So a few weekends ago I went to Italy. Its been insane, with 10 day and midterms so this is the first time I’ve been able to write. That, Friday we left at 6 for the train station. 6 girls. Hitchhiked it over because we were running late. So three of us get a ride there and it was great, we had this really old little german couple, and Gizzy gave them a rosary which was from Mariazel. So we said a rosary and as soon as we finished the last 3 of our group showed up. Mama is so good! So we catch our train get to Salzburg and meet up with a bunch of other Frannies. So we did what any Americans would do during a 2 1/2 hour layover… McDonalds. So we chilled at Micky D’s and off to Venice! We arrived in Venice at like 7:30-8 am. Now, this was just crazy… we are all in the sleeper car and we have like 2 stops to go until we get off, so I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Im brushing for all of 30 seconds when Gizzy bangs on the door and says, “Hey we are getting off at this stop. So, toothbrush in my mouth still, I go to the sleeper grab my bag, and run out to the door, I just press the green button to open the door, and it opens, but I realize we are moving and Gizzy is chasing the train. So my quick thinking is… JUMP!!!! So, I did and I get yelled at by the italian guy still on the train. Well guess what? We then come to find out that we shouldve stayed on til the next stop… So we hop on another train (this one is stopped, don’t worry) and first thing we see is this lovely little sign:
So we make it to Venice…. It is seriously the most beautiful city ive ever seen. It is quiet and calm. The water is a beautiful aqua color and everyone is very friendly. So we walked around and got lost in Venice, which was the plan. Then we took a Gondola ride with the oldest working Gondolier in all of Venice. Hes been working driving gondolas for 44 years and his family has been in Venice for 392 years. So the ride was a lot like a tour, we got to see a lot of the city and the important buildings, one was the oldest building and it is 1000 years old. We also learned that there are 409 bridges in all of Venice… I feel like that’s a lot. But we really got to see the beauty of Venice, which was in the small narrow alleys where peoples clothes were out on a line, or where their boats were docked. Our Gondolier kept saying , “Venizia sinks, and people move up.” It was so true, most first floors were completely empty and full of water but the second, third, and forth floors were all being lived in.
So, after the ride we stopped and ate lunch. I played with the pigeons, feeding them and throwing some bread really close to Swizz so that they would peck at her. It was great! I got a 2 euro piece of Venizian pizza and some famous Venizian white wine…. YUM 🙂 From there we made our way over to San Marcos, the HUGE Church in Venice. The lines are usually hours long as we came to discover however, we also discovers if u wade in the water you can get in after just a few minutes. The reason I say wade in the water is because the water was high tide and stretched across the entire square where San Marcos is, to the point that the front of San Marcos is flooded. This being said they have narrow platforms that people walk on to get into the Church. So, we make it in, look around, and, I kid you not, it is the most beautiful Church I have ever seen. It dates back to the 800-900’s. The interior is HUGE, and includes both gothic and byzantine influences. There are many altars and crypts, and there still stands the pillar where St Marks relics were discovered and the High Altar is where they rest now. There are over statues made of bronze everywhere and there is over 8000 square meters of Gold, bronze, and precious stone mosaics depicting scenes from Early Church history. So, if you can imagine all of this amazingness and magnify it times about 2,000 times in your mind, you would be imagining the amazingness of San Marcos.
Well all good things must come to an end, so we caught a boat taxi to the train station and it was super awesome. The view of the Mediterranean was beautiful. So we caught our train, barely, to Padova. We get in Padova and make it to the St Anthony’s Basilica , which was pretty sweet. We got to go see his relics, tongue, jaw, and vocal chords and all. It was pretty cool, but kinda gross all the same, I think that’s because they are human body parts… But its cool because those parts were preserved from decay because he used them as God intended. After that we got to venerate his tomb. Then, we tracked back to the Cathedral where St Luke’s skeleton is, and it was so much quieter and peaceful. St. Anthony’s was super busy and Mass was going on and people were walking all over the place, but there might’ve been like 30 people in the entire Cathedral. From there we grabbed some grub and went to get on the train to Genova. Here’s the deal, Italy has this stupid rule about buying train reservations when you have a Eurail when you are on a special kind of train or something like that. There’s a catch in my story… this special train was the only one that could get us to check into our hostel on time because our hostel had a curfew. So I was napping on the train before, with my Bible as a pillow and come up with this genius idea… how about we send 2 people to get to the hostel on time and check in and then split the cost between us all after we take the later free train. So we got to the train station, and I talked to the conductor and I was able to talk him into letting us get on the train, for free! But heres another thing with Italy, they don’t really care about time, and they really like futbol. We found ourselves on this free train that was supposed to get us there on time, but it was super late because the entire train was sold out and waiting on the futbol team supporters! Wait… what? Yup. They held the train 45 minutes for soccer fans, and then canceled peoples reservations in the box seats for the fans too, not the team, just the fans. Eventually we got to Genova about 4 or 5 hours later, and we realized three things: 1- when they said it was a really rough walk to the hostel because its uphill, they really meant a HARD walk UPHILL. It wouldve been like mountain climbing… 2- by the grace of God our train got there only 15 minutes after it was supposed to, and 3- well we had no clue where we were supposed to be going. So we ask for some help figuring out buses, and they told us to get on this one bus and we did but we were going to have to switch buses. So we get off at the right stop and we are trying to figure out the other bus, when this really awesome italian girls, loud and crazy, probs just left the club, wearing leggings and like 5 inch heels, hair all did up and such, say “bus 640” and we were like, “yeah?” so they take off yelling and we run after, they literally run in the middle of the road heels and all and stop our bus and tell us when to get off for the hostel. It was rockin, like I thought these women were straight ghetto cuban women from hialeah. They were awesome. So long story short we get to our hostel sleep awesome, praise God because it was a dorm style hostel (so not a private room) with 8 beds (we had 6) but I guess because there were only 2 beds left they didn’t rent it out to other people, so we basically got a private room. It was great. Next morning we got to Mass at the Basilica, and then take a train to Cinque Terre.
Cinque Terre was beautiful, kind touristy, but beautiful. First thing we do, get some italian food on the beach. I got some penne al pomodoro, and thin sliced smoked tuna and swordfish with tomatoes. It was delicious, and the fresh italian bread and olive oil and pepper was legit. We also tasted some Cinque Terre white wine, which complimented the meal rather well. After that I looked for italian ice… it was a fail, so we got Gelatto instead… I love Lemon Gelatto… its delicious… I cant even explain.
So then it was time to hit the beach. The water was freezing, so I napped in the sunshine and on the sand/rocks (the shore of the Mediterranean doesn’t have a lot of sand, its pebbles), and then it got chilly, so I put on a hoodie and fell asleep. And they took a picture of me in my swimsuit, with my hoodie and sunglasses napping on the beach, and now its on facebook…. Its really embarrassing, but its not on my facebook so good luck finding it you jerks! After my nap we changed, and island hopped, and I proceeded to spend the best 3 euro of my life! I bought a like 1.5 ft by 10 inch loaf of ciabatta bread. It was glorious. It lasted me until the next day. I had many yummy pb&j’s on it and nutella sandwiches on it. So I go watch the sunset on the cliffs, and walked around, really enjoyed the silence and peace.
Now its time to get home. This is where the story gets really good. So, we wait for a train, from the island going back to Genoa. We meet this couple from Pittsburgh, who are Catholic. I said something about a comment she said about abortion, and I said “God sometimes puts us in tough places to bring us closer to Him.” She buts in and says, “or her.” I almost had a heart attack, my eyes just got huge and I went dead silent, she quickly says she’s joking (probs because she knows im a theology major, and almost just died.) , but then says, “but seriously God doesn’t have a gender.” And then later she made a comment about how “more women need to be involved in ALL areas of the Church” aka the priesthood. This was the start of a VERY LONG night for me… So, we get to Genoa at 11:15. We had left our bags at the baggage drop off, and our train is leaving at 11:41. So we go to the baggage claim. CLOSED! It closed at 11. So we got to the police station, they tell us to knock on the door, so we do. No answer, but we find a guy with keys. He says “I’ll be right back.” He lied. So we go back to the Police station and they are like we cant help you. So Gizzy, Swizz, and I are chillin by the claim incase this key guy shows up and the rest of the group are looking for help. Our train leaves in 10 minutes. They come back with this guy named Niko. Niko was american, but spoke italian and he came out of nowhere and offered to be our translator. So, our train leaves, and we give up on the fact that we are getting out of italy any time soon. So two cops, our 3 girls, Niko, and 2 guys with keys are gathered around. They tell us that getting the bags is not a problem, but we need to figure out trains. So plan is: train at like 5 am. Gizzy, Swizz, and I are still at the baggage claim, away from the others and this flash of light from inside the building (like literally it was a camera flash or something) goes off and BOOM! Thunder. It was crazy. So we compose ourselves (I may or may not have screamed bloody murder) and start discussing how this is Gods plan, Hes going to take care of us, hes just trying to tell us to trust Him, etc. So finally, they come over open the baggage for us, and I was so happy to get all of my stuff. The cop, who is like huge, hes like this huge italian ripped dude, goes to us and says where are you staying. We have no clue. So he says stay here, you can stay in front of the police station. We were like, ok I guess. So he takes us over there, and says in perfect english, “whatever you need just knock on the door, coffee, water, the bathroom, but whatever you do, do not in any circumstance go outside, or leave this space. Bad people are out there.” Niko, who like 45 minutes ago said his train was delayed and had 50 minutes to spare, says, “I can hang out with you guys, I have like 40 minutes till my train leaves. Ill be right back though.” So he leaves, and we start talking about how that time doesn’t match up…. He definitely should be leaving in like 5 minutes… then we decided he was an angel. For real, God sent his angel to guide us. So he comes back after like 10 minutes with a handwritten train schedule for the rest of our travels back to Gaming… more suspicion, how does this random guy find a train schedule from Genoa, Italy back to Gaming, Austria? Handwritten, no way to look any of it up, with times and everything? Impossible. So we talk to Niko, drink wine and eat bread, and he leaves after a bit. Then we talk to a Franciscan Brother and Sister, from across the way. They come eat with us. Their names are Roberto and Kristina, and they are in a Franciscan Order in Rome, they wear denim habits and they work with the poor and sick. We talked about our studies and their order and they left to say night prayer and everything holy.
At this point some sketch characters are there at the train station, Kristina and Roberto are across the way praying a rosary with their hoods up, and Roberto is keeping a close watch out for us. Then the Police officer keeps watching out his window, walking around, making sure we are ok.
A couple times that night these guys tried to get into our little area but the police officer came out literally immediately and told them to get out, he was St Michael. I am convinced. He protected us so much and I am so grateful to him. So at this point I passed out sleeping in the train station, protected by this random cop, and the next morning we followed Niko’s schedule and made it back to Gaming safely without a catch at all. AND IM ALIVE TO TELL THE STORY!