Amateur photo essay of Italy

Way back in 2011 I went to Italy for a month.

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For a long weekend break, a friend and I went to Verona. We visited the famed Case di Giuietta with the hundreds of others, but loved the 14th century architecture and the small museum about the Zeffirelli film. This house was probably owned by the Capulet family in the 13-4th centuries, the family that inspired Shakespeare to write his otherwise fictional play.

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A famous square in Verona, many important historical events happened below this clock tower.June 8 022

Durante degli Alighieri, usually known as “Dante,” peered down at us from the square, judging the tourists and other passers-by.June 8 016

The Torre dei Lamberti is a 84 meter tower in Verona. Construction of the tower was started in 1172. In May 1403 the top of the tower was struck by lightning, but the restoration works didn’t start until 1448, and it took 16 years.

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In Lago di Garda we enjoyed ourselves by eating Italian food and looking at the fog coating the mountains and the lake. While a clear day would have been nice to see the famed mountains, the lake was still beautiful.


Turin on a hazy summer day.


Ancient statue of Ceasar Augustus at the Forum in Rome


This city doesn’t need any introduction–it’s the most romantic city in the world


Grand Canal


The winged lion is Venice’s “mascot” from the medieval period. They chose St. Mark as their patron saint, and it was a deft business move. Italy (especially Rome) wanted them to choose St. Peter, which allied Venice strongly with the West. Before, St. Theodore of the East had been the patron saint of the city. But as politics and business drew Venice and the West closer together, it behooved the Doge to make Mark the new patron saint (and there’s something about Mark’s body and relics being found, also).


The real David is indoors, moved in 1910, but this lovely replica stands in its original spot, the Piazza della Signoria.


There’s a reason Florence’s Duomo is so famous. Just look at that artwork, to say nothing of the engineering feat of the dome.


The remains of holding cells and tunnels in the Coliseum.


St. Peter’s Basilica. Go there if you can. Very moving experience.

87 A blurry photo of the Pieta. It’s in St. Peter’s Basilica, but many people miss it because it’s tucked to the right of the main entrance in an alcove.

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Veni, vidi, vici

We had an eight hour layover in Rome and used as much as we could in the city.

Arriving in the smaller airport, Ciampino, we knew we had three to four hours to do whatever we wanted in the city. So we took it and ran!

Getting a taxi or bus into Rome is very simple–just after customs there are multiple stands selling bus tickets, all around the same price. Most buses go directly to Termini, the central train station in Rome. We used the public fare bus, which was just 3.90 euros apiece. Of course, it’s public and Italian, so “on time” is a flexible understanding. The bus didn’t leave until it was full. It’s about a 30 minute trip to Termini, so we used it by prioritizing the things we wanted to see and talking about our plan. With so little time, we had to know what we wanted.

Termini is a metro station, bus station, train station, and shopping mall. It has three floors. Baggage storage is hidden away on the bottom floor behind a couple of columns. It took us 15 minutes to find it. So on our way out, Jordan took photos to help any other tourist in Rome. Below is the entrance. It’s down a very long hallway and the door is on your right.


The metro in Rome, thankfully, is easy to understand–unlike almost all other modes of transportation. It runs usually on time and has only two lines–blue and red. Purchase a BIG ticket (it lasts until midnight the day you buy it) and its unlimited for buses and metros within Rome. It costs around five euros. The stop for the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum are two stops away from Termini and you can’t miss the Colosseum when you exit the metro.


Tickets to get in are 12 euros (unless you study architecture or art) and include all three: Palatine Hill, Forum, and the Colosseum. We had to race through them all, unfortunately, due to lack of time. But I’ve been to Rome before, so we knew what to look for and where to go.

Then we ran back to the metro station, jumped lines, and went to Ottoviano–the stop for St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s not right across the street, unlike the Colosseum. You do have to walk a little bit to get there. My first priority was to find the gelato shop near the Vatican museum I liked last time I was there. Even though it was chilly and drizzling, we found it and ate a lot of gelato. I think it tastes better under the summer sun, though. We even ducked into the cafeteria next door and ate lunch crepes, which I had done four years previously with my friends on my study abroad trip.

St. Peter’s was beautiful, even in the rain, but the line was far too long for us to enter. This was very disappointing to Jordan, who wanted to look around and see the Pieta. I recommend going in the morning, around 10 am, to skip the long lines. It’s what I did last time and we waited maybe five minutes.

We hurried back to Termini to buy train tickets to take us to the airport. Using one of the automated ticket machines is simple. The 1st class, high-speed train costs 14 euros per person and leaves roughly every 30 minutes. The platform the train arrives on is displayed on big LED screens above doorways in the central hall. We just hung out, looking at the screens, like everyone else, until the number was displayed next to our departing train. Sometimes platforms change, because, well, it’s Italy. Thankfully our train was just a few minutes late and we made it to the airport all in one piece.

All in all, we spent about three and a half hours actually walking around/touring Rome. It was hurried, but enjoyable. I had seen everything before, and Jordan just wanted a taste of Rome and Italy. Between gelato, crepes, delayed buses, and Roma people alternating between begging and pickpocketing at Termini, I think he got a real taste!


Now I just need to find a way to return to Venice….

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How I studied in Ireland and Italy

This post is the first in an ongoing series about how to travel.

The first thing I feel when I look at amazing Facebook photos and travel blogs is jealousy. How did they do it? Why can’t I do that? I would wonder.

Well, firstly I am learning contentment in what I have. Secondly, I am always seeking out opportunities and money to travel. Most of my plans fall through (just as Jordan about some of my crazy ideas), but a few work out. I carefully research everything and plan from there.

I studied in Ireland for a semester  in 2010 and Italy for a month in 2011. Both of these were programs with my university, John Brown University.  Ireland was not that expensive, besides the plane ticket. The semester cost about the same as a semester as the university. Look for deals like that.

Aran Islands  Me in the Aran Islands of Ireland.

Italy, because it was a summer trip, was more expensive, but I did get six hours of college credit for it. And I had awesome trip leaders that really searched for the cheapest air tickets to get in and out of Europe. It ended up being cheaper to fly back home through Barcelona than Rome, so we were able to spend two days in Barcelona for cheaper than staying in Rome longer. Talk about a great deal!

For traveling in Europe, Barcelona and Dublin tend to be the cheapest airports to get into the continent.

Verona The fountain “Madonna Verona” in Verona, Italy

In my experience, picking a university that strongly encouraged travel abroad was key. Many schools had study abroad programs, but JBU had an entire culture built around the ideas of international travel and communication of ideas. This made it very easy to study abroad.

Also, if you are eligible for a Pell Grant at college, you are probably eligible for a study abroad scholarship. Those are fantastic ways to travel with little student debt.

When you travel through your university, they usually get you an ISIC, or International Student Identity Card. These get you student rates at movie theaters, stores, and rail prices. You can also get your own, as well as other types of IDs, from They offer a multitude of things, from travel insurance, cheap hostel rates, ID cards, and suggestions for round the world airline tickets.

Do you have any ways or ideas to travel as a student cheaply?

Categories: Introduction, Ireland, Italy, Practical Matters | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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