There’s always so much to write when I go away for a few days! So sorry for the superlong entry again. So Saturday morning I left Trento to go to Bologna. Liz sucks and so she decided not to come with me (she had “reasons” but she wasn’t in the hospital or anything, so they really weren’t that good an excuse), but luckily my friend Ashley, the girl from West Virginia (the only girl from her school here! Poor thing is totally lost in a sea of Italian craziness because she’s the first person to come from her school and thus is the guinea pig for the whole program) came with me for the weekend.
So we left in the morning and arrived in Bologna before noon. Even the train station is huge! I seriously feel like such the little small town girl arriving in the big city every time I travel now after living in Trento. We made our way to the center of the city amongst a sea of people. It is crowded, too crowded, imo. But I must say, they have nice public bathrooms that are free! I mean, they only have like four of them in the whole city, but hey, free is free! (the train stations usually charge) So we got to the main square and there is this big fountain with Neptune that is quite interesting…the mermaid-type women have water shooting out of their nipples, and if you stand behind and to the right of the fountain, then what from the front you see is Neptune reaching forward with his hand looks like…something else. I took a photo, you can see for yourself =)
They have two towers in the medieval section, one which is leaning and the other which you can climb. 498 stairs you can climb. That was some work. But it was a cool view from the top. You can see why it’s called Bologna the Red, all the roofs everywhere. But the best part is that you can see at the edge of the city all the greenery that is on the outskirts, and that was really pretty. The duomo (cathedral) was also really neat, and it’s huge! In fact, the papacy made the city take away the funding they were using for it and made them put it towards something else because it was going to be bigger than St. Peter’s. So in the photos you can see that the façade only was done to the bottom third, and the rest is rather ugly brick and mortar. Unfortunately photography (I just spelled that with an “f” at first…good heavens) was prohibited inside so I couldn’t take pics of the cool stuff inside.
We also went to a medieval history museum, which was pretty nifty, partially in part to the fact that I just did medieval history so I was able to give my oh so fantastic descriptions of the Longobardi and other such people to my friend ;-) Unfortunately most of the museum covered the later medieval period which isn’t the class I did, so it didn’t actually apply that much, but it was still cool. I have some pics of that! It was really cool seeing the manuscripts and such. And I also took a picture of a dog statue—still man’s best friend, not much has changed in a thousand years.
By like 5 or 6 we were just exhausted from walking around, so we took the train and headed to Ferrara, about a half an hour away, because that’s where we were staying the night. Hotels are cheaper there, so we decided to do that. We got there a bit before seven, and it was still daylight when we set out for our hotel. Unfortunately the map I had was not fantastic, and the tourist office was closed so I couldn’t get a more detailed map, so it took us a long while to find the darn place. I had the street name right in the book but the map showed it on the opposite side of this one landmark, so we were looking in almost the right place. But I asked someone and we finally got there.
I have to say, so far Ferrara is at the top of my list of Places I Will Live in Italy if I Move Here. It’s small, a bit bigger than Trento but still kinda quiet and relaxing. There’s green everywhere, too. But, it’s even better than Trento because things are actually open! The gelato place near our hotel (which had mint!! With chocolate chips! Oh what a happy girl was I—it’s been so long, and that’s my favorite) was open til 12:30 or 1!!! (I say “or” because that’s what the girl told me—long hours, but it’s still Italy, so you know, flexible schedule) That’s incredible. And on Sunday, stores were open! And there was a mercato-type thing going on!! Just amazing. So yeah, Ferrara is like Trento, only better. She says after a day and a half of exposure, but still.
So on Sunday we went to the castle they have there, which belonged to the Este family and was pretty neat. We got to go in the dungeon and everything. It’s very different from Trento’s castle—here it’s just basically walk in and see it on your own, but there there’s a whole (trying to think of the word in english) kinda path to take, a set thing to follow, with TONS of written explanation, which was pretty nice. So we spent a while there, and then just before noon one of the contradas (kinda like neighborhood) did this presentation thing which meant we got to see people in Renaissance costumes doing all kinds of cool show stuff! It was really neat. You could almost pretend to be back in time. And, may I remind you all, no such thing as a history nerd.
We spent the rest of the day going all around Ferrara, and we saw a Renaissance-era house, piazzas, a really pretty park area (several, actually), and walked everywhere! The town is a bit spread out. Once again, we were dead by like 5 or 6. Ashley left Ferrara that evening, and I was on my own. I was glad that I’d started off the trip with her, because then it was like I got into traveling mode and I felt more prepared to do the rest of it by myself. I spent that evening in Ferrara again, oh and I had Chinese food again! Sounds like nothing special to you people, but trust me, it was like a holiday for me. It’s pretty much the only non-Italian food I’ve had since coming here.
Monday morning I left for Rome. I took the bus to the train station, because it was kind of far, and I took a bus that said it eventually went to the station, but not the one advised to me by the hotel lady, because this one came first, and I swear it went all over town before it finally got there, and managed to give me a mini panic attack as I wondered where the heck I was going. But I got there in plenty of time (mostly because I got up early just in case it took forever, which it did) and made it to Rome by early afternoon (1ish). When I got there I called hotels from my guidebook (sidenote—Andrea and Mike, thank you so much for the guidebooks from my last birthday! You guys super rock. They have been fantastic!) and the first five were like all booked! But luckily the sixth or so was free so I went there, checked in, and then headed out to explore Rome.
Speaking of guidebooks, I'll go off on a brief tangent, and tell you that one of my guidebooks is by 20-somethings written for 20-somethings, so they have funny stuff in there. Like the following passage: "Guys, any old notions/fears/stereotypes you might have of the ultra-protective older Italian brother are justified--I saw some guy get his ass beat by, like, five of 'em, just for looking at a girl too long." I thought that was funny. As a girl, I can't comment on the validity of this observation, seeing as it hasn't come up. I can say that they were right when they said it's hard for American guys to meet Italian girls, though, because my American guy friends here have had like no luck in that department, and say it's really hard. Ok, back to the story now.
Rome has no Italians. They’re all French, German, Russian, or english-speaking. I’m pretty sure. I went to look at the ruins and walked around all over, and all I heard was foreign languages. Even in April it was packed. Which just was not my thing. So I walked west into a neighborhood more actually lived in, and it was nice, like going back to Italy after being in an international amusement park. Saw some churches, etc. Continued all around, walking walking, and made it back to the hotel like 8ish.
The cool thing about my hotel room is that it had tv! So that night I ended up watching this tv-movie about the life of Giovanni Paolo II when he was still Karol, which I think was dubbed from English, but I’m not totally sure, because it’s like impossible for me to read the lips while listening to the Italian. Like all the names of the people involved were either Polish or Italian, so I was a bit confused, but I’m assuming it was American, because does Poland make tv-movies? Who knows. But let me tell you, life in Poland sucked under the Nazis! Not that this is news really. But two hours (part one of two, second part on Tuesday) were just WWII Poland, so we saw a lot of it.
Ok, so Tuesday I got up early and headed straight to the Vatican. I took the metro, which I remembered hating from years ago when I was there with my family, and sure enough, still awful! I waited for the third train before finally pushing my way into complete packed-ness. And some bitch tried to push me out of the way to get in while I was waiting for everyone to exit who was going to, but I pushed her back and got on first. I never did figure out what she and her overly-metrosexual husband were speaking. But I definitely hate her.
Got to the Vatican a bit before ten and headed straight to St. Peter’s Basilica. Here’s a little tip for you: if there are two lines, one for the basilica and one for the tomb of Giovanni Paolo II, and there seems to be no line for the tomb, don’t assume that that’s always the case!!! I went into the basilica first and a half an hour later (I think) all of a sudden there’s a huge line for the tomb! Hmph. But I waited my turn, and it turned out it only added like 10 minutes to the wait because there was a whole internal line you couldn’t even see.
It was kinda like the Indiana Jones line and Disneyland—once you get inside the building you think you’re done, but no, there’s another whole part of the wait. But it was only like a half hour total, so it wasn’t as bad as Disneyland. His tomb is very white. I took a picture, you can see that too. We were only allowed to walk past, no stopping, so I had my finger half-pressing the shutter already so I could take the photo (damn! Did it with an “f” again) quickly. Another side note—batteries are ridiculously expensive here, over a euro just for one! But don’t by the cheap ones from the cheap asian store instead to save money, because then you’ll have to change the batteries twice in one day because they’re so crappy!
Then made my way to the Vatican museums, and spent another couple of hours there. All told, I didn’t leave the Vatican til 3:30, which is a lot of hours, in case you’re counting. I proceeded to meander around Rome looking at more famous stuff, stopping for a while in the park to relax (which wasn’t so relaxing after all because apparently sitting by yourself reading is an invitation to come talk to you…sigh) and collapsed back home that night. I’d thought to stay in Rome the first part of Wednesday and then leave in the afternoon, but I’d managed to hit most of the sites I’d wanted to see, so I decided to just go home in the morning. I went to the train station to check the schedule for the next morning, and what should I find there but the very thing I’d been looking for, a grocery store! How perfect.
While I was in there I heard on the radio about the new pope, Benedetto XVI. To think I missed it by a few hours. That night watching the news, though, I was glad I wasn’t there because it was a huge mess of people, even more than during the day! And I would have not been happy stuck in that crush of people. So I watched all about that on the news (he speaks Italian well, the German accent is obvious but he doesn’t speak haltingly or have trouble finding words usually, and as a foreigner I admire that =) ) and then decided part two of Karol, un uomo diventato papa, which was all about Poland under the communists (now that the Nazis were finally gone) was just too depressing, so I watched Smallville instead (yay for dubbed American shows!) and just saw the last few minutes where he becomes Pope. I wonder if he was really as endlessly patient as he seemed in the movie. Because if so, no wonder he became Pope!
Wednesday morning I went to the train station a bit after ten to catch the 10:30 train, which was direct on the fast train to Trento, but it turns out I remembered wrong (Why didn’t I check my damn post-it??) and it left at 10:05, rather. Crap. So I tried booking for the next train, and the next, and the stupid machine told me they were all booked! I mean, I was looking at trains at like 4:30pm and they were still coming up booked. Which is weird! It’s Rome, so tons of trains, and to Trento??
I got interrupted during this panic attack by the study center lady, who called me to tell me that the director guy with whom I need to sign that stupid form about which classes I am “going to” take is actually coming into town the day before, so I can go in Tuesday afternoon instead of Wednesday morning to sign the form. Which means, I can meet my mom in Milan and be there early instead of late! Yay. After this I went to another ticket machine and apparently the one I was on before was broken, because this machine showed everything nice and open. Stupid thing!! So I grabbed a ticket for the 10:30, ran to the platform and got on like two minutes before it left. Sadly with this train I had to change in Bologna to an interregionale train, which is much slower and stops freakin’ everywhere, and was late of course, so instead of getting in at 3:30 I got in after 5. Hmph. It just pissed me off because I’d been up since 7:15 anyways, so it’s not like it would have been difficult to catch the stupid 10:05 train instead. Note to self, always check!
But I finally got in, had to rethink stopping at the grocery store because once again it’s Wednesday afternoon and though there are some open, the two nearest me (and cheaper than the one open) were closed. I don’t know what kind of evil curse it is that the time I always want to go grocery shopping happens to be Wednesday afternoon, but so it is. So I just came home instead, took a shower and tried not to fall asleep. I hung out with my roommate Cinzia a while, I love her!! She is so my favorite. I’ll definitely miss her. She is incredibly nice. I finally had an espresso after dinner, and boy did I have to add a lot of sugar, but not bad. My roommates were amused, this is the first time I’ve finally said yes when they’ve asked me if I want to join them (they do it every meal without fail…amazing). But I was still falling asleep after dinner. However, intrepid as I am, I sat down with my trusty laptop to write this incredibly detailed account, just for you. Oh, the sacrifices.
There are many pictures to see, as always, at photos.yahoo.com/berkeleybunny. (Picture notes—when you’re looking under Bologna, you’ll see something that looks like a mask. But that’s not what it is! Right answer? Chastity belt. In the Ferrara section, in one of the pictures inside the Duomo, it looks like the Pope is really sitting right there! But it’s really just a cardboard print with a light shining on it. Just warning you in case you got worried or confused. And Ferrara is famous for having its people bike everywhere, so I took a picture of the many bikes outside the train station. Also amazing! So many indeed. In the Rome section, one of the pics is just of an Italian government office, but I thought it was cool because it was built in the fascist era and so it has both dates written above the doorway. In the Vatican section, you can see the tv screens they had set up all over just staring at the smokestack indicator of the pope status, which sadly enough took me a couple of minutes to figure out what the heck it was. I mean, really, it looks like a spaceship landing! All I could think of was Men in Black. ).
And now today I have begun my week of relaxation and boredom before my mom gets here. I'm liking it, so far. But I know I'll go nuts without something to do before too long.