Part of being a study abroad student is venturing outside of Rome, or if you’re like me, trying to hit every country in the EU in 15 weeks (just kidding… but I can try!). The best and worst thing about choosing to study abroad in Italy is that you are no more than a two hour flight from any country you could want to go to for a weekend, and no more than a 4 hour train ride from any city in Italy. How on earth do you choose?!
Well you don’t really, you start somewhere and know that it will all work out wonderfully, but never as planned. I started with the places I had always wanted to go like Germany, Spain, Florence, Venice, etc. and luckily my roommates had the same ideas. Be open to new cities or countries you had not previously considered, because sometimes those end up being the best trips! One piece of advice is to research holidays and festivals in each of the places you want to go, and plan accordingly. Research how long it takes to explore the city and what things can be done on weekends versus weekdays, and whether tickets should be purchased in advance. I usually narrow the list to 4-5 monuments or points of interest, leaving time for meals and travel time. Cities like Florence can be explored in two days, while for others like Barcelona you’ll want to leave on Thursday night to have three full days. TripAdvisor and Pinterest are a great help when making an itinerary, especially for a city you don’t know much about, as they provide lists and reviews of the most popular activities. Moovit, the app that helps you get from point A to point B almost anywhere, has been my best friend when traveling.
If you are traveling with a group, keep in mind that it will take extra-long to get anywhere, especially if there is only one bathroom in an AirBnB (been there, done that!). Traveling with friends is a blast and significantly cheaper than booking accommodations for a single person, but in Europe moving 10 people to one restaurant or monument is challenging. My advice is to eat a little earlier than the city’s usual meal times, and factor in additional time to go places. Also, very few taxis hold ten people, so plan to split up and put those with phone data in separate cars! Don’t get me wrong, going on some of the biggest adventures of your life with new best friends is indescribable. I won’t ever remember what was written on the sign under that Leonardo da Vinci painting, I will only remember who I was there with and how much we laughed, failed at things, and laughed some more. Weekly “travel meetings” as my group has deemed them are a highlight of my week, because I know it means a new adventure and another city checked off my bucket list.
Just remember that you cannot possibly see everything in the short semester but it will give you a taste of what you want to see more of or even return to see again someday. I will take you through some of the places I have gone, what I experienced, and some tips for how to make your experience even better.