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Becca Kaplan

  • La Semana Santa

    by Becca Kaplan | May 04, 2017

    Although Spain itself chooses not to identify with a specific religion, La Semana Santa is still a big deal in this little corner of the world. Translated to English, the phrase means “The Holy Week,” and is used to describe the week leading up to Easter Sunday. Escuelas, colegios, y universidades (primary schools, high schools, and universities) are on Spring Break at this time, which means that most families take some sort of vacation, and almost every college student goes off to explore another one of the world’s treasures. For my two friends and me, La Semana Santa meant ten days traveling around Italy. For my friend Melissa and me, our trip consisted of four cities in ten days – Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome. Our friend Malika joined us in Rome, and even though there were some snags in road, it was overall the best trip I’ve ever taken in my life. 

    La Semana Santa started, at least for those enrolled in BCA classes, on April 6th. After class that day, I went back to my host parents’ house to pack and eat, and then I headed to Melissa’s house to prep for what would be an extremely long day. The next morning, we got on the metro heading towards the airport at 5:30am, and less than two hours later we were on our flight to Milan. Now, we only spent one day in Milan, but thanks to one of Melissa’s friends from back home – Lulu – we were able to see almost all of the hidden gems of the city. My favorite part would have to be the art district, which is home to several quirky and unique restaurants and art galleries. I also liked how everybody was out and about at night, just sipping a Spritz (champagne with flavored syrups, essentially) and laughing about who-knows-what. Milan itself is a super safe city, and is relatively small compared to places like Rome; if I had to guess, I would say that it is probably about the same size as Barcelona. After dinner (pizza and pasta, of course) along the river, Melissa and I said our goodbyes to Lulu and went to our Airbnb for the night. We fell asleep bonding over Orange is the New Black, which we both agreed is one of the best shows on Netflix, and the next day we headed to our second stop: Venezia. 

    Milan Basilica

    It took us three hours to get to Venezia (Venice) by train, including the time it took to get lost and our three connecting trains. When I walked out of the Venice train station, I almost cried it was so beautiful. The river was right in front of me, and I could see the hustle and bustle of the city all around me. You’d think that because the city is literally built on water that it would be a sleepy little town, but I quickly discovered that this wasn’t the case. Venice is crowded with tourist traps, and there are so many people there it drove me crazy at times. However, despite all of the crowds, the views and the food made it worth the hassle. The streets are small and winding, and getting lost was practically inevitable, but eventually you will be able to find your way back to wherever you are staying. Over the two days we spent on the island, my friend and I took a gondola ride (10/10 would recommend), ate gelato, and took entirely way too many pictures (one can never have too many photos of Venetian sunsets). We didn’t take any tours, but that’s okay; sometimes getting lost is the only way to really learn something. 

    Venice

    After spending the previous evening watching the sun set over the docks, Melissa and I woke up somewhat early and made our way to Florence. After a two-hour train ride, we walked the ten minutes to our gorgeous flat in the city center, where we dropped our bags, grabbed our cameras, and went exploring. Not even five minutes after we began walking, we were greeted by the Duomo, which is famously known as Brunelleschi’s Dome. The first time I saw it, it took my breath away. Maybe that’s because I’m a big art history nerd, or because I was ecstatic to be there, but it was so incredibly beautiful. Melissa and I were fortunate enough to be able to tour the inside of it, but sadly we didn’t plan ahead enough to get tickets to go up to the top of the Duomo. That first night, we splurged and sat down to a traditional Florentine meal, complete with Florentine steak, a glass of wine, rustic potatoes, and a sampler appetizer. It may have hurt my wallet, but it was so yummy that I didn’t even care. The next day, we went to an art museum and spent the rest of the day at the Boboli Gardens, where we found birds-eye views of the city everywhere we went. Before packing our belongings for the next day, we found a great little pasta place that served nothing but fresh, homemade goodness. If I got nothing else out of that city, at least I left with a full tummy and happy taste buds. 

    Rome: the final leg of our ten-day excursion. After having some issues with our Airbnb, Melissa and I relocated to a 5-star hotel we found on Orbitz. Located not even five minutes from the Spanish steps, our hotel was really helpful, and we were even lucky enough to have breakfast brought to our room every morning during our 4-day stay in the Ancient City. There are so many things I could say about Roma, but for now I will just say this: Paris may be for lovers, but Rome is for those with a thirst for adventure, feet ready to walk over 25,000 steps a day, and an “anything is possible” attitude. Like the other cities, Rome had amazing food, super nice people, and views that were to die for. I am so blessed to be able to experience a place like this, and I highly recommend that everyone tries to visit one day. 

    All in all, Semana Santa did a lot of good to me. I took over 1,000 pictures, and made so many memories I could write a book. When I come back to the USA next month, I will forever have this trip to remind me of how lucky I am. If I hadn’t chosen to study abroad, I never would have gone to Italy, and I wouldn’t be as confident in myself as I am now. How many other people my age can say that they went to a foreign country on their own, with no idea how to speak the native language, and only a very limited budget to work with? I’m pretty proud of myself for that. I think anybody that can travel should be proud of themselves. It’s not easy. Until next time. - B 

    BeccaKaplan
    Becca Kaplan ’19, is a Spanish Secondary Education major with minors in TESOL and Business. As a commuter student, she spends most of her time on campus either studying, watching Netflix, or writing her next blog post. When classes are not in session, Becca usually travels, either visiting her parents in Florida, or her extended family in St. Louis.