Study Abroad in Italy - O Sole Mio
Note: This is part of a series of throwback posts I am doing to consolidate all the various travel blogs or journals I have used since I started traveling extensively in college. I have left them unaltered from an editing perspective as it is fun and interesting to see the evolution of my travel writing and style. This is the first in a series of posts I did while studying abroad in Italy for four weeks in the summer of 2007 studying Italian movies and documentary film making techniques.
May 25, 2007
All by myself - well at least for my first 24 hours in Italy.
I left Atlanta on Thursday at 8 pm after being dropped off at the airport by my dad and having dinner with T when he got done with his co-op at Delta. The 9.5 hour flight was fairly uneventful - mediocre food, watched Music and Lyrics, and tried to get at least 6 hours of sleep. Flying directly into Venice was a definite bonus because it meant no layovers and no lost luggage.
The rest of the study abroad group was not coming in until Saturday so I decided to stay in Venice on Friday and acclimate while seeing some of the sights. After arriving at the airport I got my bags and changed into a sundress and then got a ticket for the bus that goes from the Marco Polo Airport to the train station in Messtre (about 15 min away). At the station I used my awesome tourist-Italian skills to buy a ticket to Venice which is about 10 min away by train. I managed to get on the right track, the right train, and with all of my luggage (a backpack, a video camera, and a rolling suitcase)! On the train I was sitting in the car with a couple in their 40s who were on holiday from Sicily. The man spoke English and the women spoke a little English so with a few of my simple Italian phrases thrown in there I told them all about the program I was here with and my plans for my weekend in Venice.
At the train station we said ciao and I headed off to my hotel which was literally a 2 min walk from the station. This was the same place I had stayed at when we came for the Oxford Study Abroad trip in 2005 so felt very comfortable getting and staying there by myself. The area is right near the train station, a vaporetto (boat bus) stop, and one of the three bridges that crosses the Grand Canal.
After settling in and calling home all I wanted was a shower and a nap. The weather was about 85 degrees in Venice, with lots of sun and humidity so it was really miserable hiking around and sitting in un air conditioned trains with all the luggage. I woke up around 7 and ventured out to get some dinner.
I found the open air market near my hotel and got some oranges to go with the pizza I got from a vendor. I stopped in the bakery and got some little dolces (sweets) to enjoy for dessert and grabbed a bottle of spumante (sparkling white wine) on my way back to the hotel. I ate dinner while watching some American movie dubbed in Italian and was so tired that I just set my alarm and fell asleep around 9:30.
On Saturday I woke up around 8 and got breakfast at the hotel. I had to be checked out at 11 am but my train to Messtre was not until 3ish so I left my luggage behind the desk and ventured to Pizza San Marco (Saint Mark's Square) to tour the Doge's Palace since I did not go there last time. The vaporetto cost €6 for a ticket that is good for 90 minutes. I got two one way tickets and hopped on the first boat down the Grand Canal. I snagged a seat up front and pulled out my Rick Steve's Italy guidebook so I could read about all the palazzo (palaces) that we passed down the canal.
After the 25 min trip I descended into the frenzy that is St. Marks - tourists, cruise ship passengers, and tons and tons of pigeons. Now I should mention right now that pigeons freak me out - they are dirty, smelly rats with wings and why anyone on earth would want to have them climb all over you and peck you and shit on you is totally beyond my comprehension!
My tour of the palace was about 2 hours. Using my guidebook and a pamphlet from the desk I explored all the chambers of residential area as well as the government offices and the rooms where the senate met. Since they didn't have AC back then all the rooms have lots of windows and heavy curtains that they push out the window to hang over the balcony so people cannot see in but the breezes still enter the room. I thought that was ingenious.
After grabbing a snack of gelato and a coke light, I was exhausted so I hopped on the first vaparetto that came and ended up riding around the outside of the island of Venice for about 2 hours just enjoying the views and talking to some of the other passengers.
I made it back to pick up my bags and got to the Venice train station around 3. I used the automatic machine to buy my ticket to Gorizia and then hopped on the first train to Messtre. At the station I was waiting on the platform and saw the rest of my group arriving from the airport. After a frantic rush to buy tickets and make sure we were getting on the right train we all threw our luggage on and jumped on board right before it pulled away from the station.
We got settled in 2 cars and sat back for the 2 hours journey to Gorizia. Mary, Jennifer and I sat next to a family from Italy with two children ages 11 and 12. They kids knew English so we talked about music and movies and MTV. Apparently they all really like to watch Pimp my Ride here...I was embarrassed that this was our cultural ambassador!
Arrival in Gorizia was uneventful. We took a mini bus from the station to the hotel (typically a 25 min walk but we didn't want to do that with all the luggage). After getting to our room and freshening up we had dinner downstairs. Typically the hotel doesn't serve dinner but when we come we hire a cook just for our group and the food is absolutely amazing! Salad, fresh bread, lasagna, chicken salad, pasta salad and a fruit tart for dessert. We look forward to a whole month of breakfasts and dinners like this.
After dinner we were all exhausted so we sat in Betsy's room and watched the rain and lighting outside through the skylights and we opened up the bottle of spumante I had bought in Venice but never drank. We were still waiting on 6 of our group to arrive the next day but for Sat night we just talked and chilled and then went to bed around 10.