Life is a Box of Swiss Chocolates is a recurring column showcasing the life of a UFV student studying abroad. Jennifer is in Lucerne, Switzerland at the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts this semester, and documenting the process as she goes.
First let me just congratulate all of the UFV grads on their incredible accomplishment last week. My Facebook feed was full of beautiful pictures from convocation — it’s such an exciting time.
My university in Switzerland has a different exam schedule than UFV’s: after classes end, there are three to four weeks of study break before exams start. When I came here, I decided to take as few credits as possible while still making the semester worth it: three academic classes and one Swiss culture class called “Swissness.” Only one has a traditional exam layout, so knowing I wouldn’t need all of that time for studying, I decided to go to Italy for a week.
I was a little bit nervous about the trip. I wanted to see so much in a short amount of time, and lots of people told me how unreliable Italian transportation could be. Getting to Italy was no big problem, and in Venice the airport staff helped me figure out which buses I needed to take in order to get to my Airbnb. But after the first bus, the fun started. I was supposed to wait for Bus 10 to take me closer to my Airbnb. Well, I ended up waiting for about an hour, while three or four of every other number bus that was supposed to go by that stop had. I’d decided against putting a roaming data plan on my phone, so Google couldn’t help me. When the fourth Bus 2 drove by, I decided to get on and ask the bus driver where he goes and if I could take the bus to my Airbnb. I guess he must not have heard me ask “Excuse me?” because as soon as I got to the glass to ask him where I should go, he closed the doors and the bus was on its way somewhere.
I didn’t know this at the time, but the bus took me to downtown Venice. I was so confused and the time was running out for me to check into my Airbnb, so I got a cab and paid him €22 (around $33) to take me to the Airbnb. Once he dropped me off, I realized the Airbnb was actually across the street from the address they gave, so trying to find it was interesting. A local Italian lady saw me snooping around the front yard trying to find the address and where to get in. She just said “no” and pointed across the street. Once I finally checked into the Airbnb and settled down, I realized I was going to take the bus for only €1.5 to the same place I had initially picked up the taxi. A little bit frustrating, but in Italy with an abundance of pasta, wine, and gelato, you don’t stay mad for long.
Venice is absolutely beautiful, I loved getting lost in the canals and taking in the Italian culture. The next day, I headed to Rome on a six-hour train ride which actually went by surprisingly fast. I spent a day and a half in Rome and saw all the major sites, even waiting in line for two hours to get into Vatican City. In the Sistine Chapel, I got yelled at for taking a picture, which I didn’t realize you couldn’t do — I got the full tourist experience. The Colosseum was absolutely amazing, and the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain were full of tourists but stunning nonetheless. After a couple days of running around Rome, I was looking forward to nothing but sitting and relaxing on the four-hour train ride to Pisa. I wanted to take the early train at 6:15 a.m., so the night before I checked the café hours in the train station on my way back to my hostel. The barista told me the café opened at 5:00 a.m., so I thought, That’s perfect, I’ll walk here early in the morning and have a nice coffee and pastry before my train.
Well! Let’s just say that’s not how that morning went down in the end. Once I arrived at the train station around 5:15 a.m., I realized I booked my train for 6:15 a.m. the next day. In a panic because the ticket office wasn’t going to open before my train left, I found an employee from the train line and asked him what to do. He said not to worry, that I should just go to the machine and change the date and it wouldn’t be a problem. So I switch the ticket and all was good — not! The new ticket was emailed to me, however I had a hard time connecting to the Wi-Fi properly and couldn’t load my email to access the new ticket. I went back to the same employee that had helped me before and told him my problem. He said, “No problem, you can connect to my personal hotspot.” I couldn’t believe how accommodating and calming he was. I thanked him profusely and ran to the café with enough time to get a pastry and speed walk to catch the train, which was leaving from the farthest platform, of course.
I finally got to Pisa after four hours and headed straight to the leaning tower. My mom travelled to Europe when she was around my age and had asked me to take some pictures similar to hers from inside the tower. I got to the site and was told I could purchase a ticket for the tour, but the next available one was two hours away. So I bought my ticket and got myself a table in the shade at a nearby restaurant where I ordered a little Italian snack of bruschetta and limoncello. I was a bit dehydrated and it was so hot in Italy, but I didn’t want to pay for another overpriced bottle of water and I had seen so many people drinking limoncellos that I wanted to try one. I didn’t realize that it was practically pure alcohol. There I was: boiling hot, in Italy, a little buzz on at quarter past noon. What else is vacation for?
The tower was smaller than I expected but still very neat. I took my pictures and hightailed it back to the train after roaming the streets of Pisa a little bit. Off to Florence I went. Florence was absolutely beautiful. I was pretty wiped out and I only had about a day there, but what a beautiful place to chill out, shop, and re-energize. I couldn’t have asked for better weather, either. The hostel room I stayed in was a 20-bed, mixed-gender room, which was an interesting experience. It did the trick for one night of rest before I made my way back to Venice with a full bag and a full belly. The last evening in Venice was to die for. I had authentic Italian lasagna with local wine, a chicken and salad entrée, and of course finished it off with a gelato as I strolled the canals some more. There is so much history there and so many beautiful things to see that it was just so enjoyable to get lost and explore little crevices, and before you know it you’ve walked across the island.
If you’ve ever wondered whether you should go to Italy or not, do it! You will never regret it, but maybe spend more than a week.
I’m off to study.