Italy Round Two

I have my first final exam of the semester in about two and a half hours, but I’m feeling pretty well prepared for it, so I’m allowing myself a break from studying to write about my trip to Italy in April.

I made my first trip to Italy in November, visiting Cinque Terre, Lake Como, and Milan, and I absolutely loved it and wanted to go back to see some of the better-known cities I hadn’t yet visited, so Connie and I made use of our second half of spring break to travel to Bologna, Florence, and Venice.

Our plan was to take a train to Florence as soon as we arrived in Bologna, but, it being Easter weekend, the train we were planning to catch was full, and the man at the ticket window told us there were no open trains to Florence that day. We panicked momentarily, as this would be a problem with hostel reservations and other train plans, but, using the automated ticket machine, we found that the man was wrong, and we were able to book tickets to Florence later in the day, which were a little more expensive, but at least our plans were still on track.

That gave us some time to explore Bologna, which we were originally going to do the last day of our trip. We started with pizza, as authentic Italian pizza is to-die-for, even from cheap counter-service restaurants, and then walked around the main part of town, seeing some shops, old, fancy buildings (Europe is good at old, fancy buildings), a book fair, and the park. The weather was overcast, Bologna’s a little dull, and we were tired, so I wasn’t thrilled to be there, but the trip improved from there.

Bologna, Italy


After arriving in Florence, our route to our hostel took us by the Piazza del Duomo, which contains Florence’s giant cathedral (very cool) and across the River Arno. Unfortunately, the city was flooded with tourists, which made hauling luggage rather frustrating, and it was a big relief to finally make it to the hostel. We went back out to check out some of Florence’s other main landmarks on foot. The day was dreary, so I wasn’t enchanted by Florence, but, once the sun set, the city was gorgeous.

Cathedral, Florence, Italy

Florence’s cathedral.

Arno River, Florence, Italy

The River Arno.

The next day was Easter, and Florence is big on its Easter celebrations. We ran across a small procession of traditionally-clad marchers and then watched a flag-throwing performance. Then we headed over to the Piazza del Duomo to await Florence’s major Easter festivity, il Scoppio del Carro (“Explosion of the Cart”). We arrived about an hour and a half before it began, but we were glad we did, because we were in the second row of people, and by the time it started, there were thousands of people behind us. A cart filled with fireworks and explosives is brought into the plaza and then set off, each explosive setting off another in a chain reaction. Lots of loud noises and smoke, like Valencia’s mascletà but better. Il Scoppio del Carro was surprisingly really, really cool, and I loved getting to witness such an important Florence tradition.

Florence flag-throwing

Flag-throwing ceremony.

Il Scoppio del Carro, Florence, Italy

Il Scoppio del Carro.

Our next stop was Venice where we spent the afternoon and evening touring the city’s countless canals and bridges, eating more pizza and gelato (of course!), and eating shops with handcrafted glass and Carnevale masks. I also bought the original Italian-language version of Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, yay.

The next day consisted of more touring the canals and small streets of Venice as well as checking out some of the more populated areas like the Ponte di Rialto and the Piazza San Marco. One of the highlights of the day was an adorable used books shop that calls itself the most beautiful bookstore in the world. A bit of an exaggeration, but it was cool. We ended the day by taking a ferry to Murano, an island just across the water from Venice that’s known for its glassblowing. By the time we arrived, most of the glassblowing shops were closed, but we got to look in the windows. The sun finally emerged from the clouds for the first time this trip, and the island was very quiet and lovely. We concluded the evening with another round of pizza and gelato.

Venice gondola

Venice! Gondola rides cost about 80 euros, or so we hear, so we were content just watching from above.

Carnevale crafts, Venice, Italy

Carnevale crafts.

The following morning, we took a train to Bologna, but we realized that we could get off at Padua and get back on the train for no extra cost, so we made a detour to the city that’s probably most known for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. It’s a small town with not a lot to see, but we enjoyed exploring it for a few hours before continuing to Bologna.

In Bologna, we visited the Università di Bologna, the world’s oldest university still in operation and the alma mater of such people as Dante Alighieri and Copernicus, and where one of my favorite authors, who I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog, Umberto Eco, currently works. We spent some time in a book store, ate more pizza, re-visited the city’s main plaza by night, and then flew back to Madrid the next morning.

University of Bologna

L’università di Bologna.

I think I preferred my November trip to Italy to this one, mostly because I fell in love with the tiny towns of Cinque Terre, but this was great as well. It confirmed my desire to continue studying Italian so I return to the country one day with a better grasp on the language, and also confirmed my assertion that Italian food is ridiculously delicious. Though I didn’t get to visit Rome or the south of Italy this year, I’m really happy I got two fantastic trips there. See the rest of my photos from the trip here.

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