Katharine K. is currently a junior at SYA Italy and a blogger for the Campus Reporter program. She comes to SYA from Denver School of Science and Technology in Colorado.
We jogged down il corso, praying we could catch the bus at 9:00 to Bolsena. I checked the time and realized that if the edicola was out of bus tickets, we’d definitely miss the 9:00 bus and need to wait an hour for the next one. We reached Piazza della Rocca and frantically ran into the edicola, asking “hai biglietti a Bolsena?” The lady nodded, and my group exchanged high fives. After asking a few locals, we found the correct bus and were off to Bolsena. This is a glimpse into independent travel and the adventures involved with the dicey Italian public transportation systems. Here are 3 big takeaways from two months of school and independent travel experiences.
Assume Restaurants Don’t Have Normal Lunch Hours
In every town I’ve traveled, whether it was Bolsena or Tarquinia, it is crucial that to assume restaurants won’t cooperate with your lunch needs. On various trips, my group has wandered around the city looking for food, and while it usually ends well with a good lunch, it takes much longer than it should. Restaurants are not predictable in their lunch hours! So, lesson learned. Make sure that you have an idea of what you want for lunch and what restaurants will be open before you head to a small town--it will save your life.
2. Buy Return Tickets When You Buy Your Ticket
On a recent trip to Montefiascone, we forgot to buy return tickets in the morning. We were pressed for time so we rushed and only bought the ticket to Montefiascone, not the return. When it came time to return home, around three in the afternoon, everything was closed, i.e. restaurants, tabacchi and bars, and of course, the edicola. After a panicked phone call to school, we resolved to buy the tickets on the bus (they were overpriced) and we made it back safely. All in all, it is very smart to buy both tickets at once so you are guaranteed to be able to return home.
3. Realize Everything IS Closed After Lunch
On a recent Wednesday fieldwork trip to Bolsena, my group planned to visit the famous church, La Basilica di Santa Cristina. Upon arriving, we decided to visit the basilica after lunch. And, when we reached the basilica after lunch, it was closed. It would seem like churches, restaurants, even stores would have standard hours, but they really do not. So, once again, lesson learned. Everything closes after lunch, restaurants, shops, churches, everything. Once we started to realize this, planning became a bit more important and we started to figure out how to avoid these situations.
Independent travel is incredible; just this weekend we earned independent travel to Rome. It is liberating and fun like nothing I’ve experienced before. And most of the time, some good problem solving over a cappuccino gets us through any of the sticky situations. Despite these challenges, I can tell you, you will never regret the decision to travel on a Saturday with some friends.
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