Florence 2020 Florence, Italy MSMU Travels

What It’s Really Like to Travel to Italy

Hello friends, and welcome back! Sad to say, today marks our last blog post for #WednesdayswithaView. I’ve had such a good time writing this blog and sharing these memories with you all, and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as well despite the drastic mid-semester change of pace. Today I’m going to share a couple last thoughts on traveling through Italy and hopefully give you a little more insight on what it would be like to take a trip there yourselves.

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The first thing I’d like to mention is that Italy as a country is not culturally homogenous. Though the “boot” occupies a far smaller geographical area than the United States, Italy contains 20 different regions, each with its own dialect and customs and most of which used to be their own independent state as recently as the mid-19th century. Because of this, visiting each region in Italy almost feels like visiting a different country, so don’t feel like you have to go too far once you land on the peninsula. Many Italians identify more with their local identity than with their larger Italian identity, so don’t make the mistake of thinking they are all the same!

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Traveling within Italy once you’re there is very easy and quite cost-efficient (and a good thing too, since it gives you more room to budget for pizza and gelato!) Just about every town has a train station, and while train ticket prices vary depending on the location, we were pleasantly surprised at how cheap they were. At the time we were Florence, one-way tickets cost around 9 euro to hop to Pisa, 15-20 euro to Assisi, and between 20 and 30 euro to Rome. The app Trainline is fantastic for finding prices and train departures if you want to book ahead of time, as are the sites Trenitalia.com and ItaliaRail.com.

The trains are very comfortable and the train stations easy to maneuver. Just be sure to have your ticket receipt on your phone when you board as they will come around to check your tickets. And be sure to get in the right class car; we made that mistake on our Assisi trip!

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For fly-able distances, Skyscanner.com is your best friend. It finds the cheapest flights departing from airports around you, sometimes for as little as 20 euro depending on your destination! Use it to hop over to Sardegna or down to Sicily or even out of Italy to Spain, Germany, Croatia… wherever your wanderlust calls you!

All of these options were perfectly safe, though of course normal safety rules of traveling apply. Keep your wits and your belongings about you, always look like you know where you’re going, and do your best not to stand out. Try to dress like an Italian—you don’t need to be wearing the latest Gucci, but wear clothes that are clean, classy, and fitted. Another tip: avoid eye contact with strangers, whether on the train or on the street. Italians may be incredibly friendly in conversation, but smiling at them while walking by is perceived as inviting unwanted or uncomfortable attention. Generally, it’s better to keep a neutral expression while you make your way around; it’s astonishing how much this will help you blend in.

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Another travel tip—pack light!! Lots of baggage is a traveler’s worst nightmare, and this applies both for traveling to Italy and also for traveling around once you get there. If going for a study abroad, bring a backpack or other small bag for your weekend trips; train travel is so much easier if all you have to worry about is a single bag on your back. If you’re traveling around without a “home base”, try to bring the absolute smallest suitcases possible. It’s also good to invest in some small padlocks or other fasteners to keep your zippers closed and safe from pickpockets.

Whether traveling around Florence on foot over the cobblestones or trekking across the peninsula from Palermo to Milan, traveling through Italy is easy, comfortable, and breathtaking. Italy is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Though we did not get to do nearly as much traveling around as I had hoped, the places we did visit—Pisa, Lucca, Viareggio, Assisi—were each entirely unique and very, very beautiful. It breaks my heart to think of these places being deserted with everything going on, and I hope that we all overcome this virus soon.

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Of course, I am heavily biased towards Florence; no city in Italy can beat the beauty of the Arno, the Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, or the Palazzo Vecchio. I am so happy that even with our shortened trip, I got to see and experience more of Florence than I ever could have imagined. I wouldn’t trade this experience, even with the way it ended, for anything, and while I can’t guarantee that you’ll be able to visit yourself any time soon, I can guarantee that when you do eventually get the chance, the view from wherever you are will be spectacular.

Thank you so much for letting me share all my perspectives and experiences through this blog. I had so, so much fun writing these posts and giving you a peek of life in Florence. Thank you also to all the people on the Mount’s end who coordinate this blog, to the other bloggers, and especially to Dr. Cañadas and AIFS for making this study abroad so special. 

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Sending love through all your highs and lows, your sky views and street views, this is #WednesdayswithaView signing off. Ciao, friends!

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