When in Rome… And Florence

Since the return from the British Studies Program, not having utilized the traveling opportunity to the fullest haunted me. While numerous students on the program explored various countries in Europe, I, lacking self-assurance in my sense of directions, only set foot in Oxford, London, Stratford, and Bath. Understanding my chances to travel for leisure after college would likely diminish, I supposed visiting another region of Europe for spring break to be a rational path to eliminate this regret from Britain. After being on the fence between Italy and Spain for several weeks, influenced by the experiences of friends and traveling websites, I chose Italy.

In spite of my eagerness to journey in a group, friends either had plans or could not afford the trip; therefore, I had no choice but to take a risk and enter a country infamously known for pickpocketing by myself. I had also been told repeatedly prior to the trip that the majority of Romans spoke English, which I found to be false the minute I arrived at the Fiumicino Airport. I immediately headed to the tourist information center to obtain the direction to my hotel. One employee handed me an utterly inaccurate direction, leading me to a location over ten miles away from my destination. When I arrived in Termini, a seemingly kind middle-aged woman who spoke no English approached and attempted to assist me with purchasing a ticket. Little did I know she was really asking for money, and once I received my ticket, she began rubbing her stomach, implying she was starving. These two consecutive peculiar events foreshadowed the rest of the trip, as I was constantly led astray and begged for food and drinks. As I sought my hotel the first night inside a metro station, a man helping me with directions warned me to watch out for the lady beside me. When I turned towards her, I spotted her eyeballing me. The man informed me of her notorious pickpocketing history in that specific metro station.

I spent four days in Rome and a day in Florence, accumulating approximately thirty-five hours of walking and piling up solely pizza, pasta, and gelati in my stomach. I was slightly disappointed with Italy’s lack of food options. I spotted mostly Italian cuisines with a couple of Chinese restaurants, and I could not help but become fed up with the same type of food. The country also charges two euros, close to three US dollars, for a cup of water, refill not included, and justifiably so I refused to buy any drink at any restaurant. Unaware of the Vatican Museums’ closing on Sundays, I chose to spend the day in the Vatican on Sunday, allowing me to visit practically every important site in the city but the museums and even hear the pope preach from St. Peter’s Basilica, although I had not a clue what he said. The following day, I took the high-speed train to Florence, once again without the knowledge every museum in Florence is closed on Mondays. Even worse, because I bought my train tickets on the spot, I ended up paying five times as much as those who acquired their tickets months before. I refused to dwell on these mistakes, however, as these cities, even excluding the museums, still offered plenty of historically significant places for me to explore. Not to make the same frustrating miscalculation for the third time, I began researching each planned stop prior to visiting. Unfortunately, the website of one location provided incorrect hours; thus, I was again misled.

Traveling alone in a country of which I had no prior knowledge, though overwhelming, boosted my confidence in my ability to survive in unconventional domains. Being in Italy, arguably the most ornate and thought-provoking country I have been to, increased my desire to visit more unfamiliar sites to learn about and appreciate their natives and cultures. My objective of the journey was accomplished, as the experience released me from the captivity of my regret of having barely traveled on the British Studies Program.

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