Last week I had a vacation within my vacation. Studying abroad is just like an intense immersed vacation; I eat whatever I want, go wherever I want and spend way more money than I would during a regular UF semester, but there’s always the responsibility of class and homework lingering in the background. However, for 10 days I was free to roam any part of Europe without the obligation of going to class, even my best friend came from the States to explore with me. The plan was easy (not easy at all and took countless hours of planning to execute): we were going to the Amalfi Coast in Italy and Split, Croatia. We were looking to get away from a month of dreary, rainy Paris and enter the world of much needed sun. This is exactly what we got. (In defense of Paris though, according to the news the current weather is marginally different from past summers.)
Our first stop was a one night pit stop to Napoli, where the birth of pizza occurred; a late arrival, a forgotten fit bit and the dirty, dark streets of the city were not the welcoming embrace we were hoping from Italy but it could only get better from there. Once day broke, we quickly left to our first real destination, Meta, a town just outside of Sorrento. The long train ride took us to a very quaint bus stop and an amazing AirBnB. The view from our new home was amazing, a common theme of our entire trip. Everything about our trip to the Amalfi Coast was a challenge; we had to take a train to then wait from a bus to finally take us to the major attractions we were there to see. But even all the early morning and little sleep of those 4 days were all worth it in the end, especially swimming in the ice cold Sea. Positano was as beautiful as I imagined: houses on a hill, clear water, 600 step stair cases and ideal photographic moments. It felt very surreal to be there. The hidden gem of Italy though was Ravello, a town sitting on the top of a hill by Amalfi. The view as you exit the bus is absolutely breath taking, nothing I had ever experienced before.
Rome was the greatest surprise of them all. I had been when I was 9 years old and my only memories of it was how hot it had been, a universal truth about Italy in the summer. I loved the fact that walking through Rome was like walking through a museum. Everywhere I looked was absolutely beautiful, from the architecture to the solid blue sky that we were lucky to have. The Roman Forum was one of the most impressive things. The pictures I took looked like they were CGI, footage you could use in Game of Thrones. It was also amazing to think how long those structures had been there for. The history lover is me was very excited to have entered such an important city. We also had the opportunity to go to Vatican (Pro-tips: get to St. Peter’s Basilica at 7am to dodge the crowd and get beautiful people-less pictures). Our early arrival allowed us to painlessly enter St. Peter’s Basilica, an astonishing view welcomed us as we walked in. We then went up to the dome, something I learned from going up was that the 2 euro difference between the elevator ticket and the stairs ticket is NOT worth it. It was a solid 6 minutes walking up very steep, narrow stairs to get to a 360 view of the city, safe to say I had done my workout of the day in hopes of off setting all the gelato and pasta I was consuming.
By the way, the gelato in Rome is even better than what people always rave about, especially the strawberry one (two a day gelato runs are definitely a thing). I left Rome wanting more, wanting to come back and spend day exploring each corner of the city, sitting at parks, consuming way more pasta and listening to the sing song chatter of its people. Rome, I will be back.
The last leg of our trip was Split, Croatia. Everyone’s responses when I told them I was going there were all the same:what is there to do in Croatia? And to tell you the truth, when I booked it I wasn’t sure either, it just sounding cool to go to Croatia. The best part was that it didn’t disappoint. The beautiful historic area is a UNESCO World Heritage site, it was a pedestrian only area of the city full of narrow stone streets and tiny family owned shops, it was very surreal to be there. The highlight of our trip however, was Krka National Park. A park just outside of split near one of the most well preserved medieval towns in Europe. The entire tour around the park featured waterfall after waterfall after waterfall and beautiful green waters. I was astounded as I walked around, I had never seen a park like that. We also swam in the waters of the waterfall, and while my phone even took a swim itself, it was worth the freezing swim in this very foreign country (update: after putting my phone in rice for two days it functions perfectly).
I came back from this trip exhausted, needing a week of sleep to make up for the countless hours of walking, but I also came back happy. Happy that I had been able to see the parts of the world I had been dying to go to like the Amalfi Coast and experiencing a country I did not think I would be able to visit. While I wish I had more time in each city, and more money to spend on delicious food, I was happy to share a little bit of Europe with old friends and new friends.