Italy

My Afternoon in Milan

From Rome, I took a train to Milan. My plan was to get to Milan late morning, hang out for the day, then catch a night train to Barcelona. I met up with my buddy Nick who is studying in Milan at Bocconi University. Nick and I met when we were taking classes as part of his study abroad program at my university a couple summers ago. We only met up for lunch because he had a few finals to study for that day.

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After lunch, I wandered around the city for the rest of the afternoon before  I had to be back at the train station that evening.

This is the giant Duomo, or cathedral, in the center of the city.

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Across the street from the Duomo is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is a large, glass-topped shopping mall. After all, Milan is known for some of the world’s best shopping, so I thought I  should check it out.

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Now, FINALLY…Back to Barcelona!!!

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The Ruins of Pompeii

From Rome, I took a day trip down to the ruins of Pompeii. It was about an hour and a half train ride from Rome. We had to stop in Naples and change trains.

The city of Pompeii was completely destroyed and buried by the eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius. Since then, the city has been completely excavated and is pretty much perfectly preserved as it was almost 2000 years ago. Even some of the people are in the same positions they were when the volcano erupted and covered them. It’s really crazy!!

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Here’s a few more pictures of the city.

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After wandering through the city for a few hours, me and a friend of mine caught the train back to Naples. The only thing we wanted out of Naples was a pizza, since it is the birthplace. We finally found a place, had a delicious pizza, and then caught a train back to Rome.


St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest cathedral in the world, and when you are inside it looks like it. This is the outside.

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Now from a little farther out.

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These are the guards that stand outside the cathedral. I don’t think they scare anybody in their clown pants!

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Pictures don’t do justice to how enormous this place is on the inside. It just keeps going and going and going, and then it goes some more!

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I wasn’t too fond of this next statue because throughout this whole cathedral there are statues of the Pope seeming to portray him as greater than he actually is. Maybe I’m off in this, but that’s what I thought. See what you think.

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And more of the guards. We actually got them to pose for us (kind of).

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Vatican Square & The Pope!

So after we finished at the Vatican Museum, Melinda, Gina, and I were trying to find the entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica (which apparently is separate from the Museum) when we walked into Vatican Square and saw thousands of people standing there looking up. We didn’t know what was going on, so we turned around and all of sudden there was the Pope in his little window. It was noon on Sunday and the Pope comes out to give a welcome address to the people. Not only did he give it Italian and English, but this approximately 2-minute speech he gave in 6 languages! There was Italian, English, Spanish, French, German, and some type of Eastern European language that I wasn’t familiar with. It was really cool that we randomly got to see the Pope that day. I was finally able to get a good picture of him, but it was tough because of how far up he was.

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The Vatican Museum

I visited the Vatican with my friends Melinda and Gina that I met at the campsite I was staying at. Something I didn’t realize prior to this is that the Vatican is actually considered its own country! We decided to go on the last Sunday of the month because it was free. I really didn’t plan it like this, it just kind of worked out that way. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I would’ve rather paid the 8 euros on a normal day than deal with the massive crowds on the free day, if there is even any difference. We arrived a little after 8 in the morning with the museum opening at 9:00. This was the line already when we arrived…

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And behind us about 10 minutes after we got there…

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Some of the people in line were pretty rude and some were kind of sneeky. There was a group of about 50 Korean tourists (easy to spot from miles away) that started out behind us in this crowd and somehow the entire group ended up in front of us when it got down to a single file line. We were confused how that happened.

Once you’re inside the place is like a maze, and the massive of amount of people and tour groups there, it took forever to walk through. That’s why I said I would’ve rather paid. Anyway, here’s some shots from inside.

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There was a room with some modern religious art that I thought was pretty cool. Here’s a couple of those pieces.

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Now, what you’ve all been waiting for…The Sistine Chapel! It was kind of tough to get these with all the people running up to you screaming NO PHOTO, NO PHOTO!!!

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Piazza Venezia

I happened to stumble upon the Piazza Venezia while wandering around Rome one day. At first I wasn’t quite sure what it was. All I knew was that it was huge and pretty incredible. See what you think.

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Then this was the view from the roof.

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And finally…

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Pantheon

The Pantheon:

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There happened to be a choir playing when I went in.

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The Colosseum

The Colosseum is located right across the street from the Roman Forum, and is included in the same 12 euro ticket. After doing a little research, I found out that the Colosseum was completed in 80 A.D. and has a capacity of 50,000. It was used mainly for gladiatorial contests, but was also used for what was called the Colosseum games. This was where people were put in the maze of the Colosseum with a wild animal at the other end. The goal was for either the man to kill the animal or vice versa, and the animal usually won,  but was then killed. This was seen as entertainment for the Romans and drew large crowds. I wish I had known some of this when I was actually inside. It kind of makes me want to take a class on Roman history, but we’ll see. Here’s some pictures of it. Parts of it are actually crumbling now.

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And now the inside…

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Roman Forum

My next day in Rome I decided to buy the combined ticket for the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. The ticket I believe was 12 euros, not bad for all 3. First, I visited the Roman Forum. This area was the center around which the ancient Roman civilization developed, and was considered the center of the Roman Empire. I’m not really sure how to describe it beyond that, so I’m just going to put up a bunch of pictures. Enjoy!!

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A word of advice. The entrance for the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill is the same, for one you go to the left, the other to the right. I decided to go to the Roman Forum side first, and wandered all the way to the back. There are stairs in the back that lead up to a balcony to get a really good view of the whole Forum, but apparently this is an exit out even though there is no sign. I couldn’t get back in and tried to go back in the front entrance to see Palatine Hill, but the guards said I had already used my one visit and couldn’t come back in. So I guess I’ll have to go back to Rome if I really want to see it. I don’t think it matters all that much.

On to the Coliseum!!


Finally, ROME!!!

Ever since I began my trip, Rome had been one of my most highly anticipated destinations. There is so much history you hear about, and the city definitely lives up to the hype. Not only did I see all the major sites like the Coliseum, Roman Forum, the Pantheon, and the Vatican, but I also arrived the day of the 2009 Champions League Final between Manchester United and one of my favorite teams, Barcelona. No wonder most of the hostels in the city were booked up. Here’s a few pics from the madness of the festivities.

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I then headed over to Trevi Fountain which happened to be the center of all the Barcelona fans in the city on that day. While I was hanging out there for a couple hours, I managed to learn a few of the Barcelona chants, even though they were sung in Catalan. The whole afternoon was a lot of fun. It was too bad that I left my Barcelona jersey at home in my closet not knowing they were going to be playing in the final, so I decided to go and pick one up to show my spirit.

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The ceremonial thing to do when you visit Trevi Fountain is to, with your back turned to the fountain, throw a coin over your head into the water. So I did.

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That night was the actual game. Since the campsite I was staying at was about 45 minutes outside of central Rome, I decided to watch the game on the big screen that was setup in the bar at the camp. This turned out to be a good idea because it was a packed house, plus the pizza bar was delicious! The ratio of Barcelona fans to Manchester United fans was probably about 70-30, but the problem was most of the Barcelona fans spoke little or no English.

That brings up a good point. In Rome I noticed most people spoke pretty good English, or at least enough to communicate. This was very different from most of the other cities I visited in Italy, and I was trying to figure out why. Maybe it’s because Rome is such a big tourist venue, or maybe because of the huge number of English-speaking expats in the city. I’m not sure, though.

Anyways, on with the festivities. Manchester was favored in the game by almost everybody, but Barcelona didn’t look like the underdog for most of the game from where I was sitting. Manchester’s defense didn’t look strong like normal, and at the same time, Barcelona’s strikers, especially Messi, looked incredibly sharp. This lead to the final score of 2-0 in favor of Barcelona. This is a picture of the big screen at the end of the game.

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The afterparty was pretty crazy! Me, along with all my Catalan-speaking buddies, hopped on a bus and headed closer to central Rome.

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We must not have gone far enough in because we didn’t find a whole lot of people in the area we ended up in. This might have had something to do with the fact that city had banned all bars and stores from selling and serving alcohol for the entire day to curb any fights that might have broken out. So after running around chanting for a while, I decided to catch a bus back to the campground before the lines closed for the night at 2am. I still had a lot to see in Rome over the next several days.