Panthers Around the World: Edie’s Trip to Italy

Edie Carneiro, Copy Editor

All my life, I have had a passion for travel, history and art. So, when I heard my family would spend our winter break in a place that combined all these elements so perfectly, I was beyond ecstatic. Italy is by far the most beautiful and interesting place I have ever been, and the wonder and excitement I felt there was unlike any other experience I have ever had.

The first two days we spent in Italy were in Rome, and I do not think we could have started our vacation off in a better way. We started day one with a visit to the Colosseum, and the only word I can use to describe it is “incredible.” With a surface area of six acres, the sheer size of it is something to marvel at in itself. However, the inside is even more amazing. The open ground floor allowed us to view the underground tunnels where gladiators and animals were kept, and it was a surreal feeling to know that I was standing in a center of ancient Roman life from thousands of years ago — especially since “Gladiator” is one of my favorite movies. 

The next place we went to that day was the Roman Forum, the former public square of ancient Rome. This was one of the main places that made Rome stand out as such a unique and special city. Where else in the world do you walk down a seemingly normal street and see ruins from more than 2,000 years ago in the center of a bustling city? I had a similar feeling visiting the beautiful Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps. 

We spent the next day at the place I anticipated the most: The Vatican Museum. In the main gallery, my favorite painting was “The School of Athens” by Raphael. Going to Rome, my whole family knew it was a must-see fresco, and it truly lived up to its fame. However, I saw a lot of other incredible paintings I had never heard of before on that tour. One of my favorites was “Deliverance of Saint Peter,” a fresco by Raphael and his student Giulio Romano, depicting an angel liberating Saint Peter from Herod’s prison. 

However, the real star of the show had to be the Sistine Chapel. Despite being incredibly moving on its own, I learned a lot of information about it prior to entering — since we could not talk inside — from our tour guide, giving me the ability to understand and appreciate it even more. For example, I learned that in every painting in the Chapel, Moses’ clothes were the same green and gold, and Jesus’ robes were the same red and blue. I also learned that the striking bright blue color used to paint the sky was actually made of crushed lapis lazuli, one of the most expensive materials in the world at the time. This really goes to show how much consideration and love went into this powerful, stunning work of art.

The last main site we visited in Vatican City was Saint Peter’s Basilica, and to say it was absolutely stunning would be an understatement. The outside was beautiful, with its seemingly endless line of statues bordering the square in front. However, even more stunning was the interior. The first thing on display when walking in is Michelangelo’s “Pietà,” featuring immense levels of detail and emotion that makes it one of, if not the most, incredible sculpture I have ever seen. As one continues into the cathedral, there are countless statues, paintings and frescoes that overwhelm the eyes with their sheer beauty. All I can say is, it is by far the most amazing interior of a building I have ever seen.

I say interior because, in my opinion, there is only one monument that surpasses it on the outside: the Duomo. After a very comfortable, quick train ride from Rome to Florence (seriously, if you are planning a vacation to Italy, I highly recommend it — the best travel experience of my trip), our first stop was the Duomo. Honestly, I do not even think I can describe just how incredible it was with words. If you do not know what it looks like, I would say to stop reading and look it up, but not even the pictures online do it justice. I can confidently say that every single inch of the exterior of the building is filled with astonishing detail. The statues built into the walls stare down at their viewer with incredible emotion, which I would not have believed possible to convey in marble if I did not see it with my own eyes.

Our next stop was Santa Croce, the resting place of some of history’s greatest minds, such as Michelangelo, Galileo Galilei and Niccolo Machiavelli. Being in the same room as these people was surreal, to say the least, and this basilica is an underrated must-see in Florence.

On day four, we visited the Accademia and Uffizi Galleries, and both collections were as mind-blowing as I expected. The Accademia started our day off strong with Michelangelo’s “David.” Going into the trip, the only thing my parents talked about more than the food was this sculpture, so honestly, I was expecting to be a little disappointed. I did not think there was any way that it could live up to their descriptions. However, when I walked in I saw that “David” was everything they described and more. My dad had previously given me a challenge: find a single thing wrong with the “David”— I could not. Next, we moved on to the Uffizi. In my opinion, some must-see paintings from the gallery are the “Duke and Duchess of Urbino,” Caravaggio’s “Medusa” and “Calumny of Apelles.” However, the Uffizi is ginormous. So, unless one plans to spend a full day there, a tour may be too time-consuming. Instead, I recommend the app “Uffizi Gallery.” My family used it to learn information on all three of the paintings I listed above, and it provided us with a perfect amount of explanation and meaning to the works we wanted to learn about, without having to get a tour guide. 

On our final day in Florence, my family took a trip to the Medici Chapel and Pitti Palace, and if I had to choose a favorite day from my trip, it would definitely be this one. The chapel was the first place we went, and although it looks unassuming on the outside — at least, compared to the other incredible architecture we had seen — the inside made my jaw drop. The colorful marble and elaborate fresco on the ceiling were beyond beautiful, and we got to see yet another amazing Michelangelo sculpture: the “Tomb of Giuliano de’ Medici.” We then moved on to Pitti Palace, which was one of my favorite destinations during the trip. Every room consisted of intricate designs, incredible paintings and frescoes and — my personal favorite part of each room — informational signs that described the paintings, mentioned who designed the room and the purpose of the room. 

As for the food, it was even better than I imagined, and I had extremely high expectations. If one is traveling to Rome, I highly suggest Il Barroccio near the Pantheon. The food was great on its own, but the service was even better. Our server was so funny and friendly, and even made us olive oil at our table and jokingly yelled at my sister for trying to eat the bread before his presentation, which was hilarious. If you are going to Florence, I recommend eating at Piazzale Michelangelo. The food there was delicious, and the view was even better.