A few weeks ago, I watched Woody Allen’s film To Rome With Love. The movie follows a few different characters around the streets of Rome, in a grand, amusing love letter to the city itself. There is the man who is an amazing opera singer in the comfort of his shower, an American woman and an Italian man who fall in love during her vacation there, and the middle-aged man who reflects on the summer he spent living in Rome, among other characters. I would highly recommend watching the movie. Partly, though, the movie was so enjoyable for me because I have been to Italy, and it was nice to see the same sights in the film.
There are a number of things I remember about my trip to Italy. It was a five-day trip during my spring break while studying abroad, and I got to Italy after having spent two weeks all over other parts of Europe. I met up with my British friend there, and we saw some of the sights in Florence, Pisa, and Rome.
I didn’t do any research about the places I was going on my vacation before I got there. When I got to a new place on my trip, I would get a map from the hostel, and go from there. I walked all over the cities I visited, and got lost a lot, but also I got to see unexpected things. A Stradivarius on display, the quirky sculptures and outdoor art in Brussels, and the red light district in Amsterdam (which I accidentally visited even though I didn’t want to go there). But there are cases when some research might have been good. One story I have not fully related to anyone is my trip from the airport in Milan to Florence.
When I got to Milan, it was late at night, and I hadn’t booked a hostel, in the hopes that I could get a train to Florence to meet my friend. Unfortunately, there were no more night trains running and the station was locked up for the night. I tried to find a hostel that was open near the train station, but I couldn’t find one. While wandering the streets, I came across two very drunk Italians who suggested I crash at their place. I said I was meeting a friend and hurried back to the station, to sit in the well-lit area outside and read my book until dawn. Fortunately, as I was sitting there, a policeman asked if I was waiting until morning to catch a train. I said yes, and he told me there was no security in that area, and he seemed worried about leaving me among the homeless people. So he found someone to let me into the station to wait until dawn. I sat and read my book, still worried about falling asleep, even though no one else was in the station.
Now, you may say, you should have reserved a room at a hostel, you should have researched when the trains stopped. But here is the real issue. In the morning, I went to look at train schedules, and couldn’t find a train to Florence. How could that be? Florence is a big enough place, and certainly a popular destination. I waited an hour or so more, and finally went to the ticket booth to see what the problem was. Being the uncouth American that I am, I hadn’t realized that Florence is not Florence in Italy at all, but rather Firenze. It was a low point on my trip, but I was able to get a very slow train (no kidding, it took five and a half hours) and get on my way at last.
Italy for me was a country with great red wine, where I tried wild boar for dinner in Pisa, where the trains were late and incredibly slow, where I sometimes had gelato three times a day, and where no matter where we walked in Rome, there was some beautiful fountain to catch us by surprise. The people were friendly and flirtatious, and the food was delicious. Woody Allen’s Rome is a little different than the Rome I experienced, but for me, traveling abroad has that same feeling of romance that his movie had. Even if you don’t know the name of the city you are going to, you know you’ll have an adventure.