This holiday season was jam packed with culture, friends and laughs, and good food. To make it a bit easier to read, I’ll organize this holiday adventure by city. A friend and I flew into Pisa, Italy and then took a bus to Florence to meet up with another Holy Crosser on Dec. 17th and until Dec. 29th we were in Italy.
Rome: It was a lot warmer in Rome when we arrived, which was nice but threw us off a little in terms of the Christmastime spirit. Rome was bustling and our first stop was to see the Forum and the Colosseum. We ventured also to the Centro Storico and saw the Pantheon followed by the Spanish Steps and eventually ventured off to the Villa Borghese with the beautiful Galleria Borghese that we spent hours in looking at Bernini’s sculptures. A whole day was dedicated to the Vatican City where we saw of course The Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. A favorite spot was the Trevi fountain.
Florence: Tuscany is quite beautiful and our first day trip we went to Fiesole, a small town with a beautiful view of the Tuscan countryside. Our visit included a climb of the Duomo with its beautiful view of Florence and frescoed dome, which was constructed by Brunelleschi. We passed by the famous Uffizi, the Ponte Vecchio, saw Michaelangelo’s David, the Basilica San Lorenzo, traversed the street markets, and took a break at the Chiesa Di Santa Croce (Church of the Holy Cross). A favorite trip was to the Galleria Palatina.
Sorrento: Getting closer to Christmas, it was time for us to slow down and enjoy the beauty of the Almafi coast and celebrate with our friends. It was definitely hard to be without our families, but it was fun to make Christmas decorations (we made a construction paper tree and snowflakes!) and dinner with friends. On Christmas Eve, just a quick train ride away, we visited the ruins of Pompeii, which was really amazing. We saw the pottery left over, the amphitheaters, “restaurants” back in the day, and a few bodies taken by the volcanic eruption. Christmas Eve dinner was a lot of fun after which we made some gingerbread cookies and hot cocoa (some things don’t change). We went to midnight mass in Italian which was new for me. I loved listening to the choir and was able to chime in when they sang Adeste Fideles. An interesting tradition, either at this parish or maybe it’s an Italian tradition was that after mass was over, the baby Jesus in the crèche was held up and everyone formed a line to kiss the foot of the baby Jesus. Christmas morning we woke up with our “yankee swap” presents that we bought for each other under our paper tree. We made breakfast and headed to the beach in Sorrento. Not warm enough for swimming but we took beautiful pictures, called our families and stuck our toes in the water!
Naples: The day we arrived we had a beautiful view of the port and walked around the city and saw some of the castles near the shore. Besides visiting the Naples Archeological Museum that held the remains and mosaics of Pompeii, our goal in Naples was to enjoy their famous pizza. We did this with much success when we tried the pizza at Pizzeria di Matteo and the extremely large pizza at Pizzeria da Michele!!!! The best! Another day, we were fortunate enough to meet with one of our friends relatives in Pozzuoli, where they showed us the volcanoes, the view of Capri and Ischia from Pozzuoli, and treated us to a traditional meal.
What I really enjoyed about this portion of the trip was the ability to discover Italy and compare how life is in Ireland. The pace of life is different, a little slower in parts of Italy in comparison to the city of Dublin. I also really liked comparing the cathedrals I’ve seen in Ireland with those of Italy- the architecture and art within is very different and it shows a bit of what each culture values. I love art, paintings especially, so it was interesting to view a lot of the Italian art in the form of frescoes. My neck hurt a bit from constantly looking upwards! It also made me very excited to go back to the National Gallery in Ireland. I discovered I loved the Irish artists there and am excited to say that they are still some of my favorite works of art.
Next and final stop of the trip was Paris for New Year’s.