Where in the World is Jenn Scheffer-Part 2
If you missed Part 1 of Where in the World is Jenn Scheffer, a reflection on my experiences as part of the Burlington High School Teacher Exchange program, you can check it out here. Part 2 focuses on my trips to Venice, Rome, and Florence; three of the most beautiful places I have ever seen in my entire life. I was able to visit these cities because there was no school on Monday and Tuesday due to Carnevale.
First Stop: Carnevale in Venice
On Sunday I took a day trip to Venice with Luca and his son. The city was celebrating Carnevale; a traditional, annual event (typically there are three main days of the celebration) where people dress in elaborate costumes and formally recognize the time period before lent.
Luca and his son and I arrived in Venice by boat and immediately made our way over to the world renowned, Piazza San Marco, Venice’s most famous and largest squares. The beauty of this area of Venice was truly overwhelming, and I cannot describe in words what it was like to be there. After taking lots of pictures, some of which are shown below, we spent time strolling through the narrow, busy streets of Venice, window shopping and taking in the views which I had previously only seen in films. The best part was seeing the gondolas glide through the canals and I decided that I simply could not leave Venice without experiencing this for myself. Luca agreed and we purchased three tickets.
Our forty minute ride, guided by a traditionally dressed Gondolier; who unfortunately didn’t serenade us, took us through the busiest parts of the grand canal, as well as the quieter, charming “neighborhood” canals. In fact, at one point during the trip, I realized we were in absolute silence. Luca noticed it too and actually said, “che tranquillita,” which loosely translated means, “what a quiet place.” During the tour of the “city built on water” we saw beautiful historic mansions and palaces including the palace of Casanova. We glided under beautiful bridges and passed by many other tourists who were enjoying the same unique experience. After the gondola ride we found a restaurant just outside the main square and had a fabulous lunch consisting of calamari and pizza. Then it was time to head back to Luca’s home.
Second Stop: Rome in a Day (Literally)
On the way back to Luca’s, I decided that I could not leave Italy without visiting Rome, even if it would be a one-day trip. When we returned home from Venice, Luca and Silvia helped me book my accommodations. After looking at the train schedule, Luca and Silvia recommended I stay in Rome overnight, otherwise it would be next to impossible to visit more than just one landmark. Even staying the night, I was limited in terms of what I would have time to see, considering the size of the city, but I decided it would be worth it. So, I took their advice, booked the train ticket and room, and departed for Rome at 7:40 a.m. on Monday. I arrived just before noon and made my way to the Metro station. Google Translate would have come in handy at this point, as there were no signs written in English, however when I asked someone in the station about wifi I was told, “it is broken.” Fortunately, I had practiced the Italian phrase, “Io sono Americana. English per favore.” And I found myself saying this, along with “si, grazie” quite a bit over the next twenty-four hours as I attempted to communicate with native Italians in the shops and restaurants I visited. And boy did I do a lot of shopping!
Before making my way to the Spanish Steps, and the mile long stretch of shopping, I visited the world’s largest and most historical amphitheater, the Colosseum. Again, attempting to describe what I saw in words is useless. Even the pictures below don’t do justice to what it was like to be there in person. After about an hour at the Colosseum, I headed back to the Metro station, boarded the A line, and continued on my one-day excursion through the city of Rome. The next stop was the famous Via Condotti, Rome’s main drag for haute couture. I would’ve loved to actually go into some of the boutiques, but I maintained my self control (why torture myself like that?) and instead made the trek over to the more reasonably priced Via del Corso where I picked up a few new items for my spring wardrobe and several special presents for friends and family. Time kept ticking and it was starting to get dark, so I made my way to my final destination before arriving at my hotel. When I entered St. Peter’s Square in the Vatican City it was a rather emotional experience. St. Peter’s Basilica lit up shortly after I arrived and again, there simply are no words for what I saw and experienced. I had yet another realization of the once in a lifetime opportunity I had been given. I desperately wanted to go inside, but it was closing in one hour and there were still hundreds of people in line. It just wasn’t going to happen, but standing in Peter’s Square and taking in all of the surroundings was an experience that will be etched in my memory forever. After some more souvenir shopping, I grabbed a taxi, and arrived at the hotel. I relaxed for a bit, treated myself to a quiet, late night dinner at a nearby restaurant and had the best bowl of pasta ever. Have I mentioned I will be visiting the gym daily once I return to the states?
Third and Final Stop: Family Time in Florence
The next morning, I checked out of the hotel. Fortunately, Google Translate was working because the hotel had wifi and I needed it to communicate with the young woman at the front desk. She spoke zero English but Translate worked like a charm!
After checking out, I made my way back to the train station via taxi and the Metro. On the ride to Florence, where I was scheduled to meet Luca and his family, I was planning to take an hour and a half nap, but instead I chatted the entire time (in English!) with four women from Lebanon. Two were interior architects, one was an academic advisor (and former teacher) at a university in Lebanon, and one was a fashion designer specializing in haute couture handbags with Le nour Designs. They were on a 10 day vacation and we exchanged stories of how different, yet exciting, it was to be in Europe. We talked extensively about the culture, lifestyle, education system, and people of Italy. We also discussed technology use in different countries; the selfie is definitely an international art form, and Samsung is much more popular than Apple from what I have seen during my stay in Italy. And although the girls were from Lebanon, I felt like I was talking to Americans; especially when they said how much they missed Starbucks and a good burger! The train ride flew by thanks to this great, and at times hysterical, conversation. When I arrived in Florence, I was happy to see my adopted Italian family and explore one last famous Italian city.
The first item on my agenda was to eat. I was starving and so were the children. They wanted to eat at McDonald’s. Apparently the fast-food giant is loved by children world wide, however I simply could not come home and tell my fellow Americans that while in Florence, Italy I ate at McDonald’s. Luca understood this perfectly well, so he took me to a lovely cafe where we shared ravioli and mozzarella with tomato. It was sunny and warm so we decided to eat outside (sorry New England, I’ll be back experiencing the misery of winter alongside you in a few short days).
After a quick, but always delicious Italian lunch, Silvia and the kids met up with us and we began exploring the city of Florence. For the third day in a row I witnessed beauty like I’ve never seen. The first landmark was the Il Duomo- the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore followed by Florence’s most famous square; the Piazza della Signoria, featuring a magnificent open-air sculpture exhibit (including a copy of Michelangelo’s David) and Palazzo Vecchio. We also walked across the famous Ponte Vecchio bridge, built in 1345, which crosses the Arno River. Like the previous two days, seeing Florence was an overwhelming, and at times very emotional, experience.
I’ve tried to articulate through this post what it was like to spend the last 72 hours visiting Venice, Rome, and Florence. But it has been incredibly challenging to capture my experience in words. Hopefully the photos I’ve included help to tell the story of my time in Italy during Carnevale. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Luca and Silvia for their assistance in planning my trip to Rome, taking me to Venice, meeting me in Florence, and not making me eat at McDonald’s 🙂 And a special thanks to Niccolo for his patience while I shopped in Florence! I guess he does understand English pretty well after all!
Thank you for reading Part 2 of Where in the World is Jenn Scheffer. I hope to conclude this series with a final Where in the World is Jenn Scheffer Part 3 reflection. Why not make it a trilogy? I have three more days of school, including one more Saturday before I fly back to Boston! Hopefully the weather will cooperate and I won’t be delayed or get stranded in Germany. If I do, I suppose I’ll have enough material for Where in the World is Jenn Scheffer Part 4.