When in Rome

Italy has stolen my heart.
Is it time for me to go back yet?
I feel selfish, experiencing melancholia leaving Italy to return to another amazing country, Egypt, but honestly... I love Europe. Send me back.
Our trip was, if you didn't guess, a huge success! As far as adventures go, it was incredibly uneventful. Nothing crazy, exciting, or dangerous crossed our paths.
I don't know if I am pleased or saddened by this.
Everyone loves the risk factor, right?
Or maybe just me.
Some people would call our "planning" risky as is.
Our planning being, we had a plane ticket.
That is all.
We had a general idea of all the cities we wanted to visit, but no concrete itinerary.
The only thing we knew was that we would fly into Rome Sunday evening, and then hop on a train to Florence to start our trip off.
So we did! However, being poor college students/student missionaries, we payed half the cost to take the "long train." So instead of taking an hour and a half to reach Florence, we arrived five hours later.
At midnight.
In a rain storm.
We wandered around trying to find a hostel in a strange city, cursing the five hour train and its tardiness. After a fruitless search of over an hour, we took a taxi and finally arrived at our abode for the evening just past 1am.
I think it is easy to say that our first evening in Italy was a success.
The next day was much improved, for sure. We spent the whole day wandering the streets of Florence with map in hand and cameras at the ready.
I am so incredibly impressed with Florence.
Going into it, I knew that the city would be amazing. What I didn't expect was the great atmosphere that accompanied the sights. I expected it to be pretty tourist-y, which it was, but everything was just so warm and welcoming that the tourist shops and street salesmen could easily be overlooked. Florence was just so perfectly quaint, and simultaneously massive. A strange combination, for sure. I don't know how else to explain the feeling it gave... you just have to visit to understand. The architecture in Florence was also the most amazing I saw in all of Italy. I am still stunned by it all.

This is the Duomo in Florence. It is by far, the most beautiful man-made creation I have ever been blessed to witness. Its sheer mass is amazing enough, but the intricacies and artwork are simply beyond belief. The whole time I looked at it, I just kept thinking "this can't actually be real... people couldn't actually have made this." Aliens. The only conclusion is that aliens did it. (after stopping by Cairo to help with the pyramids, obvi). 

I finally got to put my Egyptian scarves to use - cold weather was the warmest welcome I could ask for. 

This is the lovely bridge in Florence. All those little cottage-esq shops are stores and restaurants. The one major disappointment I had with the bridge was the hideous brown water that fills the river. I suppose crystal blue would make Florence too beautiful though, huh? Have to save some beauty for other cities in the world too.

We climbed to the top of the tower in the capital building to get a chance to see this view. The sprawling amber buildings seem too perfect to actually exist. Seeing this in real life was breath-taking, because we were standing in the open-air keep of a turret of sorts at the top of the building. So beautiful.

We spent Monday night and Tuesday morning in Florence, before heading off to our next adventure. Number two on our trip was a jot over to Pisa. Pisa was a beautiful city, but it was very plain. It didn't seem anywhere nearly as large as Florence, and really only had one major attraction.
The leaning tower.
The tower seemed to lean so much more drastically in real life than it does in any photograph I have.

On the right, we clearly have the leaning tower of Pisa juxtaposed to a stunning cathedral. The tower could be climbed, but only at the cost of fifteen euros. WAY above our incredibly limited budget. So, unfortunate as it is, we observed the tower in is glory from the outside only. We were able to make a trip into the Cathedral though, which was beautiful.

This is the inside of the cathedral. It is hard to portray the sheer size of the interior. Beyond the fact that all of the paintings inside are some of the best in the world, they are also painted in massive proportions. I could spend months analyzing all of the artwork in this cathedral alone. 

In Italy, bars aren't really bars the way we think of them in America. They are also coffee shops and gelatterias. That is to say, I spent a lot of time in bars.
For the coffee and gelatto, of course.
I miss Italian cappuccinos terribly.

We finished off Tuesday night in Pisa, with the intent to take a train Wednesday morning to our next destination.

The best of the best.
The most beautiful city I have ever, and possibly will ever, visit.
Cinque Terre.
If you EVER have the chance to visit these villages, take it. I promise you, Cinque Terre is worth every cent it costs to get there. It is too beautiful to express with language alone. You have to witness it to understand. 
Cinque Terre is five (very) small villages closely lining the coast on the edge of a cliff on the Mediterranean. There are no cars or buses allowed in the city, and the only way to get there is by train because they are very remote. It took us a few hours to get there from Pisa.
Now, what might seem unfortunate to you was a blessing for me.
We arrived at Cinque Terre during a rain/wind storm.
You can't understand the joy of being blown away in a rain storm, after three months of practical drought. It was lovely.
To be able to see my breath, and lose feeling in my toes and nose?
Totally worth it.

Because the train drops you off at the base of the village, you have to walk about a mile uphill to reach the cliff top city. During a wind storm, it was quite the experience. Our hair is a visual aid of the extreme gusts we battled on our climb to paradise. Phil's locks were especially wind-blown by the end of the brief hike.

This a a view of the city from inside it's cobbled walkways. The brightly colored buildings would be enough to set this place apart with beauty, but the cliff and sea-side view are almost too much to handle. Even in a rain storm, this place was stunning.

I'm still not certain how a place like this even exists. How is it physically possible for a single location to hold so much beauty? If I am ever permitted, I will move to Cinque Terre in a heartbeat. It is perfectly remote, but has so much great character. And the landscape is to die for. Does somebody want to take me back already?

This is my favorite group picture of the trip. I think it sums up our general personalities pretty well! On the left is Phil, and the right is Chris. Both ended up being great travel partners, even though they did threaten to sell me for pizza money. 

Our last day in Cinque Terre, we were given a little taste of heaven with this brief sun interlude. I'm telling you, this place is unreal. How can the ocean be so green, or the sky so blue? Cinque Terre, please take me back!

We left Thursday afternoon from Cinque Terre and headed to our last stop on the trip, Rome.
Now, I have to be honest.
Rome sucked.
Don't get me wrong, Rome is a beautiful city filled with wonders galore. The problem? It is jam-packed full of tourists. And expensive places that charge tourists lots of money. And humongous. Aside from trains, we walked to all of our destinations because the cost would otherwise be much higher to travel. Walking from attraction to attraction in Rome was exhausting, because things are just so spread out. The first thing we went to see was the Colosseum.
Quite the sight.
The only thing that marred it?
The thousands of people obstructing a proper viewing, a three hour line, and fifteen euro price-tag to enter the arena. 
We may be horrible people, but we opted to forgo entering the Colosseum as a result of the aforementioned ills. Instead, we spent some time walking around the outside of it, where it was still free. 
Complaining aside, the Colosseum was quite an imposing sight. The history in that building is too overwhelming to try and imagine. Also, the weather in Rome was nearing a balmy seventy degrees, which made viewing this wonder even better. 

More group photos! Phil is again, on the left and Chris is on the right. My vampirish self is smack-dab in the center. Sara so kindly told me that it looks like I have been photoshopped into this photo, because the contrast my skin creates is so bright.

These ruins are found a short distance from the Colosseum, and were in my opinion, the most beautiful sight in Rome. These spread out in such a wide area, and give such a great idea of how the city must have looked in all its grandeur so many years ago. Plus the sun was shining, and everything was just so verdant and lively.

One of the last major sights we visited in Rome was the Pantheon, outside of which resides this obelisk. From Egypt. Do you know how strange it was to see this Egyptian obelisk, hundreds of miles away from where I saw other Egyptian obelisks en situ? The style of it was such a contrast to the Roman architecture; everything about it made it stand out in the crowd. Literally. Pretty cool, though.
 This trip was a great reprieve from the past few hectic months of teaching. Even though the trip was to some degree rushed, I appreciate every second of it. 
And boy, do I miss pizza and coffee.
Take me back. 

If you still don't feel like you understand what our trip was like based on my superfluous photos and descriptions, this thirty second video epitomizes it all. 

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  1. Cinque Terre looks unreal, it is so close to the ocean!! I'm envious! I have heard similar things from my other friends who visited the colosseum. Your trip looks like tons of fun. Who is teaching your class while you are out and about adventuring?

  2. Yes!!! I'm so glad you got to see Cinque Terre! Its my favorite place too