“Spring Break” is not a familiar term in Italy. Although Cornell in Rome students do not have a long Easter holiday, Spring Break is definitely a brilliant way to escape from work. As far as I know, almost all Cornell in Rome students left Italy and had great fun all over the world. While some went to nearby countries like Austria, France and Switzerland, othrs took excursions to non-European countries like Morocco, South Africa and even Hong Kong. In particular, given Italy’s good location, a few of them even went back home to Dubai and China.
As for me, I chose to stay in Italy instead. Having been here for nearly 3 months, I have been a student (going on field trips and attending classes) and a temporary resident (living in a Italian-style apartment; buying food from supermarkets)- yet, I have never been a tourist (It might sound weird to people, but I actually enjoy being a tourist here!). As such this Spring Break I traveled to six cities around Italy with my girlfriend Ally, who goes to school in New York City.
Having toured around Rome and Vatican City, we went to Florence, Pisa, Milan, Lake Como, Verona and Venice. As I booked the tickets early, the transportation cost was surprisingly low (less than 100 euros for 9 days!). Since there were not many activities going on at night, our strategy was that we traveled by train only at night (to save more day time for activities). It turned out to be a effective and time-saving strategy!
As a tourist, I must say Florence and Verona are my favorites. I really like small European-style towns which cannot be found in Asia and America. Particularly, I was totally amazed by the views from Piazzale Michelangelo in Florence and the streetscape in Verona. Unlike field trips, we had so much more time to truly feel the relaxing atmosphere in these small towns. I have also come to realize that slowly strolling around the historical towns while eating a crepe with chocolate and banana with one’s beloved is probably one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things to do in one’s life. I am glad that I actually did that!
Famous for its leather and fashion brands, Italy is definitely a paradise for shoppers like us. Although we had expected to spend most of our money in Milan, to our surprise, we did not actually buy anything there! Instead, we bought a couple of bags, shoes and belts in the small town of Como and Verona. We realized that things in Milan are way too expensive, while the items sold in the small towns (although not as updated as Milan) are so much more affordable for us. In a nutshell, we were very satisfied with our shopping experience. In fact, even window shopping made us happy as the clothes displayed are just so pretty!
As for eating, my girlfriend and I usually went for cheap foods like Chinese food and sandwiches. Yet, at times we also went to restaurants. We came to the conclusion that tourist restaurants are usually (as expected) not good, while restaurants that are not in tourist areas are usually very good! While pizza was our favorite, the desserts must also be mentioned: throughout the week-long break, we tried gelato, tiramisu, canoli, crepe and waffles. All of them are absolutely buonissimi (Italian for “delicious”)!
Finally, I must introduce Lake Como to all of you readers. Located in the region of Lombardy (around 45-minute train ride from Milan), it is the third largest lake in Italy. Having been to big cities and small towns, I think being close to nature is another great Italian experience. Since Como is not a top destination for international tourists, we did not come across many of them. It was therefore especially refreshing for us as we felt like we could be closer to the Italian neighborhoods. Not only did we walk along the coast of the lake, we also rode on a small boat. What is vividly etched in my mind is the picture where you can see tall mountains, blue water, white swans, nice houses and, most importantly, breathe fresh air.
Same as everyone else, I had a fabulous spring break. I was especially glad that I could get to know more about various Italian cities even though I had visited some of them during field trips before.