Ciao! Buongiorno! These are the main words I have learned to use in my 5 days in lovely Italia!
So if you don’t know me let me introduce myself first. My name is Michael and to make the story short, I am a nobody that writes something in his past time. Lol. Anyway, if you’re here to read because you’re interested in Italy or if how I managed to travel Italy alone, then welcome!
Let me share my travel story and experience in Italy.
I decided to travel solo this time. The premise is to boost confidence for myself. They say travelling alone will teach you many things. Although my travel is only for 5 days, true enough I have learned great things that for me in my age (I am 24 by the way) is pretty great and applicable to me and to my eccentric personality. I’ll share to you my insights later about the lessons this trip taught me.
So my route is from London Stansted to Rome by 6th of March 2017 in the evening, settle down then stay in Rome 2 days and this includes a visit to the Vatican. I will leave Rome by 9th to Florence and leave Florence until the 11th and go straight to Pisa on the day of 11th and go back to London.
Can I just interject why I chose this 5 day trip and why these cities?
If I may, it is because my Schengen visa (visa to go to schengen countries) given by France will expire on the 13th of march. And to maximize the visa, I decided to travel! I have a friend who is Italian and she was the one who suggested the route. She said to savour cities of Italy, it needs minimum of 2 days so I didn’t really rush myself in visiting other well known cities like Venice. Rome is close to Florence and Pisa is only an hour away by train from Firenze so I think the itinerary is just fine.
Rome: The Eternal City
So I arrived in Rome very late. And I have to get to a bus and go to Termini in Rome to ride the train to get to my destination accomodation. I was nervous to be honest knowing that I am alone and I realized my accomodation was not near Termini. It was not easy to be fair. Your bag will be put in the baggage area of the bus, we wait for the bus to be filled so if you are early, expect your bag to be pushed inside and expect to be waiting when you arrive in Termini as people will be rushing getting all their bags. Whew! But yes! I survieved and was able to get to Termini and find the right line going to Libia, where I am staying.
I went to eat pizzas and gelatos around my Air bnb, I first thought why did I get my bnb a bit far from Termini knowing that I am alone! But it was a blessing in disguise because the foods and shops around my place like pizza and gelatos were authentic, local, delicious and cheap. It is where the locals go! Yum!
I was able to use the metro which is their train services. It was pretty straight forward but I was lost once. Lol So below are the pictures I have for you, the ticket machines are not in English but is pretty straighforward to use. Haha Maybe. Lol
Let me start with my favorite of all, the Trevi Fountain. It was just massive and elegant and magical and fabulous and amazing. Of course the place is crowded nonetheless it just amazed me.
I met two Lithuanian boys in the fountain and they were so nice.
They shared to me their culture and country and I shared a little bit about mine. They taught me the proper way of wishing and tossing a coin in the fountain which is to throw from right hand and toss over the left shoulder.
I also went for an early access Sisitine Chapel and Vatican tour. It was fantastic. It was also nice to note that going to the Vatican is like going to another country haha. And I went to S.Peter’s Basilica and climbed up to the dome.
If you climb up you have two options, use the lift and climb for 8 euros or climb and climb for 6 euros. I tried climbing for 6 euros and I suggest the other route because it is exhausting!!!! Lol
To go in, I had to cue and security will scan your bags, entrance is free. And there I get to see the tomb of the first Pope St. Peter.
I will just post my pictures in places I have been in Rome and Vatican. To be fair, in Rome I didn’t enjoy as much as in Florence because I did not book myself for a walking tour in the Palatine Hill and the Colosseo but I will be back someday so I might do a tour again. It is still different that when you go to a place you will have an in depth history and knowledge of what is in there and its significance to the society, isn’t it and not go there just for the heck of taking pictures to show the world you’ve been there. Lol. It will be unfair for Rome. But the food and the sightseeing for me for my first time there was enough. So for you planning a trip there I think it is best to book for a walking tour that someone will guide you so that as you walk along the ancient sites you will be walking along with the ancient and well known people of history.That’s what I did with Florence and I was captivated.
Florence: The Cradle of Renaissance
At first when my friend Ilaria from Tuscany mentioned Florence. I thought what am I gonna do there? That just shows how stupid I am of history and how magnificent Florence is.
I would say this was the highlight of my trip in Italy.
If you ask me if Florence is lovely, I would say yes. The love for Florence would really depend person per person.
I am just amazed of history and how people behave think and have done. And it just amazes me that thinking and breaking the rules were the the major themes of stories from Florence. People like Brunelleschi, Michelangelo and Raffael came from this renaissance City. The Medicis toocame from this place. Even Hitler went to this place and was amazed by its grandeur. He went to the old bridge Ponte Vecchio. The only bridge that survived world war 2.
When my eyes first laid on the sight of the Florentine chapel. It melted my heart. Seeing the huge marble design and the dome at its rear. It was massive. Pictures do not give justice to its beauty, really.
On the first day I went to the Uffizi. If you are into arts and the church and politics and history Uffizi combines it all. See the world’s most famous artworks housed in it. I just stayed in Leonardo da Vinci’s room and stared at the Annunciation for an hour. I was just in awe. Many more artworks were there and it was just mesmerizing.
I wanted to stay longer but I was famished so I decided to leave earlier and bid farewell to the Ufizzi gallery. Near the Uffizi is the River Arno with Ponte Vecchio only at a walking distance. I just strolled around and absorbed the majestic city’s beauty. I then chased the sunset and just watched until the sun disappeared and all the lights of the city appear. The sunset was heartwarming and stunning. The lights and the breeze was just creating an ambience of self reflection and hope for a soul like me who marvelled at this simple yet wonderful city. Oh I would not forget that view of the horizon where I just gazed at a wonderful sunset never known to me before.
I also had a talk with a Mexican who also travelled alone. We had a good talk about our lives me as a nurse in London (and how crappy London’s weather is) and him being in close proximity to the Acapulco beach up to the telenovelas Filipinos are crazy about and of course Manny Pacquiao.
It was a good talk. Then I said goodbye and I continued to walk around. And then just went home and got ready for a whole day adventure with the city again.
In the morning, I woke up early so that I would climb the Palazzo Vecchio or the Old Tower. By the way that political palace was the residence of a Spanish Queen before but then she requested that a new palace should be made for her then they made Palazzo Pitti in just 5 months! (Courtesy of the power of the Medicis) thus the old tower. I climbed up and I saw the view of Florence and the Duomo! The view was just amazing and humbling.
In noontime, I decided to eat Chinese since I missed Asian food so I went to a Chinese shop near the train station area and it was fantastic.
And then I went back to my accommodation to take a little rest before the walking tour I pre booked beforehand. The meeting point was in Piazza San Marco. I waited and waited til we are formed as a group and to my surprise we were only a few bunch. We were only 6 which was good so that it will be more personal.
Our guide’s name was Charlie. He is a lawyer by profession and He is an american. All of the tourists were from the United States and I am the only one from the Philippines/London but 3 of them are originally Greeks. It raised the interest of Charlie and the Greeks themselves since Renaissance period and the Roman designs and culture were mostly copied from the Greeks. That is how the Greeks affected the world. Romans just stole most of the ideas from them after they ruled the Greeks.
One great examples are the Gods and Goddesses of Greeks and Romans. The Romans just renamed them. Lol.
Moving forward, we started with Michelangelo and how he was related to the Medicis. He was the star of the renaissance I guess. He was a genius and a man who doesn’t go with the flow. He thinks outside the box. That is why he is so well known. From 1401, how the Medicis came to power, how they influenced everything in Florence. How the ideas of thinking of Humanism, how art evolved in this time from Gods being unreachable to Gods being like us. They also have problems. And how art slowly evolved and people start to think out of the box. Humanism and Mannerism in sculptures emerged.
We went to the Old Medicis palace. We talked about the significance of Architecture and Engineering, we talked abiut perspective about passion and competition. We talked about failures and dreams. We talked about innovation and so much more. I learned about how guilds formed.
What just amazed me was that I all learned and memorized this back in high school and I have always tried to understand it but it just didn’t make any sense. It was only when I saw it firsthand and when our guide explained it little by little.
We went also to the Academia. And guess who I saw! David by Michelangelo. Michelangelo is an amazing sculptor. He thinks outside of the box and he doesn’t care what other thinks. And the story behind this marble creation is also amazing. This came from a rejected work unfinished because they said the marble was not of good quality. And voila a masterpiece was made from an imperfect stone. It is really true that if we really just make use and be thankful of what we have we can always be happy and reach great heights .
The experience was really amazing. The name of the tour/ site is Walks of Italy. I would definitely recommend it.
Florence just left me in awe of its history and it magnificent grand aura. I would definitely recommend it and I am absolutely sure I will come back.
After that I just went to Palazzo Pitti and I sunbathed there lol. And because it was my last day I decided to buy a small painting of Ponte Vecchio. The painter sold it to me for 20 euros but because I left my money, the only money I have in my pocket is 15 euros so I told him if I can buy the painting for 15 and eventually he said okay so I was so happy. It is an oil on canvas painting. One day I was walking in the old bridge and I accidentally stepped on a painting! The seller gave me a very strange look. I was laughing I went straight away. It was my fault because I wasn’t really paying attention but it was night already and he placed the drawing on the floor! Anyway I was laughing so hard. I have so many wonderful memories in that bridge that’s why I decided to buy the painting!
Oh and I forgot to mention the food in Florence is lovely. I would recommend going to Mercato Centrale on the 2nd Floor it opens until midnight so if you would like a wonderful Italian treat late in the evening I would definitely recommend it. It is right at the top of their market!
And I have tried this shop Al Antico Vinaio, it is very close to the spots and people line up for it so I went there and locals just know it and it is heaven! I tried La favolosa and L’inferno you should try it. Worth the 5 euros!!! Check out the pictures I have for you!
After Florence I just went to a day trip in Pisa. It is just an hour ride from Florence. And if you plan to visit there, the leaning tower is really enough. The town is small and quiet.
I just left all my bags to the left luggage area in Pisa Centrale station for 5 euros.
And by the way from Pisa Centrale if you want to go to the tower by bus, buy a ticket in the station, ride the bus that is Labeled LAM Rossa.
There are other colors like LAM blu or LAM verde. Ride LAM Rossa. And buy tickets for going back too! Bus stations are near there. In going to PISA, wait for the bus across the road from the station and not on the side of the station.
And when I arrived in the tower, I asked a Japanese lady to take my picture and she took a very nice photo of me, I thanked her and I asked her where she came from and she said she is from Japan. I greeted Konnichiwa, and said Arigatou and they laughed and responded, I checked her pic of me and i said ‘Yey!’ and she and her friends laughed and yelled Yehey too! Lol.
I climbed up the tower too, pre-booked tickets and remember to leave bags in the free baggage drop area in an orange building near the tower, handbags aren’t allowed! grrr.. anyway here is the view up.The tower is leaning so expect a weird feeling. Don’t worry centrifugal force will keep you upright. Lol but It wan to a fancy feeling at the top. I felt nauseated because you really feel it is leaning!
And then from the station, I will go now to Galilei International Airport, to get there, you have to ride a bus and the directions to get to the bus is easy to follow. You can buy tickets from the driver for 2 euros or if you buy at the station, 1.30 euros.
And that was my Italy trip. I hope you enjoyed reading my experiences. If you will travel to Italy soon make sure you will have enough time and don’t rush.
Back to the lessons I learned in my journey alone, I realized that, Florence is a wonderful place to have soul searching, and that travelling alone will make you become a tougher person,and become more responsible of your actions. It taught me to value company and friendship and in life, like in any trips, everything is not going to be perfect.
In life, there will always be times you will feel alone, times you wish you have someone to share the view with and times that you bask the sunset with your own eyes and appreciate all the blessings in life you have.
I felt and realized the value of home and the comfort of being in home, that even if you travel places, you will always have to go back to where it all started. That you search to go far yet the answer is already inside you, that all along it was just in the place where you have always been.
And the most important lesson I have learned is to be thankful. Just to be thankful of basically everything, the good or the bad, because I realized that is the will of God for our lives, that is the one way our souls will grow and will learn to accept all our frailties and imperfections from the inside to the outside whether in our own selves and in our families or friends of in general our lives. I believe growth as a person does start in acceptance of what we have in life and the catalyst for growth of the soul is starting from being thankful of the life we have. That is then we start to make use of all our frailties and imperfections to reach whatever we want in life, and for me that is genuine happiness. If we become thankful and realize the power of this perspective, we will be able to appreciate every fabric of strengths and weaknesses we have in us.
Gahhh, too much drama isn’t it? Well, it is absolutely good to experience and dive into Italia’s culture and history.And now in my life, I could proudly say I’ve been able to travel to a different country on my own and I guess that is a big achievement I have for me. Lol.
Hey, let me know of your experiences whether solo or groups. Or whether you have thoughts, comments or perhaps wild reactions?