The group of BSM travelers on the boat in front of Capri’s famous rocks in the Mediterranean Sea. (Kelli Rahn)
The group of BSM travelers on the boat in front of Capri’s famous rocks in the Mediterranean Sea.

Kelli Rahn

BSM trip to Italy: an in-depth review

April 5, 2022

This spring break, I was lucky enough to travel to Italy as part of a group with 25 other BSM students and four faculty members. Although our main stops were Venice, Florence, Sorrento, and Rome, the trip was filled with much more in between, and it is a trip I will always remember and look back fondly on.

Day 1-2

After a long travel day, we arrived in Venice around 2 P.M. in the afternoon. At the airport, our wonderful tour guide that was with us through the entire trip, Osh, greeted us. The first shock was taking a water taxi (aka a boat) to our hotel from the airport in Venice. Since Venice is a series of islands, our hotel was peacefully disconnected from the mainland. That afternoon/evening, we took a walk through Venice stopping at a beach, getting a preview of the sites we were going to see more in depth the next day, had our first round of gelato, and enjoyed a yummy first dinner all while fighting off the jet lag as much as possible––we all crashed that night. 

Day 3

After a much needed night of sleep and breakfast at the hotel, we took the water taxi from the island our hotel was located on to the mainland. Once at the mainland, we started the day with a guided tour around Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Cathedral, located in Piazza San Marco. Filled with incredible Gothic architecture and beautiful scenery, our time in Venice started off strong. After the guided tour concluded, we took a boat to a smaller island called Murano to visit a glassblowing workshop. We watched glass masters blow glass so effortlessly and eloquently, and then stopped into their showrooms. Many people bought glass blown gifts and souvenirs to bring home. After that, we took the boat back to mainland Venice, had lunch, stopped by a far-reaching overlook where we could see the entire city of Venice from one balcony, and had our first period of “free time,” where we could explore and get (temporarily) lost in the city in smaller groups. Later that afternoon, the majority of the group, including myself, took a Gondola ride through Venice’s amazing canals. This was definitely a highlight of the trip for me because it was such a unique way to see so much of a city in a short period of time, and it was also just really pretty. That evening, we had some more free time to explore Venice, and eventually reconvened as a group to have another delicious three-course meal. 

Day 4

The next morning, we packed our suitcases and headed off on the coach bus to Florence. After a three hour bus ride, we arrived in Florence around lunch time. We quickly checked into our hotel and were given some free time to explore Florence and grab a quick lunch before our guided tour around Florence. After a quick lunch and gelato (of course), we met up with a new tour guide to do a walking tour around Florence. The main stops of the tour included the Duomo, Santa Croce, Ponte Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, and Galleria Uffizi. After briefly seeing the city through a walking tour, we were given some free time to explore on our own for a bit before dinner. Two friends and I ended up resting for a little along the Arno River at Ponte Vecchio watching the sunset––this was definitely another highlight of the trip for me, it just felt really surreal in the moment and looking back now. That night, we headed as a whole group to an Italian cooking school, where we prepared spaghetti with tomato sauce, meatloaf and panna cotta all by ourselves (well with marginal help from Italian culinary professionals). The meal was tasty, but there isn’t much room for catastrophic error in those dishes. More than tasty, it was just a super fun experience spending time with my classmates in a way we’ve never interacted before.

Day 5

The next morning, we got back on the coach bus for about 1.5 hours to a small, medieval town near Tuscany called San Gimignano. We were given a few hours of free time to explore San Gimignano. We saw many great views, got lost in the medieval alleys, popped into many small stores, and tasted the “World’s Best Gelato as of 2016-2017.” We then drove 15 minutes further to a Tuscan farm called Fattoria Poggio Alloro. We got a tour around the farm, seeing the cows, how their wine is made, and ended with an authentic Tuscan farm meal. The entire meal was made with ingredients from their farm. From the bruschetta, to the pasta, to the cheese and meat plates, to the chocolate mousse, it was all so fresh, delicious, and filling. We stopped by their store before leaving to bring back incomparable pasta, wine (for families), and olive oil to the states. After driving back to Florence, we went to an authentic Italian leather store, Misuri. We were given all the details about their leather goods and were given the chance to shop all around the store, and many people bought high quality leather goods. Later that evening, we were given some free time to explore the city of Florence a little further. Many of us ended up getting dinner at an Italian market, where they had all different kinds of restaurants and foods to choose from. I ended up getting a Lampredotto sandwich, which is a traditional street food found in Florence––it was really delicious! I ended the night perfectly with an authentic Italian cannoli. 

Day 6

On day six, we headed to the train station early in the morning. We took the high speed rail for three hours from Florence to Naples. When we arrived in Naples, we took the coach bus a little further to Pompeii. There aren’t many restaurants in Pompeii, so we ended up eating in a hotel/conference room area. It was kind of odd, but ended up being a delicious meal of Neapolitan pizza, as Naples is the birthplace of Neapolitan pizza. After lunch, we did another guided tour around the grounds of Pompeii. In two hours, we only covered around 30% of the grounds of Pompeii. The dedicated preservation to the grounds was very interesting to see firsthand. After our time at Pompeii, we got back on the coach bus and took a very windy route down to Sorrento. Hardly making it, we attended mass at a church in Sorrento. It was very cool to see the similarities in mass despite the language barrier. After mass, we checked into our hotel and headed to dinner. We had another yummy three-course dinner, and of course, had some gelato as well. As we returned to the hotel, we got the chance to watch an Italian soccer game in the hotel common room with a bunch of native Italian soccer fans, which was really fun despite Italy’s loss to Macedonia. 

Day 7

Ah, day seven––my favorite day of the trip. Early in the morning, we walked from our hotel down to the port of Sorrento, where we hopped on a boat that would take us to the island of Capri. After a quick 30-minute boat ride, we were in Capri and quickly on our way to our private boat that would take us around the Mediterranean Sea and along the coast of Capri. This private boat ride was breathtaking. The water was so clear and blue, we stopped along caves, and in front of the trademark Capri rocks. We almost swam during the boat ride, but due to it being jellyfish season, we decided against it. After seeing Capri by water, we got back on land and took a small little bus to the top of the island. We had some free time for lunch and sightseeing in Capri, before heading back down to the water around 2 P.M. to swim at a beach in Capri. While the water was absolutely freezing and the rocks on the beach hurt our feet so badly, it was a once in a lifetime experience swimming in the Mediterranean Sea. It was a bitterly cold boat ride back from Capri to Sorrento, but I had no regrets swimming. That night, after warming up and exploring Sorrento a bit, we had another three-course dinner before heading to our dance class. I think everyone went into the dance class with doubt and a bit of dread, but it actually turned out to be really fun. We learned the Tarantella, a traditional Italian dance, from professional dancers and performed the routine on our own in the end. We ended the long and amazing day with a walk to a scenic overlook and gelato.

Day 8

Early the next morning, we got back on the coach bus for another three hours to travel from Sorrento to Rome. After a long morning on the bus, we quickly checked into our hotel and then had some free time to get lunch before meeting up for our tour of the Vatican. I had a delicious cappuccino and a bowl of carbonara pasta for lunch, which was probably the best pasta I had all trip. That afternoon, we were guided around Vatican City, seeing St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the various Vatican Museums. Everything was so ornate and gorgeous, but hard to see and take in just in one afternoon. That evening, we were all really tired from walking around the Vatican for many hours; however, we had one of our best meals that night (in my opinion). We went to a local pizza restaurant, where they served us three different types of Neapolitan pizza––margherita, gorgonzola, mushroom and ham, and spicy salami. They were all so flavorful and fresh. That night, we walked to the Trevi Fountain, and despite being extremely crowded, it was still really pretty and a sight you can’t miss when in Rome.

Day 9

Our final day of the trip was jam packed, and it didn’t help that it was also the day of daylight savings in Italy. Nevertheless, we started the day with our group COVID-19 test, and thankfully all tested negative. With this assurance, we headed on the subway to an area closer to the Pantheon. We had some free time before visiting the Pantheon, but everything happened to run a little behind schedule due to it also being the day of the Rome marathon. Regardless, we briefly visited the Pantheon, which is a piece of Roman architecture that has transcended the creation of domes across Italy for many, many centuries. We had a brief lunch afterwards before heading to the Colosseum. We arrived after a hot and crowded walk to the Colosseum to begin another guided tour. We spent 1-2 hours walking around the Colosseum, which has been preserved to the best of Italy’s ability, but is actually only about 30% of the original structure. It was still so interesting to see one of the world’s new seven wonders of the world. After the Colosseum, we further explored the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. These two places were equally as beautiful, but at this point, everyone had reached peak exhaustion. We ended the night taking the bus to a different part of the city to have our last dinner and round of gelato. It was definitely a bittersweet night, closing out on a great trip. 

We returned to Minneapolis on March 28, after a 3 A.M. wake-up call and very long travel day (almost missing our connection in Amsterdam). 

 

 

Final thoughts…

All in all, I loved the trip to Italy for so many reasons. The majority of the people on the trip, while we all have our BSM identity in common, are people I probably would’ve never gotten the chance to interact with otherwise, and this proved to be my favorite aspect of the trip looking back at it now. Over the ten days, we quickly got to know each other and made so many memories together. The food, our tour guide Osh, the experiences a new culture brings, the spontaneity, and seeing all over an amazing country in ten quick days, all equated to a trip I’ll never forget. Seriously, if you get the chance to go on the BSM trip to Italy, while you may have doubts, just say “Yes!” because it is an extraordinary opportunity filled with incredible experiences. I simply cannot recommend it enough to anyone considering the trip in years to come. 

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