A Long Weekend in Italy

Alexandra Goodin, ’25, is a Psychology major and Spanish minor studying at Nebrija University in Madrid this Fall 2023.

Here in Madrid, we recently had a long weekend, and so myself and three of my friends decided to spend it in Italy! My dad studied abroad in Italy, and I’ve always wanted to go, largely due to his many stories about his positive experience. We decided to hit Venice and Florence, and tried to make the most out of the four (full) days we had.

Day 1: Madrid -> Venice

We flew into Venice after our classes on Wednesday. We discovered, upon landing at 11:30pm that Uber is not a thing in Venice, and so had to figure out another way to get to our air bnb. We ended up taking a taxi, but because of the canals in Venice and where our place was located, our driver could only take us so far. So we ended up wandering through the streets of Venice with all our bags for about twenty minutes (it would’ve been less, but we HAD to stop for pictures) before finding our air bnb. By the time we got in, we were all exhausted, and headed straight to bed.

Venice at night

Day 2: Venice

Thursday morning we were out the door and ready to explore. We hadn’t gotten the chance to get any groceries the night before, so we all grabbed a quick breakfast at a local café. None of us speak Italian, but we did find that a lot of people spoke at least some English, which was certainly convenient for us. We spent our first morning wandering around shops, getting cannolis, and, of course, taking pictures. We also visited a famous bookstore in Venice, which backs right up onto a canal and has a gondola of books inside!

Libreria Acqua Alta

Another highlight from Thursday was seeing the Bridge of Sighs, which is connected to the beautiful Doge’s Palace. The Bridge of Sighs was where prisoners were brought directly from their trials across the canal and into the palace’s cells. It got its name because it was the last chance prisoners had to see Venice through the small windows.

Inside Doge’s Palace
The Bridge of Sighs

We also spent some time in the famous Piazza San Marco, where we got lunch and almost got attacked by pigeons. We went into the beautiful Basilica San Marco and also journeyed up the bell tower, which gave us amazing views of Venice! We finished the day off with a Venice classic: a gondola ride!

Piazza San Marco
Inside the basilica
Views from the bell tower!

Day 3: Venice -> Florence

We started day 3 of our Italy trip off in Venice, where we had a good part of the day before getting on a bus to Florence around 4pm. We spent the day exploring and shopping some more, before making our way to the bus station.

Last glimpses of Venice!

After a 3.5 hour bus ride, we arrived in Florence. We once again could not access Uber, and couldn’t locate a taxi this time, so we braved Florence’s public transit. After a tram, a bus, and some wandering in the rain, we finally found our air bnb. After dropping our stuff, we ran to a local grocery store to grab some things for a quick dinner before going to bed.

Day 4: Florence

On Saturday, we ventured into the heart of Florence to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, also known as the Duomo. We got to see the inside, underneath, and go up in another bell tower! If you’re ever in Florence, I would definitely recommend: just keep in mind that this bell tower has no elevator, and it’s pretty tall…

Inside the cathedral
Underneath the cathedral!
Realizing how tall the tower is!
Views from the tower!

We had a quick lunch and then spent the rest of the day on a tour exploring other parts of Tuscany, the Italian region of which Florence is its capital. It was amazing to see the more rural parts of Tuscany, especially at sunset!

Photo: Becca Graubart

Day 5: Florence

Sunday was our last day in Florence, so we tried to make the most of it. The first stop of the day was the Galleria Dell’Accademia di Firenze, where the famous statue of David by Michelangelo is located. We wandered around and took lots of pictures before heading off to the Leonardo Interactive Museum, which showcased many of the inventions of Leonardo Da Vinci. It was very interesting to learn more about his life and creative process!

Inside Galleria Dell’Accademia di Firenze
One of Leonardo’s inventions

We got lunch and then spent the afternoon and evening wandering around Florence. One of my friends and I stumbled upon a free gondola exhibit and also explored the gardens of Medici Palace. We also spent some time in the Piazza della Signoria, a large plaza home to the Palazzo Vecchio and many incredible sculptures. Before heading to dinner, we walked along the water and saw Ponte Vecchio, a famous shop-lined bridge.

Medici Palace
Piazza della Signoria
Ponte Vecchio

Since it was our last night in Italy, we made sure to have a delicious pasta dinner before calling it a night early. It’s pretty expensive to fly from Italy to Spain on a Sunday, so, being the crazy college kids we are, we decided to take an early flight on Monday…

Day 6: Florence -> Madrid

Monday began at the lovely hour of 4:30am, when the four of us woke up. We all got ready, finished packing, and checked out of our air bnb to make it to the bus stop for 5:20am. We rode the bus (which was surprisingly crowded) to the tram, and then took the tram for a good twenty-five minutes to the airport. We were at the airport a little after six for our 7:40am flight. (We probably would’ve been there earlier, but we quite literally had to wait for the public transit to start running!)

We landed back in Madrid just before 10am, at which point we rushed to the metro to get back to our apartments. One of my friends, who is also my roommate, had an 11:30am class, so she quite literally dropped her stuff and then left for class right away. I didn’t have class until 12:30pm, and was very grateful to have some time to eat, drink coffee, and relax before I headed out for my four hours of back-to-back classes. I (somewhat surprisingly) managed to stay awake for the rest of the day, but was also happy to get back home and collapse immediately.

Italy is a place I’ve always wanted to go, and I’m so grateful that I was able to make this trip happen along with some of my best friends. That being said, I’m very glad to be back in Madrid, and to have the next few weekends off to rest and explore some more. Stay tuned for more Madrid adventures!