:
1. I have always wanted to visit the Vatican and see the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica.
2. I was going to be able to meet Maria, my childhood neighbor and playmate from when I lived in Colombia, who now lives in Rome.
3. Reading 'Angels and Deamons' made me want to see the city and all of its beautiful fountains and churches.
4. The Colloseum.
5. It's ROME!!!
After we checked into the bed & breakfast and got settled in we picked up a map from the lobby and headed out to find something to eat. I was hoping to find an aperitivo where we could watch the Milan/ Manchester champions league soccer match but we didn't have luck and it didn't seem like too great of a game anyway. We walked around for like 45 mins and it didn't take long to realize how beautiful the city was or how great of a location we were staying in. Our B&B was literally like a 10 minute walk from the Vatican. We decided to eat at a pizzeria and then walked back to get some much needed rest. Look at the beautiful view of St. Peter's Basilica that we saw!
The next morning we got up at 6:45am because breakfast was brought up to our room at 7:30am since we had 8am reservations at the Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums). The walk to the museum only took 15 mins since it's toward the back of the Vatican but once we got there we just walked right past all of the lines since we had reservations. Once we got in we also got an audioguide for €7 which I had heard was well worth it. I would definitely recommend it because it makes everything more interesting if you know the history behind it. The inside of the museum was absolutely beautiful and before it was a museum, the Pope used some of the rooms for his offices and even dining areas. Some of the rooms had frescoes painted by Michelangelo so you can imagine what a sight it was. During the tour they definitely saved the best for last. The last room we entered was the Sistine Chapel, which is the Pope's chapel. This is the place where all of the cardinals are locked-in while they vote for the new pope and it is so beautiful that it makes all of the treasures in the museum look like household objects. There are simply no words to describe the Chapel, especially the ceiling which was all painted by Michelangelo. I had heard so much about the chapel that when I first walked in I was almost underwhelmed but the more time I spent admiring the art and history, the more I began to feel overwhelmed with its beauty and importance. As far as art is concerned, there is NOTHING that I have ever seen or heard of that can compare- Not even DaVinci's Last Supper or any of the Monet's, Van Gogh's, or Picasso's I have seen in museums. I could have spent all day admiring it and when I finally left the chapel I basically has goosebumps. Photography is prohibited but I was able to sneak in a couple pictures (everyone was trying to).
After the museums we went to St. Peter's Basilica and Square and their size was very impressive. I bet close to a million people could fit in the square. There were a super long line to get into the Basilica but it moved quickly and it was well worth the sights that awaited us. The Basilica is HUGE (the biggest in the world) but the large square outside makes it appear smaller than it is. Once you are inside though, you really get a feel for its sheer size but it is even more beautiful than it is big. It is a strange feeling to walk on the same floor that so many Popes and even Saints have walked on and it is something that every Christian should experience. Being in the Vatican really made me proud to be Catholic and I made sure to pray while in the Basilica, which was built on top of St. Peter's tomb. After walking aroun the interior we went down into the tombs of the popes and it was really sad especially when we got to Pope John Paul II's tomb. There were at least a dozen people kneeling in front of it praying on the ground and some were even crying. It was a really moving scene.
After we left the tombs we went to the top of the cupolla or the top of the dome of the church. It was pretty tiring and it took a long time to climb up all of the steps but the views from the top were gorgeous. It was quite cloudy but we could still see really far and we could even see the colloseum in the distance! After climbing to the top we left the Vatican an explored more of the city.
Some of the beautiful things we saw As we walked around were:
The Fontana de Trevi
The "Spanish Steps"
The Pantheon was really cool because of how old it was. Inside are the graves of Italy's first 2 kings and Raphael, the great artist. I don't know much about the Fontana da Trevi but it is beautiful and everyone was throwing coins in for good luck so I did the same!
We headed in and went to bed early that night because we were so tired and had another long day of sightseeing ahead of us.
I studied in Milan for a semester (1/2010 - 6/2010) at Università commerciale Luigi Bocconi on exchange from the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton). I had the time of my life and kept this blog so that my friends and family could follow along!