University of Wisconsin–Madison

When in Rome…and You Only Understand Every Third Word

This week was our program’s spring break, which believe it or not, was much warmer than spring breaks at home even though it was two weeks earlier. So, after a relaxing (mostly roommate-free, which is rare with 19 of us) weekend spent in London, I headed down south to Venice to meet up with some girls from the program. This was my first time in Italy and Venice definitely made a crazy first impression. First off, we were there during the Carnevale celebration. This consisted of a lot of crazy masks and full on costumes (see pictures below). In fact, while getting intentionally lost we happened upon a professional photo shoot with a couple people in these costumes. One lady had the entire Wizard of Oz story on her dress and mask. We also did the typical gondola ride which I would suggest, especially if you can split it between a couple people. You get to see a really pretty and tucked away part of Venice. Plus if you’re lucky, the gondola driver may even sing some Italian. As pretty as Venice was, we felt like after a day and a half we had seen pretty much everything and were ready to move on to Rome!

To get my biased out of the way, Rome was one of my favorite cities we’ve visited. The buildings are old and gorgeous, painted in much more exciting colors than white and the city feels alive. Also, compared to Venice I feel like we saw so many less Americans, plus there were many less masks and boats (something I appreciated). It also had a lot of old stuff. Like, a lot. As an American, I’m still getting used to the amount of history that cities have here in Europe. Still, it has been one of my favorite parts of traveling because everywhere feels like it has this long, interesting story for you to discover. Rome was no exception. We saw all the typical sites: the Vatican, Colosseum (where we saw Michael B. Jordan as he passed us in line), Roman Forum and the Trevi Fountain. One of the prettiest things we saw, though, was the Spanish Steps at sunset.

Overall, the trip was amazing and Italy has always been at the top of my travel list, so it was literally a dream come true. Especially the pasta and the gelato, those definitely lived up to the hype. Something that kept crossing my mind on the trip though was how confusing it is to be in a country where the main language isn’t English. I didn’t experience this in Paris or Berlin because there was no hope of me understanding French or German (especially German!), but in Italy I could understand little bits of everyone’s conversations without really know what they were saying. This was surprisingly exhausting because you were stuck somewhere between trying to pay attention and being able to ignore the conversations. It was also frustrating when trying to communicate with people using Italian. I remembered an okay amount of words and phrases from my two semesters freshman year, but when I couldn’t think of what a certain word or something it was infuriating. I knew at some point I was able to say what I wanted or to understand, but I had lost all that ability. The whole experience gave me a huge amount of respect for those people who are studying abroad where the first language isn’t English. I have enough trouble understanding Brits speaking their version of English. So, while I loved Italy, I still got the happy, warm fuzzy feeling coming back to London that I always do after time away.

DSC_0893 DSC_0941 DSC_0998 DSC_0586 DSC_0611 DSC_0767 DSC_0780 DSC_0834