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Exploring Italy


Italy

Well, today I'm dedicating this post to tell you all about my school trip to this Mediterranean country. From pasta, the good climate and its tourism, of course I'm talking about beautiful Italy.

Six years have gone by since I went on this trip, and I've always wanted a reminder of it somewhere, not just photos and more photos. So now I'm taking this opportunity to tell you all about mi experience in Italy.

Trip to Rome in May 2010. Practically all of us from our class went, and at that time we were in year 11, and as you probably know, that year students normally organise an end of school trip to say goodbye to their classmates and school. Although to tell you the truth about my classmates, we never separated from each other, we went to the same sixth form, but we were just in different classes, depending on what we all chose to study.

Anyway, this meant that we took a vote in class to decide where we would go on our trip. There weren't many options anyway because practically the whole class was on board with the idea of going to ITALY. From what I can remember, the other options were France and Amsterdam. I'm not sure if there was another. But Italy gained the most votes, so it was decided that it was going to be our destination for our end of school trip. The teachers were the ones who planned everything else. They organised excursions and planned our visits to a few different cities. Our trip was going to consist of visiting three Italian cities, Rome of course, Siena and Florence.

Finally, May arrived, and after having gone on a trip to Paris with my French class, it was time to embark on another trip in less than a year. We were all really looking forward to exploring the country, the cities and the Italian lifestyle. We took our flight and were finally en route to Italy. I remember the pretty view from the plane. I had a window seat and could see "the boot" from up high, what an amazing view. We landed in our first city, Rome. We were going to spend a few days there and after we were going to Florence and then Siena.

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Rome

Positive aspects

My first impression of Rome when I got there was that it was like an open-air museum, wherever you went there was art all over the place. Everywhere you looked, it was beautiful and the people were honestly really nice. The climate is another good thing about this country, like in Spain, Italy thrives on the Mediterranean climate. Of course, if you go in winter it's cold, and it also depends on where you go because the temperature varies depending on if you're in the north or south of the country, just like in Spain. The north is nothing like the south.

With regard to the city, what catches your attention most is the art, there's so much to see. After the next part of this post, I will tell you about the most symbolic things in Rome.

Negative aspects

In Rome, we stayed in a hotel which wasn't exactly a luxury hotel, but I remember that it wasn't a bad quality hotel either, well that's what we thought. I think it could have been a three-star hotel or something, but the quality of hotels in any neighbouring country isn't like it is in Spain. The truth is that we weren't too happy with our stay in that hotel since we had fleas in our rooms, and a lot of people ended up covered in bites. That wasn't very nice.

To add to this, the city itself smelt really bad. In spite of being a beautiful city, Rome is not the cleanest of cities you can visit. It has an unpleasant peculiar smell, and the houses have a black tone to them on the front. Cleaning isn't Rome's strong point.

What to see

Well as I said before, there's so much to see in Rome and for that reason I'm going to name everything that stands out the most:

The Vatican

The Vatican City is very near Rome, but as you probably know it's independent. Its hidden art is indescribable, I absolutely loved it. We had the opportunity to be able to go inside the San Pedro Basilica, and we saw the Sixteenth Chapel inside along with the frescoes by the famous painter Michelangelo. His frescoes are completely covered, there's not even a small gap which isn't painted. If you like art, you'd love visiting the Vatican. We spent a few hours there enjoying the art, but there were so many things it was impossible for everything to remain in our minds forever. I think it'd be better to go back a few times to see everything calmly and well. One good thing was that we didn't have to wait in the queue because we were a big group and our teachers had booked in advance. If you've never been there, I'm telling you that the queues are normally really long, so make sure you go in plenty of time guys. It's definitely worth it :)

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The Trevi Fountain

I'm sure you would have heard of this fountain. It's a very pretty fountain, the most famous of all fountains in Rome. It's of a baroque style and it has a certain artistic iconography. Neptune (God of the sea) is a figure amongst others you can see. Along with different creatures like newts. When people go to the fountain, it's a tradition to throw a coin into the water and I want to ask you, what does flinging a coin over your shoulder exactly mean? Well, I'm going to explain: A legend has it that those who throw a coin into that fountain and securing themselves a return to Rome. Another has it that you have to throw three coins over your left shoulder with your right hand and that makes sure you either get married or get divorced. Another legend says that by throwing a coin over your left shoulder with your right hand, you will have a new romance. And finally, people say that by simply throwing three coins into the fountain, it will bring you good luck forever.

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The Roman Colosseum

This is something you can't leave until the end. You can't leave Rome without having seen the Colosseum, where many many years ago it was used to hold fights and battles between gladiators. This amphitheatre is from the Imperial Roman era and it dates back to the first century after Christ. It wasn't just for gladiator fights, but also here they put on plays and animal shows. Our teacher explained all of this to us but you could also read it on the information signs dotted around the Colosseum.

They also say that the Colosseum was used for naval battles, but the problem is many historians think that they may have been talking about another place and that the Colosseum was too small to fill it with water and boats or animals such as horses and bulls who supposedly swam in the water as part of the show.

It was one of the things I liked most. I was so intrigued, and also when you're there seeing it in person you think about all the people and animals who died in battles, right before your very own eyes and it made me have goose bumps.

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La Piazza di Spagna (Spain Square)

This is one of the most famous squares in Rome. It's really typical to take a group photo in this square. If you look down from where I took the photo, the steps are the ones which take you to the Church. So basically, it was right behind me. This square is normally full of people selling things, painting, playing instruments, etc. Honestly, you could feel such a good atmosphere. I recommend going for a walk in this area. The street you can see at the back, and the ones parallel are full of clothes shops and places to eat, and as you can see it's a very crowded area.

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In this photo you can appreciate what I said more easily: The bright sun-lit building is the Church I was talking about earlier.

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Piazza Navona (Navona Square)

Along with Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Navona is also one of the most famous squares in the city. In this square, there are many social activities day after day, it's a central trading point and an artistic place. The buildings which surround the square are beautiful.

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The Roman Forum

This is near the Colosseum, about a five-minute walk. The Forum was the heart and soul of the city, it's where they used to have their markets. It was the heart of politics, religious services and social life in general. Just like with the Colosseum, you can't leave Rome without visiting this part of the city since it's the main place where its history lies. It's really good to walk around and take in all the culture at the same time, as I have already said that Rome is an open-air museum wherever you go.

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Florence (Firenze)

Florence is a city situated in the north of country. It honestly surprised me a lot. It has a beautiful cathedral and amazing views. There are many corners to explore and enjoy.

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I'm sure that for most of you, you've heard of Florence for being the cradle of Italian Renaissance. This city is considered to be extremely important when it comes to art and architecture, not only on a European level but only a worldwide level.

In this case, I can't give you the positive and negative things about the city because it's city I can't fault, not even a little. It truly amazed me because I didn't expect Florence to be so pretty.

What to see in Florence

The cathedral

Best known as Santa Maria del Fiore, the cathedral dates back to the

end of the thirteenth century and the beginning of the fourteenth. In terms of Italian artistic periods, it dates back to the Gothic period and the famous Renaissance period, and therefore being the cradle of artistic movement. Its facade is beautifully detailed, you could stay there for a while just admiring every detail, so you probably won't be able to see it all in half an hour. It's also stunning inside. This cathedral has a dome which was designed by the famous Brunelleschi. As you can appreciate in the picture, it was a lovely day so we were able to enjoy the outside perfectly.

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Il Ponte Vecchio (Old Bridge)

One of the most famous bridges in Florence, well actually it is the most famous. In the picture, you can see the bridge with a beautiful sunset in the background. This is the bridge over the Arno river, and is quite symbolic of the city. As you can see, the view is superb.

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The Accademia Gallery

This is one of the most famous museums in Florence and you can see sculptures as well as paintings. The building from outside is stunning, it has a beautiful facade in white tones decorated with columns and sculptures dotted around at the top. I'm sure that if I mention Michelangelo you will know what I'm talking about. In this museum, you can find his famous statue, the famous David by Michelangelo. My memory of this museum is a little blurry actually, but I still remember the moment I saw this statue with my own eyes for the first time. It was just like I had expected it to be, although a little shapeless in terms of the body dimensions, but since you look at it from bottom to top, it's made like that on purpose to give off the sensation that the body parts are life size. The statue puts all of its weight onto one leg, he's completely naked and he seems to have something in one of his hands. It's very big, I would say around five metres tall. They explained to us that this sculpture represents David just before his fight with Goliath. Apart from that, there are other interesting things to see in the Accademia Gallery. For example, there are many religious paintings and sculptures, but if I'm being honest, the main reason the Accademia Gallery is so famous is because of the statue of David. Many tourists go to visit this museum just to see the sculpture.

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Sienna

Finally, I'm going to end this post by talking about Siena, another Italian city in Tuscany, along with Florence. Siena is situated between Rome and Florence but it's a lot closer to the latter. It isn't a very big city, I would actually say it's small, and Florence and Rome are much bigger to walk around. Rome is even bigger, since it has a population of over two million inhabitants. On the contrary to Rome and Florence, I had no idea what Siena would be like. We all have an idea of what Rome is like before going there, with all its traditions, the streets and the famous places everyone must visit: the Colosseum, the fountain, etc... just like with Florence, although we had less of an idea with Florence and we only knew that the most important thing was the cathedral and that one of its museums was home to the statue of David. However, when we knew that we were going to Siena, we couldn't even imagine what it was going to be like since it isn't exactly a well-known city, or famous.

Like Florence, Siena surprised everyone. It has a beautiful cathedral and a really pretty square where they usually set up the market. It's considered a medieval city and it has a lot of history behind it. I would honestly say it's better not to have any expectations of a place, it's better to go there and be surprised rather than potentially disappointed. Now I'm going to talk about the things we saw in Siena, there weren't many, but it was intense.

The cathedral

It's beautiful, as you can appreciate in the photo. It dates back to the Italian Gothic period. Our teachers told us that underneath the cathedral, belongs the baptismal font of Donatello, a famous Italian sculptor from the Renaissance period.

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Piazza del campo (the main square)

The famous square in the city. If you look at the square from above, you can see that it's divided into nine sections. It was designed like this because in the olden times, it was used as a market and it was a central point where people did business and where the life of the city was, and still is nowadays. This square is a very social place. Also, if you go to Siena, it's one of the most important things to see, if not the most important.

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The Fonte Gaia (fountain)

This fountain is situated in the Piazza del Campo. It's beautifully details and it fits in with the three low reliefs. It's made of white Marble. The water is rather clear, and it isn't rare to see a few coins here and there in the fountain.

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And with that I have finished my post about Italy, just like my journey ended here. I hope you liked it, and I recommend going to other countries and exploring new cities. You can never get enough of culture, art and knowledge. This trip made me find out about things I never knew about Italian culture. You have to let go of stereotypes, as they are only labels to what we give to people, countries and culture without actually knowing if they're true or not. For example, I thought Italians had a specific way of addressing people, being all the same. You realise when you go to another country that you can't put the world into one big pot it's the same with the food. I thought that you only eat pasta in Italy, but it's not like that. There's different food apart from pasta that is also delicious and worth trying. In my opinion, Italian food is tasty, I really like it but I did expect it to be better.

For me, it was a great experience, I learnt things and although I preferred some places to others, I would definitely go back and do it all over again.

I hope you liked this short time travel I wrote.

Bella, Italy.


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