During study abroad you usually get a week off for fall break or for a winter break. While studying abroad in Madrid, I received a week off in December. I believe it is a week meant to study for finals since it fell right before finals started. Of course if you are only in Europe for four months, you want to utilize this time to travel. It’s easy to find down time on planes and trains to hit the books. I used this week to take a tour of Italy. I wouldn’t say Italy was my favorite country because it is a little overdone, but overall a great experience. If I took this trip in a time of my life when I wasn’t traveling every weekend, it probably would have been the experience of a lifetime. Since humans are hopelessly relative creatures, it was topped by other more exotic experiences. None the less, I think everybody should experience Italy.
My trip started in Rome. Rome was one of my favorite cities in Italy because it remains frozen in time. It was very rich in history with ample Roman buildings littered throughout the city. The most famous of these buildings being the Colosseum which doesn’t disappoint. This ancient feat of architecture remains impressive and surprisingly well intact considering its age. I recommend getting a guided tour to fulling appreciate this monument. All these ancient gems make it difficult to get around the city by metro because the architecture limits where tunnels cane be built. Another major attraction in Rome is the Vatican. One could easily spend hours viewing the endless art in the Vatican museums. The Sistine chapel tops the museums impressive collection. The chapel surprised me because I thought the picture of God and man almost touching would take up the entire celling. It is in fact only a small part of the chapel and the rest of the surrounding art is just as remarkable.
I also visited Florence, Venice, and Pisa in Italy. Florence is a great city where the whole ambience sucks you in. The entire city is beautiful and they have the best gelato in the world. The food in general in Italy will not disappoint. I recommend looking up restaurants on trip advisor for the optimum experience. The only thing to see in Pisa is the tower which is most likely smaller than you think. Still Pisa is less than an hour form Florence by train so it makes for a nice afternoon excursion. Don’t forget to take the overly original picture of you holding up the tower or pushing it down. Honestly watching everyone capturing this cliché photo is better than the tower. Venice is worth the visit simply because it is so different than anything in the states. Having canals as roads makes Venice stand out. Although, it is a tourist trap and expensive so I wouldn’t stay long. I found one day sufficient. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to explore the south of Italy although I’ve heard Naples is beautiful. Perhaps if you are studying abroad you could start at Milan and work your way down to Naples.