By Ellen Cicchitti
From May 20-29, I went to Italy with my family where we stayed in Sorrento, Florence and Rome, making a few stops along the way.
The first impression I had when we arrived to Sorrento was that Italy is compact. Small houses pressed close to each other and tiny cars were all along the tight, narrow streets that made driving seem like a nightmare. Our hotel, the Bellevue Syrene, was practically in the heart of Sorrento, surrounded by coastal waters with a view of Mt. Vesuvius as well as aromatic restaurants and quaint open-air stores.
During our stay in Sorrento, we traveled to the city of Amalfi where we visited the Monumental Complex of St. Andrew. Inside the complex, we saw the Basilica of the Crucifix and the Diocesan Museum, which contained relics of Christ and personal religious relics of bishops and churches. The more we ventured into the complex, the more we were able to see: religious relics, robes of cardinals and bishops and the glorious Cathedral of St. Andrew.
After visiting St. Andrew’s, we went to Ravello, a town that housed the Villa Rufolo, a large walled area containing a courtyard, gardens, towers and ancient springs. Named after the family that owned it in 13th century, it bears the town’s vast repertoire of historical and architectural showpieces. Walking around the villa felt like being in a medieval world.
The next day, we went to Pompeii and saw the amazingly preserved town of stone, wood and marble. It was there that we learned that the people of Pompeii did not die from magma flowing on the streets, but from the toxic gas that suffocated the citizens and killed them instantly. Also, one of the main reasons why the town is still standing after 2000 years is due to the city being buried under 25 feet of ash and volcanic rock.
And no, the plastered people were not out in the open for tourists. A select few are rotated every year and sheltered in caged rooms.
Florence was our next stay, a surprisingly beautiful city with many different locations and sites. The first one we visited was il Duomo di Firenze, or the Florence Cathedral, a beautiful cathedral with a high domed ceiling covered in a painting of religious stories and figures. The hotel in which we stayed was near the center square of Florence. Every night different events took place, ranging from local singers and guitarists to a band that had a dancing puppet controlled by the drums. We were able to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia, which contained the original giant statue of David, and the Uffizi Gallery which houses many great artists’ works such as Michelangelo, DaVinci and Botticelli.
After two days in Florence, it was time to spend three days in Rome. The first day we saw the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, both of which were equally impressive. As for the next day, we spent the whole morning and afternoon touring the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel. At the Vatican we saw statues of Greek and Roman gods, heroic figures and religious saints. Our guide talked about how Michelangelo painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for 15-hours a day and painted around 400 characters.
Indeed, the fresco ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was impressive. To know that Michelangelo slaved away at painting every detail, every facial expression and every muscle for 15-hours a day made it all the more gratifying to see. Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed to take pictures or shoot video of the ceiling due to copyright restrictions by restorations and to prevent the camera flashes from affecting the art. The best way to enjoy seeing the Chapel was to quietly contemplate its beauty.
Our final sight in Rome was the Colosseum. The top floor was gone, allowing visitors to see the tunnels and stables and cells that twisted beneath the Colosseum’s stage. The structure itself was huge and somewhat intimidating, especially when viewing it from a high angle.
Overall, the weeklong trip to Italy was quite a success.