A Week in Italy
I have very mixed feelings about the latest big city on our travels. It was at the same time the best and worst city I have been to in my life.
As a rule, I do not like big cities. Sure, they usually have at least something interesting, and I do love a good public transportation system, but in general I have not enjoyed the time I've spent in big cities. The exception to this would be Auckland, but it doesn't really feel like a big city at all.
In big cities it takes forever to get anywhere, it's crowded, noisy, dirty and I feel completely cut off from nature, where I truly feel at home. Rome is no different. In fact, it was probably worse in these aspects than anywhere I have been. There are almost no parks within the city, graffiti and trash are everywhere and I've never seen so many tourists in my life. Plus food and accommodation are absurdly expensive.
But despite all these drawbacks, I really enjoyed visiting Rome. Why? Because it's worth it. I have never seen anything man-made that is more impressive than the buildings of ancient Rome. It is truly awe inspiring to stand inside something like the Colosseum. Constructed with ancient but revolutionary building techniques, it has endured 2000 years or neglect, vandalism, weather and war and still it is standing. You can truly feel the history surrounding you as you stand within the walls. Just be prepared to spend 15 euros to experience it. And the Colosseum is just one of countless ancient buildings in the city. The Vatican. The Pantheon. The Sistine Chapel. These are just the well known ones. Walk down nearly any random street in central Rome and you will most likely see something centuries older than the oldest building in the US. Getting to see these places up close is truly worth the fight with crowds, exorbitant prices for everything and all the other discomforts of the big city.
Pisa was equally impressive. It's not quite as old as the buildings of ancient Rome, but standing there staring at the Leaning Tower is just... weird. You really can't understand from just looking at a photograph what this building is like. For one thing, it is much bigger than I ever pictured it. I had always thought it was a pretty small tower to be able to lean so much and not fall, but it looked huge up close. Plus, it's quite hilarious to watch all the people there. Everyone has to get a picture pretending to hold up the tower. Literally every direction you look there is someone posing with their hands in the air, and someone with a camera trying to line up the classic shot.
All in all, I immensely enjoyed my time in these 2 cities in Italy. Would I ever want to live there? Definitely not. Even spending a few weeks there would probably drive me insane, but to spend a several days exploring these ancient buildings with great friends was truly an experience I will never forget.