Reading Week! – An Italian Adventure

During Week 9 of the Fall Semester is Trinity College Dublin’s Reading Week – a well-deserved, break for undergraduate students in the middle of the semester (this year Oct. 24th to Oct 31st, 2022). Most study abroad students take this time to explore and travel. Along with three other friends on study abroad, I spent my break checking off some cities on my travel bucket list… in Italy!

It was such an amazing experience, so I would love to share my experience for anyone looking to plan a trip like this.

Here is an outline of my trip to Rome, Florence, Tuscany, and Pisa!

Saturday, October 23rd: Dublin to Rome

  • Flight from Dublin Airport to Rome at 3:35pm.
  • For this 5-day trip, we packed light, bringing only our backpacks as a small carry-on bag.
  • Headed to the Terminal 2 Dublin Airport from my Student Accommodation (taking the local Dublin Bus 41)
  • Landed at the Rome Airport at 7:45 pm (it was a 3-hour flight with a 1-hour time difference)
  • We took the train from the Airport to the city center of Rome, near our hostel (Yellowsquare Hostel).
  • After checking in and setting our bags down, we were starving! We walked about 7 min to a local restaurant for an authentic Italian pasta dinner.
  • We turned in early so we could be rested from our flight and ready for a full day in Rome tomorrow!

Sunday, October 24th: Rome

  • Leaving early (around 8am) from our hostel, we started our long Rome day by walking through the Piazza Della Repubblica to make out way to the Spanish steps (Piazza di Spagna)
  • In the Piazza, we grabbed cappuccinos and croissants (a total 3-euro breakfast!) and made our way up the steps!
  • Navigating our way through the colorful streets, we made our way to the famous Trevi Fountain. We took some time to take in the beautiful view and fill our water bottles (Rome has many flowing public fountains, called “nasonis”, with clean drinking water)
  • Next, we walked through the city to the Altare Della Patria and Piazza Venezia, checking out the view of this city interspersed with original Roman ruins along the modern city life.
  • In exploring the city, we stopped in the Basilica di Sant’Andrea della Valle (a beautiful church) and made out way along the Tiber River, crossing the bridge near the Castel Sant’Angelo.
  • Before making our way to the Pantheon, our last stop was the Piazza Navona, with lovely restaurants and flowing fountains.
  • The Pantheon: we did not end up buying tickets for a time slot to go in, but I definitely recommend buying tickets beforehand. We sat down at a restaurant in the Piazza next to the Pantheon and had a delicious pizza lunch with a view of the epic Pantheon in the background.
  • Making our way to the Coliseum (which we did buy tickets for to tour inside at 3 pm), we passed through the Piazza del Grillo (with the ruins of Forum of Augustus, the Temple of Mars, and Trajan’s Market) and grabbed gelato before getting in line for the Coliseum.
  • The Coliseum: This was my most anticipated stop on our trip and it completely lived up to the expectations! Being in a site preserved for so much of human history was astonishing and I would love to go back one day!
  • We walked by the Arch of Constantine and Circus Maximus and made our way up to a garden where you can look out at the whole city landscape.
  • Pasta for dinner of course! When in Rome…
  • Dessert was gelato and tiramisu (Gioletti’s – highly recommend!) and walked back to enjoy it by Trevi Fountain, beautifully lit up at nighttime.

Monday, October 25th: Rome, Vatican City, Florence

  • We booked tickets to enter the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. These were difficult to acquire so I recommend booking these about a month ahead of time.
  • After admiring the astonishing artwork filling every corner of the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, we headed to Saint Peter’s Square outside Saint Peter Basilica (we did not end up getting in the very, very long line to go inside)
  • Pizza brunch! Followed by Nutella Gelato (Gioletti’s again! It was so good!)
  • I had to register for my winter quarter classes at 1pm, an experience I will always remember, as I did it on my phone on the streets of Rome!
  • We picked up our bags from the hostel and headed to the train station to go to Florence (Firenze in Italian). Our one mistake was not buying train tickets ahead of time, so we ended up paying higher prices for this train ride.
  • Rome to Florence! A one-hour train ride.
  • Airbnb in Florence: beautifully furnished with a rooftop balcony looking over the city.
  • Dropped off our bags and headed into the city center for dinner at Trattoria Za-za (highly recommend!)
  • We picked up a couple bottles of local wine and chocolate to enjoy while we relaxed on our balcony before bed.

Tuesday October 26th: Florence

  • Grabbed delicious coffee and fresh croissants for breakfast before heading to our booked ticket time for Galleria Del Academia, gallery woth Michelangelo’s famous David statue.
  • Catterdrale di Santa Maria del Fiore: famous Florence cathedral
  • We walked to Palazzo Vecchio, where we stopped at a famous prosciutto sandwich shop for lunch.
  • Sitting outside the Uffizi Gallery in the Piazza della Signoria, we enjoyed our lunch before walking along the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio bridge.
  • We explored the shops/markets in the area, before taking a break and sitting outside the Pitti Palace to enjoy the beautiful views and weather.
  • Spread out over the city, there are “wine windows” (Buchetta del Vino) where wine used to be passed through during times of the plague to avoid contact. We stopped to drink some Aperol Spritzes passed to us through this historical wine window.
  • Piazzale Michelangelo: beautiful gardens in the hills with a view of the entire city and river
  • We walked back to the city center, passing by the Catterdrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, before heading back to Trattoria Za-Za (it was really good!) for dinner
  • Dessert was authentic Italian Cannolis enjoyed from the rooftop of our Airbnb.

Wednesday, October 27th: Florence, Tuscany

  • We booked a Farm Tour/Wine Tasting/Pasta Making class in a local Tuscany vineyard/farm.
  • Grabbing our fresh coffee and croissant breakfast, we headed to the tour group meeting place and were driven in the Tuscany mountains to the farm/vineyard.
  • Tour of Farm
  • Wine Tasting
  • Pasta Making class
  • Lunch in the Gardens – eating the pasta we had just made 😊
  • We were driven back to the Florence center city, where we stopped at the grocery store for some cheese/meat for a charcuteree board for dinner, along with wine from our tasting today, before heading back to our Airbnb.
  • Enjoyed the last night on our amazing balcony!

Thursday, October 28th: Florence, Pisa to Dublin

  • Woke up for the sunrise and breakfast on our balcony.
  • We walked around Piazza della Signoria and checked out a free modern art museum exhibit.
  • We grabbed Gelato from Gelateria Amorino before heading to the Firenze train station, passing by Piazza Santa Maria Novella.
  • Train from Florence to Pisa
  • Piazza del Dumo: home of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Cathedral, Campanile, and Camposanto Monumentale
  • Had one last Italian meal (Pizza in Pisa!)
  • Walked along the Arno River for the last time and headed to the Pisa Airport for our flight at 9:45pm.

Overall, it was such an amazing experience, and I absolutely loved every city we visited. I hope this list of sites and places helps anyone planning a vacation to these cities!

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