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Tuesday June 6th – Florence VS Niki

So, today was a free day we had and I decided it was a wonderful idea to have a mini adventure by myself in Florence. I really wanted to get some really good shots with my camera I brought and I haven’t really had a chance to explore myself either.

Being a very curious person, I needed to do this because if I didn’t, I’d go crazy and I’d totally regret it when I got back to the states.

I made my way to the Duomo because I wanted HD close-up shots of the detail in the front and I was amazed by what I captured it was so beautiful and my lens helped so much in enhancing the architecture in front of me.

After taking what I thought was at least 100 pictures, I got so fucking lost, I’ll say it now I had no idea where the hell I was.

I was literally in a little triangular intersection of the street just staring at everything around me trying to figure out how to get back to the places and streets I knew and finally I was just so frustrated that I started to walk down the street I was standing near.

Thank God, because that was the right way and I got back to the neighborhood I was used to being in which was San Gallo street.

I’m not sure how that happened, but I’m not questioning it. Other than getting lost and nearly crying my eyes out in public, I took myself out to lunch at the bar we met up at that one morning a few weeks ago I think.

Wanting to try something new, I ordered the Pesto Pasta. I never really had pesto pasta before, the only thing I’ve heard from my mom about it was that she didn’t like it, like at all and she hated it with a burning passion.

It was so good though! I didn’t know it was green, but it was good! I ate every last bite and I honestly thought of getting another, but I just got some huge pastries to go and called it a day! I will be making some pesto pasta when I get home thought! Look out mom! I promise you’ll like it this time!

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Monday June 5th – Leaning Tower and Rocky Paths

First off, I’m not a morning person. At all. I was willing to make an exception since we’re going to see the Learning Tower of Pisa and going to the beach in Cinque Terre and all.

An ultimate plus was not having to wear a bra today so a big shout-out to bikini tops that are comfy! Getting to Pisa was fine, I think I slept most of the way anyway I might have snored so sorry for those who were sitting next to me!

It was nice walking through Pisa and seeing the different architecture and just how it differs from Florence and Rome. It was cool to go to the Keith Haring cafe and seeing the huge artistic piece he made right in front of the cafe which was on the side of the building across from the cafe.

I’ve seen his works before, but seeing them so up close and personal was honestly awesome! I swear, I’m such an art nerd. Anything to do with art – I’m so on board with it!

As we left our little pit stop and continued onto the Leaning Tower, it felt like we just kept walking and walking until we turned a corner and behind a few buildings, but still in sight was the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It just kind of surprised us I’d say.

It was like I was at Disney World and seeing Cinderellas castle for the first time – I was practically jumping up and down with excitement. I’ve always seen the Leaning Tower in pictures and scenes in cheesy rom-com movies, I honestly never thought I’d see it in real life- ever.

The history behind this building kinda blew my mind. The Leaning Tower was built in 1173 and took 177 years to complete and then automatically the bitch started to lean. Though it turns out everything in the area: the Baptistery and Cathedral are all leaning, though it’s not as noticeable as the tower is.

What I didn’t know that really piqued my interest was that near the base of the tower there’s strange creatures all over which include dragons, griffins and such. Turns out it wasn’t Christian motifs on the tower which is a pretty neat tidbit to know about.

The Baptistery was built in 1153, but the Cathedral was my favorite because of the design which is Pisan Romanesque style. With the white and gray, but also the random gave markers that are stuck in there – very unique and a tad creepy when you think about it.

As we said our goodbye to Pisa, we hoped back onto the train and made our way to Cinque Terre which was gorgeous! Wonderful view and it’s all right there by the water, it just felt so relaxing and peaceful.

Having the chance to eat by the water was great, something I haven’t done in a long time, well, going to the beach as well.

The only thing I couldn’t stand was how the beach started as sand and then turned into rocks, really painful rocks at that, that hurt your feet as you tried to get into the water and out of the water. I thought it would get better the more you walked, but I was wrong.

I mean, my feet already hurt from all the walking we did the previous days and today and now this? It was nice once you got into the water and started swimming and just the painful thought of getting out and walking on the rocks made me want to stay in all day and try to turn into a mermaid.

After baking and splashing for a few hours, we grabbed some awesome fresh calamari and fries and headed back to Florence and most of us were just dead tired when we arrived back at the station and I’m happy to report that I slept like a rock that night.

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Sunday June 4th – Woolers, Statues and Stiff drinks

Today, we started early and went to the Palazzo Davanzati which is a private Renaissance residence. Turns out, they were rich wool merchants. I guess you could say that they were woolers. Ha! Okay, anyway, turns out that Lamb chop was useful for something after all besides scaring small children.

From what I understand, the original Davisi family sold the place and it kept selling down the road until the 1800’s when historians bought it for an example of Renaissance Architecture.

Then, it didn’t open as a museum until the turn of the century. Going in was really neat with the huge ceilings and very decorative walls that had the design look like hanging tapestries they would have in castles and such back in the ole days.

It was interesting to know that this private residence had indoor plumbing all the way back in 1375! Like, what?! That’s such a huge advancement you know, instead of just throwing your shit out onto the streets – literally. Even though the first floor was nice and decorated, it was originally used horses and bales of wool would be stored.

I honestly didn’t know wool was stored in bales like hay was, who would’ve thought? I wonder if it looks like a giant white cloud of fluff. So, it turns out, that when this place was filled with people, it was during the Plaque.

Yeah, the breakout that killed millions and people, the thing that was dubbed “The Black Death”. Yeah, that Plaque.

Okay, that totally sucks, well technically it was filled during the recovery of the Plaque which still sucks because I don’t think a lot of people needed wool at that time with most of the clients dead and all so basically, the economy totally tanked.

Moving on, I now a lot of people know a gossip show on E! called, “The Fashion Police”. It’s basically a show that drags celebrities for their fashion choices, but I didn’t know that there was a legitimate fashion police called the Sumptuary Police. These guys were shady as fuck and would wait outside the Church and wait for you to walk out, then, BAM! You’re fined 300 Euro for wearing pointed shoes that are too long by 5 cm.

Out of the whole house, I’d have to say my favorite room was the bedroom and not because of the exquisite furniture or shrine that was in there, but because of the ridiculous history surrounding the room – ones that had those types of shrines.

When they would be getting down and dirty, the women would look at those shrines with Mary and Jesus and think positive thoughts and somehow that was supposed to bless her with a boy. I get it, thinking good thoughts is nice and praying is cool, but this whole shit is messed up.

Apparently if you had a girl, you were thinking about something else, or you were fucked up somehow. All I can say is, I wouldn’t survive back then, I’m too loud, independent, outspoken and just everything to listen to a man and have all male babies – as if the man’s sperm doesn’t choose the outcome of the gender – ya know, science and all.

Well, moving on from my feminist fueled rage, after the Davanzati house, we went to the Bargello Museum since it was free this day instead of paying 13 Euros each to get in. I mean, I’m down for free entrance – I’m cheap.

I could go on and on a bout this Museum I swear. It was so amazing and even though I’m not really religious, I still appreciated the religious relics they had on display. I couldn’t read the plaques because it was all in Italian, but the way they were preserved was beautiful, they looked to be in great condition and I of course took photos and sent them to my family with the caption, ‘Jesus Stuff!’

I enjoyed seeing the competition panels from Brunelleschi and Ghiberti – I’ll be honest, I had no idea who they were before this trip.

To see the detail in each panel, but also how they differed from each other in how it was all positioned. They were magnificent though. I adored all the marbles statues there because not only does it take talent to make art out of that stuff, but, it’s so extraordinary to look at. The detail in the marble statues at the Bargello Museum was just outstanding!

Though, I might have to brush up on some of the lore behind said statues. I was looking at one – a youngish boy next to a Bald Eagle and it was pretty and of course detailed and I was just taking it in until somebody stood next to me and said, “Oh, turns out the boy gets raped by the Eagle.”

That was when I calmly said, “Oh…well then..” and backed away to find someone I knew from the group. After that amazingly awkward experience, we went out for Mexican because why not! We didn’t learn anything in Rome!

It was way better than Rome though, it tasted like my Grandmothers green chile! I ordered the chimichangas and they were delicous. It was hilarious to see the other girls eat it and freak out from the spice.

The drinks there…oh gosh, they were stiff. Totally something to put hair on your chest. Emily and I were adventurous and had a shot. She had the Snowflake and I had the Cockroach and they were interestingly strong!

All in all, it was a good day filled with art, history, shots and delicious food.

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Saturday June 3rd – “Death March” part 4 (Color coordination and limb deterioration)

We have officially dubbed this as “Death March” part 4. Don’t get me wrong, the Pitti Palace Gallery was absolutely beautiful, but the walk there first off was a killer especially at 7 in the morning. All these people with long legs getting ahead of me as I run to catch up and all.

Anyway, walking in, you had to walk up stairs of course, because why not? I thought I was at the Uffizi again with how many stairs I walked up – it was like flight after flight that never ended. After catching my breath at the top, it was like walking through a timeline – it was so vast and gorgeous.

The paintings were so beautiful to look at and the rooms were just filled to the brim with them. There was hardly any space on the walls for anything else, I mean everywhere you looked, your eyes would catch a painting there was no escaping it!

The attention to detail in each room which by the way, were colored each with a specific color in mine: Red, Green, Gold, Blue and so on, had lavish printed wall decor, statues, bedding, furniture – it all screamed “I’m filthy rich!”

After we were done with the main house, we moved onto the Bobili Gardens which were behind the main part of the Pitti Palace Gallery. Now let me just say, holy fuck those stairs that slanted up outside – I was dead. I couldn’t feel anything below my waist when I finally made it to the top. There were people in our group that ran up there and that just seems not human to me.

Other than my body deteriorating in on itself, the gardens were amazing that was filled with gorgeous statues some in pieces and some not as well as some awesome modern art pieces scattered throughout.

It was bigger than I imagined and one could easily get lost within the garden because it is like a maze especially when you start going into the shrubbery trails where they branch off into even more trails which I found out that they were used for lovers to meet for rendezvous back in the day when romance was still a thing.

Overall, it was a nice day to be out and explore the gardens you know, when I wasn’t trying to catch my breath.

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Friday June 2nd – Taste of the fancy life

I’ve never been what you call a lady or a person that has an elegant demeanor, oh hell no, not me, but today I did get a somewhat elegance lesson and that came in the form of how to taste wine properly.

Our group along with the rest of SRISA went up to Chianti for the day to a very famous winery where we’d get a guided tour, an explanation on how the different wines were made and actually get to taste them ourselves and have some awesome food that totally complimented the wine in our glasses.

The first thing that was interesting was the drive up to Chianti. Our driver knew no fear apparently as we zoomed up the hilly region where the winery was and when you’re in a huge bus filled with college students and you can see the straight edge that went plummeting down into an abyss, yeah, that’s pretty freaky.

Arriving, safely I might add, to the winery, we were taken to the min front of the house near the main garden where we were told the history of the winery and what they produce and how they make it taste the way they do and even how they get it the right color it needs to be.

I also learned what foods to pair it with depending on the age of the wine and the color. There was also a proper way to go about drinking a glass of wine instead of downing a whole bottle in your dorm room during finals week in hopes of the booze somehow boosting your studying time – but I’m getting of topic.

The point is, you have to sniff the wine, putting your face in the glass basically, you swirl it lightly to mix it well, pick up the glass properly from the stem of the glass, tip it at a 45 degree angle to see how much light gets through – to determine the age of the wine and then finally taking a sip and determining the taste.

It was a nice, relaxing day overall. To enjoy some wine, food and a beautiful view from the top of wine country was something I really enjoyed and I would do it again here in the states.

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Thursday June 1st – Fortresses and Crypts

Alas, this was our last day in Roma, but we were still going to to go a few more places before departing from this wonderful city. Today we went to Castel San’t Angelo which apparently a movie called, ‘Angels and Demons’ was filmed, but I’ve never seen the movie and all I knew was that it looked hella cool from the outside.

It looked like a little paradise that was surrounded by high walls and fences you know, for protection and all. I think the most awesome thing was seeing the actual cannons and cannonballs they were just there in the open and piled high (cannonballs) and getting to touch them was pretty neat too!

The only thing that I was a little hesitant about was on the way up to the top of Castel San’t Angelo, there was a section where after we walked up little, tiny steps, it was just a little incline that continued on, but it went down on either side when you looked over the railings that were on both sides.

Not liking heights and walking up an incline on something like that, I took baby steps, yeah, my professor was laughing at me and telling me I’d be fine, but still! I don’t trust it!

Up at the top of it, they had a mini museum packed with original shields, helmets, swords, military uniforms and flags from past wars. Seeing actual weapons that someone held in the past was so awesome. Just imagining what those relics have been through really makes you wonder.

Emily and I went off on our own for a hot second because I got distracted by something large and colorful and it turned out to be a huge ass ceiling that was decked out in gold trim and a beautiful painted scene spanning the entirety of the ceiling.

Of course we got a wonderful view of Rome from above and the scenery of beautiful as usual. Seeing the top of the Vatican, the flowing canal with the bridges and just how far the city stretched out in front of us – it went on for miles and miles, the buildings becoming little tiny shadowed dots at one point.

After leaving, we went back to our hotel and packed up our bags because we were going back to Florence after dragging our luggage across Rome and visiting the Capuchin Crypts which had to be hands down my favorite part of this day! You enter surprisingly through the front of a church which makes it all the more creepy when you think about it. After going through check-in, you walk through a small museum telling the history about the Capuchin Monks and where they’re located, their mission, etc.

You also get to see relics from different famous Monks of the Capuchin and then at the tail end of the museum there was a giant story of how the Capuchin Crypts came to be and how they were made from I think 13,000 real human bodies.

Walking towards them, it’s down a long hallway with 6 rooms to be exact and they’re decorated with those real human bones from the floor all the way to the ceiling. It’s something so unreal and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before in my life. I know I said I enjoyed creepy shit, but this was a whole new level of creepy that I wasn’t prepared for at all. Everything was made of bones – the butterfly designs, chandeliers and the different designs in each room – all legitimate bones.

Not only was it grotesque in nature, but it was also beautiful, the designs I mean. They were so specific and went with each room it was assigned to. It was obvious that a lot of time and thinking went into the design of the overall place.

It was interesting to see that each room was assigned certain bones like the ribs or skulls. There were also full mummified corpses dressed as the Capuchin Monks themselves were neat yet creepy as fuck I have to be honest. It felt like they were going to start moving the more I stared at them. If you looked hard enough, you could see where the eye sockets were sunken in, some eyes were still closed, their lips were in tact too and you could make our smiles and frowns on certain ones as you walked through.

Of course photos were not allowed within the areas where the actual Crypts were and for good reason – these are actual human beings and to take pictures is a huge sign of disrespect and I wasn’t going to get any bad juju from being a rebel and taking sneaky photos and honestly if you wanted to you couldn’t. They had people posted in there to make sure nobody took photos.

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Wednesday May 31st- “Death March” part 3 (The dope Pope and some Catacombs)

Let me start off by saying that I was not expecting to go and see the Pope in person today. Of all the things I thought I was going to do while in Rome, this wasn’t even close to what I was thinking and considering I haven’t been to church in years, I felt pretty weird going to this massive gathering at this holy place and all.

It was a nice thing to experience though, to see all of these people from across the globe gathered in the same area and praising each other and to be engulfed in a sense of love; which is the best way I can describe it.

Being blessed by the “Dope Pope” as our group was calling the Pope was a once in a lifetime thing to be present for. I never thought I would be blessed, I always felt like I didn’t deserve it, but the Pope said everyone deserved it. I felt lighter afterwards, like all my problems were gone for a moment and I remembered how to truly be free- from issues, responsibilities, just problems in general. It was a wonderful feeling that I wish to get back one day.

A few of us did leave early from the Popes service just because there were so many people trying to get in and out and it was just a huge mess in the sense of trying to get to one place or another and being claustrophobic totally doesn’t help anything either!

After finally getting back to the hotel from our little detour from getting gelato, since it was so hot out that day, we got a few hours to relax and have time to ourselves before going to the place I was so excited about – the Roman Catacombs!

I mean, getting there was a bit hellish since we had to walk so fucking far firstly for the bus and then from the stop which took like almost 30ish minutes to reach, we walked a bit farther too – shit, even the cafes wouldn’t let us sit and rest while we used their facilities, but I was already too hot and tired to even argue.

It was a blessing to finally arrive there, though it didn’t really look like a place where catacombs from ancient times would be but of course, looks are deceiving.

Walking in, you’re automatically in the gift shop which was a bit strange, but there was a door on the side they opened that led you down this huge flight of stairs to essentially what’s a church with small windows near the top so sunlight could peek through. After having the tour guide explain to us to stay together, not to wander off since there are 11 miles of catacombs under us and we’d be hopelessly lost if we separated and of course not photo taking down there too – we were led to another set of stairs, of course more rustic in looks and probably a bit unsafe in my opinion, but whatever.

Stepping into the actual catacomb space, I totally felt like I was apart of an episode of Ghost Adventures. Like, I was about to explain where we were and that we were going to find some dope ass spirits during tonight’s lock down and all.

But in all seriousness, it was creepy, eerily so and I loved it! I really dig those creepy, dimly lit places with a messed up history… I know, wonderful things for a young woman to be into, right?

Not only was the cool air welcoming, but so were the other parts of the catacombs our tour guide didn’t take us too. It was so tempting to just split off and explore since I enjoy to look at everything I can in new places, but the thought of getting and lost and dying down there really didn’t appeal to me, so I just stuck with the group and be happy with what we were shown.

Now, the bodies were not in the catacombs since they were taken out in 1994 due to people actually taking the bones of those who were buried in there. So, there were just giant rectangular holes in the sides of the wall and above where the coffins were. Even though it was just a hole essentially, it was awesome just to see where exactly they were.

It was cool to know that whole families had plots there and the grave diggers guild was an interesting aspect – all the grave diggers in the catacombs actually had a plot of their own in there where they were buried and it even had  a beautiful mosaic that was sadly stolen many years ago.

Seeing headstones from ancient times as well as some small trinkets and pottery inside the coffin spaces. It was an experience that I truly enjoyed and I totally want to explore more ancient catacombs because you’re literally walking through history.

After trekking our way back to the main city of Rome, we split off – Emily and I actually and decided to get something to eat. Okay, I’ll say it, I’ve had other food besides pasta and such while I’ve been in Rome which include places like McDonalds and Burger King. I know, I know, it’s totally awful – sue me, but I regret nothing!

Honestly though, it tastes way better than the ones in America- more fresh, no grease and best of all, it didn’t hurt my stomach later on like it usually would back in Illinois. Though the one thing that was a bit off was the Mexican food which I found out from getting some from a take away place that someone in the group suggested.

Most of us decided to eat on the roof with out Mexican grub and have a few drinks, beer and wine of course and just talk and enjoy the view. The food was a bit foreign to me even though I’m Mexican myself. There were some things they got right which was the chile and others that were way off like the beans and salsa, but it’s all about the experience and trying new things that you usually wouldn’t try, right?

Some of us decided that after dinner on the roof, we were going to go back to the Trevi Fountain at night. Wanting to see it again all lit up by the lights and a few drinks in, I was totally in! Getting there, it was even more beautiful at night – the lights shining on the statues and such creating wonderful shadows and making the water glisten… truly a sight I was happy to see.

After 15 minutes of staring and taking in the beauty of it once again, we had to high tail it back to the metro station so we didn’t miss the last train back to our stop. Needless to say, I went to bed very, very late that night, but it was totally worth it!

(Unfortunately, I only have one picture from the Catacombs and it’s on my Instagram if you all would like to see it and I think I have a video from the Pope’s service that I’ll include in my final video!)