First Time in Europe

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There is no place more perfect to start a tour of Europe in than Italy.  Every city you visit is full of rich culture and pleasant people willing to share it with you.  There is always a healthy dose of history in any Italian city or village and it makes the trip all the more worth it to hear of everything that happened in these marvelous places before you got there.  The first town we stopped in was called Treviso.

               It isn’t one of Italy’s larger cities, and it isn’t home to any of the more famous tourist attractions that the country has come to be known for.  But there was something about the town that every local we talked to thought we should know: Treviso was the birthplace of the Italian dessert called tiramisu.  And while we were there we ate plenty of it.  It was fluffy like cake, but in the middle of the pastry, there’s a layer of ladyfinger cookies that have been soaked in coffee and give the dessert its delicious flavor.  It was the perfect snack to much on as my travel companions and I wandered around the pretty little city, stopping at plenty of plazas and fountains just to take in the beauty of the place.

               Next, we stopped in Venice.  We got there by boat and it was fantastic watching the city grow bigger the closer we sailed.  When we stepped off the boat and onto the docks, we were greeted by the sounds of a little street band and the coos of dozens of pigeons.  All of this we found in the Piazza San Marco, the great open space where musicians, crowds, and birds all flocked to spend a sunny afternoon.  We danced to the uniquely Italian music for a while as we fed the birds from our hands.  We even got to step inside St. Mark’s Basilica at the edge of the Piazza to take a brief look at all the tiled Byzantine mosaics inside.  As we wandered throughout the city, it became apparent that its nickname, “The Floating City,” was very accurate.  There are no roads in Venice, only canals that link each of the 118 islands that the city was built over.  It was magnificent walking over each new bridge and realizing you’d crossed over onto an entirely new piece of land.

               After that, we headed for the town of Pisa so that we might see its Leaning Tower.  It was kind of funny finally see in person this historical building that you’d only ever seen in books and on postcards before.  It definitely wasn’t the most exciting part of the trip (it is, after all, just a building), but we made sure to take several goofy pictures with the tower in the background to remind us of the day we got to pose like we were holding up the actual Leaning Tower of Pisa.

               The city of Rome was next on our list, where we toured the world-famous Colosseum and the surrounding historical grounds.  It was astounding to stand in the top rows of the Colosseum and imagine the audiences that once stood where we were standing and to think of the brutal events they were coming to watch on the little stage in the middle of it all.  We learned that the lands we were touring had been the site of Nero’s golden palace, and it was fascinating to hear about all the practices that went on in that region over the centuries.

               We travelled to Vatican City after that, pausing only to grab a little gelato on the way, before heading straight to St. Peter’s Square.  Everyone in our group could name a movie they’d seen the Square in, but none of us had thought it would be quite so big.  When we toured St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, we were all concentrating so hard on remembering everything we saw and learned that we didn’t even say a word to each other.  And that was good practice for the Sistine Chapel itself, where you aren’t allowed to speak.  We just got to look at the masterpiece ceiling that was created so long ago.  It was humbling to see so many people sit so still and so quiet to see this ceiling that had become so precious to the whole world.

               Our last stop was in Florence, or Firenze, as all the locals called it.  We roamed through the city eating authentic Italian pizza and searching through all the wares the street vendors had to offer.  And there were quite a few vendors set up in the little market square together.  The outdoor portion of the San Lorenzo markets are full of clothing and souvenirs for sale, along with the leather items that Florence has become so well known for.  I bought myself a leather bound journal so that I could document everything I saw and felt and ate during my trip to one of the most magical countries I’ve ever experienced.  I’d go back in a heartbeat and I’d encourage anyone thinking of making the trip to go.  Go and fall in love with the light and linguini that Italy has to offer.

First Time in Europe

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