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It'll Make a Good Story One Day: Winter Break In Italy


Spending my week-long winter break in the beautiful “boot” sounds like a dream, right? Ahhhh, Italy! “La dolce vita”. The gilded frescoes, the Roman ruins, the pasta!

Well. Most of it was. There was a nightmare or two. But it’s okay! Seamless and mishap-free trips rarely make for good stories.

Our group of five decided to split our winter break between three main cities. We started out in Venice, made our way down to Florence then ended in Rome.

 First day in Venice and the start of an eventful week!

Venice, despite being the coldest and wettest of the three cities, was enchanting. We didn’t mind getting lost (which happened quite frequently). The narrow streets weave under buildings and over canals, and every corner holds something worth taking a second look at.

But this is not all about how pretty Venice was, so let’s fast forward.

The story began on the train from Venice to Florence, when we realized that we had assigned seating. Since the five of us didn’t book our tickets together, our seats were scattered throughout the train, which we didn’t discover until we stopped at Bologna and were yelled at by a group of disgruntled Tuscans whose seats we had unknowingly stolen.

We made it safely to the station without angering any more Italians. We found the bus we were supposed to take, and squeezed ourselves in with about 75 other people. By some miracle, we managed to topple out at the right stop and started looking for our accommodations.

We booked AirBnb apartments for each city. Since the apartment in Venice was modern, clean and spacious, we were optimistic about Florence and ready to dive into fresh sheets and warm blankets and pass out.

Our delusions fell away as we looked for the key to the place. In Venice, the woman we were renting from met us in a central location, walked us to the apartment and gave us two sets of keys, a map and the Wi-Fi password. Of course things weren’t so smooth in Florence. Our MIA host had hidden the key somewhere outside the building and it was our job to figure out his clues and find it. We did some serious Nancy Drew-style snooping until we finally found it wedged in between two bricks and slumped up the six flights of stairs to what we thought was going to be the end of a tiring day. Little did we know.

This is where some advice comes in. BE WARY of really cheap AirBnb listings. It may look like the Four Seasons on the website, but oh honey, that was not the case for us.

Wires poked out from the sockets. The wallpaper was yellowed and peeling and there was a hole in the wall between the kitchen and the bathroom. Dozens of old family photos stared back at us from behind dirty plastic frames. There weren’t enough blankets for the five of us and the mattresses were threadbare and questionably stained. It reminded me of the musty, cluttered basement of my grandmother's house (but creepier).

It was so bad we couldn’t help but laugh hysterically; we didn’t know what else to do. It got worse the next day, when we realized there was no hot water. Then the toilet backed up. Oh yes, folks, we had no toilet. The plunger with the alarmingly short handle had a crack in it, so we went and bought another equally short one. Neither one solved the problem.

Despite all of the apartment’s alarming setbacks, we truly enjoyed our time in Florence. The only time spent in the apartment was sleeping, and the rest was out in the gorgeous city. The weather was warm and sunny. We did all the museums, climbed the famous dome and ate the best gelato ever.

 The famous duomo in Florence. How can you be cranky with a view like that?

This is where my second bit of advice comes in. DON’T SWEAT THE LITTLE THINGS. Think about the big picture. We were in Florence, Italy! We ate amazing pasta and tasted fabulous Prosecco! The terrible experience of the AirBnb apartment made for some great bonding. And when it was time to depart for Rome we were more than ready, and more than appreciated the next apartment’s plumbing, cleanliness and three minute walk to Saint Peter's Square!
 Vatican City, the only place where people hawk selfie sticks and rosaries simultaneously

The rest of the trip went by without a hitch. The bad experience faded in our memories to just another funny story to tell to our friends back home. No matter how bad you think the situation is in the moment, in the future all it will be is a good day. Focus on the positives (since they far outnumber the negatives, I promise you), and you too will be living la dolce vita.

Ciao for now!


Elizabeth Manovill is the Spring 2015 CEA MOJO Blogger in Aix-en-Provence, France. She is currently a junior at The University of Dayton.

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