It's been two weeks and I still find myself daydreaming about swimming in the Amalfi Coast. The water was the saltiest and most clear I had ever seen, my friends and I found ourselves losing track of time on the beach during our stay. I devoured the best homemade ravioli of my life for dinner at Chez Black in Positano, and somehow ended up at a drag show in the small town's club built into a cliff called Music on the Rocks. Although it was a brief trip, the amount of times I had to stop to take in the scenery was something I will never forget. Everywhere I turned, a nearly picture-perfect view was ahead of me.
Three days later, I was off to Florence. Originally I was supposed to stay in the city for four days then venture off to Rome, but I loved wandering the streets so much that I extended my stay by two days. Once I arrived, I headed toward the tourist attractions and followed the advice of several articles I read - have no set destination and see where the streets will take you. Thanks to this advice, I came across the best pizza place in Florence, Pizzeria O'vesuvio, known for their famous ricotta stuffed crust pizza. I ended up coming here two nights in a row because I loved it so much, and I came to find out this was one of the restaurants the Jersey Shore cast visited during their season filmed in Italy. From getting lost strolling through the Boboli Gardens to catching myself breathless, admiring Florence's nighttime sky view from the Piazzale Michaelengelo, it didn't take long for Florence, and Italy as a whole, to steal my heart.
I spent one day on a winery tour through Chianti, which followed a day full of thunder and lightning storms which sporadically hit Florence. Coming from the Pacific Northwest, it was literally a breath of fresh air to smell rain on the concrete and cobblestone throughout the neighborhoods. I was never much of a wine drinker before, but something about the red wine of Chianti swept me off my feet - which is very rare, considering my usual sweeter taste palette.
Ah, and then there was Rome. I couldn't feel more serendipitous about this trip ending the note it did with a city like this one. I had two full days to explore, so after a night of creating an itinerary, I set off in the morning for the Colossum, Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the Trastevere neighborhood. I was able to find a tour via Romaround, which included a tour guide through the underground, main and upper levels of the Colosseum and around the Roman Forum. Now THIS was a cool experience. When we went underneath the Colosseum, our tour guide told us stories about the gladiator games and showed where trap doors and man-made elevators were located to make the beasts "magically appear" on the arena floor. I saw the doors and walk way they would carry the defeated gladiators out of the arena, and we walked to the highest view of the Colosseum which overlooked most of Ancient Rome. The Roman Forum had to be one of my favorite sights. Our guide shared the origin story of Rome's name and showed us the remains of the building Julius Caesar was cremated in. Afterward, I went to the Trastevere neighborhood for lunch, checked out the Pantheon, made my way to the Trevi Fountain, then finished the day with dinner at That's Amore. If you make your way to this restaurant, try the risotto. It takes 20 minutes to prep, but a glass of wine and caprese appetizer will make the time go by fast.
My last day was spent with a tour of the Villa Borghese, Vatican City, and the Spanish Steps. I chose the Villa Borghese not only due to the beautiful historic artwork displayed in the park and in the gallery, but because the sculpture of Apollo and Daphne is located here. The greek myth is the origin of the Daphne plant and how it came to be. According to mythology and rephrased into a public blog-friendly version, Apollo was madly in love with Daphne and wanted her as his own. Daphne, the daughter of Zeus, was afraid of Apollo and wanted nothing to due with his possession. When Apollo chased after Daphne, she cried to her father asking for a way to escape. Zeus heard her cries and turned her into a laurel tree. Apollo discovered Daphne in her new form and was devastated. He made a head wreath our of her leaves, and plays the lyre instrument, singing for her to one day return to his arms. The laurel tree is one of the first plants to bloom in the spring, and the reasoning behind my name. Pretty cool, huh?
Had I stayed one more day, I would've spent my Sunday in the Vatican City, as traditions and former visitors suggest, where the pope resides. Instead I spend my last Saturday on a tour, again, via Romearound (highly recommend!) through the Vatican museums within the city. It was incredible to see all of the stories told through artwork, and my favorite was the detailed work of Michaelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Although I don't come from a religious background, I really enjoyed seeing the stories of Jesus and Moses come to life. Seeing the original works of the Last Supper, Adam and Eve, and the Creation of Adam was the kind of experience you have to see for yourself, because you just can't put it into words. I ended the day walking around the city center, ending up at the Spanish Steps where I fully embraced my inner Lizzie McGuire. Starting at the top and making my way down, I would stop to look back every few minutes to take a breath and make the most of the last hours I had left in Europe.
As crazy as it is to say that it's already over, I couldn't feel more thankful that it happened in the first place. Just like that, six weeks came and went in the blink of an eye. But in the midst of it all, I have grown and learned more about myself in a short amount of time than I ever thought capable. This time away from home taught me a few life lessons about staying focused on the path to where I want to be in the long run, and who to keep close, especially those who take the time to consistently check in despite the chaotic time difference. I'm so excited to see what this next lap around the sun has in store, and this was just what I needed before finishing my last few terms of school.
Thank you so, so much for reading and keeping up with my rambling throughout this trip. I really appreciate all the positive feedback and support I have received from family, friends, professors and colleagues about this little blog of mine! I hope it was as fun for you to check out as it was for me to produce. As for the future, who knows when I'll set out for my next trip across the world, but I'll cross my fingers it happens sooner rather than later. Here's to a successful closed chapter, and a positive outlook on the next chapter ahead!