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European Odyssey: Sightseeing in Italy

By Denise McGuigan, Contributor

After two rainy days in Nice, France we drove the few hours to Florence, Italy.
I have only three words to say: I love Italy.

Though our hostel was not in the most ideal location, it was a mere twenty-minute walk to the heart of the lovely city of Florence. Our first full-day there, a student in our group gave a tour guide around the city, showing us sights like the Pitti Palace, the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) and Dante's house.

It was just so beautiful wandering around the cobblestone streets of Florence, walking in and out of stores in the square (mainly ones selling gelato), crossing the many bridges overlooking the city, and walking through the town squares, often times home to beautiful cathedrals.

Even more beautiful than Florence, in my opinion, was Rome. Rome is absolutely amazing because you could walk through a random alleyway and wind up at some incredible landmark, or else, ancient ruins.

Another student led us on a walking tour throughout Rome, showing us sights like the Colosseum, Santa Maria Maggiore, the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain.

I think the most glorious moment for me was when we pulled up to the Colosseum. I couldn't believe I actually saw this magnificent landmark with my own eyes; I never thought I would be so lucky. The Colosseum was a large amphitheater commissioned to be built in AD 72. Its design was very practical- it was able to hold 55,000 spectators as they watched deadly gladiator battles, contests, and public spectacles, often times involving wild animals.

The Trevi Fountain was also an incredible sight: standing nearly 85 feet high, it is the largest Baroque fountain in Rome. While there, each of us tossed coins over our shoulders into the fountain. Supposedly, if you throw in one coin, you will return to Rome; if you throw in two coins, you will fall in love. How many do you think I threw in?

After the Trevi Fountain, we climbed the Spanish Steps- a steep set of steps built by way of French funds, but meant to link the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Holy See (the central government of the Catholic Church).

After seeing all these amazing sights, I did not think I could possibly like Sorrento more than Rome. I may have been mistaken. While Rome is beautiful because of its history, ancient ruins, and incredible sights, Sorrento is better described as a paradise.

Sorrento is a small city in southern Italy overlooking the bay of Naples. Its close proximity to Mount Vesuvius allowed us a stop in the ancient city of Pompeii, weaving throughout the devastation and destruction while still seeing the incredible beauty.

However, this beauty was only the beginning. The true paradise existed on the island of Capri, a mere 25-minute ferry ride from the coast of Sorrento. While there, we went to the peak of August's Garden, a fabulous garden that felt more like the Garden of Eden than anything else. It's beauty is absolutely indescribable, and immediately made all of us feel relaxed.

Today we are traveling to Paestum, a major city in the province of Salerno. There, we will visit the remains of three major temples dating back from 6th century BC.

And after that, it's a return to paradise for two more nights, not a bad life.

The view from the island of Capri, which is 25-minutes by ferry from the coast of Sorrento. (Photo courtesy of Denise McGuigan)

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