PSA to Rome: My First Time Writing a Scathing Review

I went to Rome with three other friends. I just got back last night. We spend seven days there and by the end of it I was ready to come back to Seville. I mean I loved it. Ten out of ten. Would go again. The Colosseum was great.

HOWEVER, the taxi’s in Rome are disgraceful and the Italian government needs to crack down of the exploitation of tourists. Overall, fine. It was just the last day that we got into two taxis on separate occasions that didn’t have meters in them. Warning to travelers, never get in a taxi if it doesn’t have a meter. The first time the guy told us it was a fixed rate of 48 euros t get to the Vatican. And it is… if you’re traveling there from the AIRPORT WHICH IS LIKE A HALF HOUR AWAY. Then went my friend handed him a fifty euro bill at the end of the trip, the… man… pocketed it, then quickly turned around with a ten in his hand and acted like we hadn’t given him enough. Then he said it was a 45 euro trip. Notice how he told us two different things. It was 48 before and now 45. Dude couldn’t get his lie straight apparently. The thing is, he was a big guy. Like the kind who could beat up a few lady-like girls from the states. And It happened really fast, so despite being like 90% sure he was a lier, I didn’t say anything. Yeah for anxiety induced silence. Anyway, he very quickly hopped in his taxi and drove off after my friend handed him another 40 euros. P.S. He never gave her her change.

Oh, and then later: We hopped in a taxi right outside the Vatican. Right. Outside. The Vatican. And drove to the airport to leave. Mind you, I’d been cheated already once that day so I had my friend read the price info on the poster behind the drivers seat. Sure enough: 48 euros fixed price to the airport from inside the Aurelian Walls of Rome. Here’s a picture of the area contained within he Aurelian Walls along with a big blue dot of where my friends and I picked up the taxi:

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Now when we get to the airport, he tells us its 20 euros per person. Buddy I got a funny story for you. No it’s not. So I told him, “Hey, isn’t it a 48 euro fixed price from the Aurelian Walls to the Airport?” He, obviously not expecting this, goes, “Okay. Discount. Only 15 euros per person”. Honestly I don’t know if this one’s just on me, but dang it I paid the sixty euros. Granted, what are you going to do, stand there and make a scene with a taxi driver who’s already driven you to your destination when the police of Italy apparently don’t give a rat’s patooty about tourists?

Here’s the thing: Italy knows what it is. People will come again and again to see the colosseum and the Vatican and all that good historical stuff. I did see it. It was gorgeous. But that’s just it, despite being treated like a dumb American girl by these taxi drivers, despite being hassled at every tourist destination by over-priced tour group salesman, and despite the hostel staff claiming we needed to pay them another 98 euros when we’d already paid online the full price, I’d still go back. It’s disgusting. And the police and Italian government do nothing to stop it.

Here’s a graph listing government corruption across the EU from 2017.

Congratulations Italy. Your government is worse than Spain’s, and they’re known for being corrupt. My university professor for Contemporary Spain class says it all the time. And yet you’re even worse.

I’d like to take a moment to appreciate and highlight the Italians I encountered who were actually good:

The lady who sometimes was our hostel receptionist. You didn’t sigh dramatically and tell us we better right a good review when we asked for extra toilet paper. Your coworker did. Also you always greeted us with a genuine smile. Thanks, that was really appreciated. Also your hair looked fabulous the every day. Keep living your life dear, you’re doing great!

The server who waited on us at the restaurant across from the Basilica of Saint Mary the Major. You waited on us with unaffected enthusiasm and welcome. Thank you. The food was delicious. I never thought anchovies on a fried pumpkin flower would be good, but it definitely was. Your serving was so much better than that restaurant near the Vatican where all the waiters had a looked of strained irritation. Even the owners at that place looked like someone had put bowls of rotten cabbage under their noses. You on the other hand, you were rocking it. You reminded me of an enthusiastic kindergarten teacher on the first of school. You’re pleasant attitude defines ‘service with a smile’.

I want to emphasize that not all of Italy acts like a conniving pile of rats out to get tourists. Some people are honest and kind and do their jobs well. But shear amount of rude, pushy, and dishonest behavior that I witnessed has left me with a disgusting taste in my mouth. Seriously, to all those Italians you there who make a living by manipulating, mistreating, or taking advantage of tourists, your grandparents didn’t overthrow Mussolini just so you could swindle innocent girls. Your grandparents would be ashamed and you should be too.

IMG_4686.JPGTrevi Fountain

IMG_4517.JPGPalatine Hill

IMG_3925.JPGColosseum

IMG_4715.JPGHonestly, never got the name

IMG_4826.JPGSpanish Streps

IMG_4875.JPGVatican

IMG_4938.JPGBasilica of St. Peter

IMG_5008.JPGPalm Sunday Mass at the Vatican

IMG_5098.JPGColosseum of Pompeii

The Morocco Trip

Last weekend I went with the SAIIE group to Morocco. We stayed at an older, but nice hotel that looked straight out of the 1960’s. It was an interesting place with cedar carved ceilings and glass-lantern lights.

The first day there we drove around the countryside to a small Atlantic coast town with white and blue buildings. We also saw the point that the Atlantic becomes the Mediterranean and road camels at stop along the way.

On Saturday we went to a mountain village called the ‘blue city’. Don’t ask me what the official name of the town was. I don’t remember how to pronounce it. The city was indeed painted vibrant whites and blues with narrow streets and market stalls throughout. Unfortunately I wore cloth shoes that day and it rained non-stop. And I left my umbrella at the hotel. Good times. That being said, the city was still gorgeous and I’d love to go back. Just maybe when it isn’t down pouring…

Later that afternoon we went to a carpet store in another mountain city. The carpets were beautiful and all hand made. The sore owner gave us a demonstration of various carpets, told us how they were made by hand, and then some of the students tried haggling prices. One of the students got a nice teal rug by telling the owner that she literally only had fifty euros with her. She ended up buying the rug for sixty and going into debt with a friend. Advice to those traveling to moroccan markets: bring plenty of money with you. Or don’t. They’ll get it all either way.

The last day, we saw the straight of Gibraltar. You can literally see Spain from morocco. I of a picture of it:

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Other than that, all that really happened was that half of us lost the tour group and were lost in a market in Africa. Fun times.

It’s been a while

Things I’ve done since I last posted:

-Gone to Malta and seen the Mdina (highly recommend)

-Been wind-blasted while riding a second story bus (highly don’t recommend, it was freezing)

-Got sick in Malta… yay

-Spent a week touring around Spain with my family

-Visited the Alhambra again, this time with my family

-Had Sangria in Granada, again with the family

-Saw the Roman ruins of Italica

-Successfully ordered a customized drink at Starbucks… in Spanish😎

-Got sick again… joy

And that’s about where I’m at right now. I’ll most likely be staying in Seville against this weekend. Super excited to relax and visit some cafes. Also, if you’re ever thinking of coming to Seville, I’d highly recommend trying an Açai bowl. They’re like açai smoothies, but slightly more frozen and with tons of delicious fruit piled on top.

Tootles

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Cádiz & Ronda

Last weekend I spend with Ally in Cádiz. This Friday the group went to Ronda. This week’s post is brief because I wanted to share so many photos. I’d highly recommend both cities. Cádiz is a windy historical town on the Atlantic coast. The beaches were beautiful and would have been perfect if only it was a little warmer. The castes were sadly all closed when we went but we still had fun at the market and local parks. Ronda is a smaller town in the mountains with gorgeous views. There are two pictures bridges spanning a gorge that runs through the center of town dividing the city into the old town and new. One was built by the romans and is still standing. The other was built in the 1700’s and called New Bridge. We found a horse ranch at the base of the town. It was a great time 🙂

Granada Trip

This weekend our group took a trip to Granada, which is about 2.5 hours by bus from Seville. The Spanish countryside is absolutely gorgeous. We saw mountains, plains, and areas that were almost arid enough to be a dessert. Some of the greener land reminded me a lot of Iowa.

The city of Granada is at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains so it was a bit colder than Seville. The first afternoon in the city we took a hike up to an outlook site in the old town area where we had beautiful. views of the Alhambra castle. Back in high school my Spanish teacher had a picture of the Alhambra in her classroom. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I always liked thought it was a beautiful castle and would doodle pictures of it on the back of my quizzes when I finished early. It was so cool to actually see it for real and learn about all of the history of the castle.

The second day in the city we dedicated most of the morning and early afternoon to touring the Alhambra. Needless to say, I really enjoyed this. There are three different palaces in the Alhambra complex. It’s essentially its own city within the larger city of Granada. The castle served first as the palace for the Moorish royal families and later was concurred by the Christians during the Reconquest. The throne room is the location where the Moorish king signed the document officially surrendering that part of Spain to King Ferdinand III. It’s also where Queen Isabella met with Christopher Columbus for the last time before he journeyed to the New World. There was amazing tile-work and carved wall designs throughout the building. And of course the decorative arches unique to the Moorish architectural style could be seem throughout the complex. Most if not all all of the gardens had some sort of water feature… I think I’m ranting. Sorry 🙂  It was just so interesting to learn about everything there.

Anyway, the trip was amazing and I think everyone really enjoyed it, myself included.

Some pictures of the Granada trip:

First Week of Classes

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Some photos of my new School 🙂

The first week of classes is just finishing up and so far so good. I think I’ll be switching around a couple of them but overall I’m really enjoying my classes. I find my Contemporary Spain class really interesting. It’s about well… contemporary Spain. Yesterday we learned about the Spanish civil war since so much of the current politics have roots in that conflict. It sounds like it had a really big impact on the country, as one would expect.

On Monday I spontaneously crashed a Flamenco dancing class. Don’t worry, we’re allowed to sit in on any class the first week in case we want to change them. In this case I think I will actually continue this one. It’s a four hour block class, which seems super long, but we learn so much fascinating stuff! In the first class alone I learned about the different regional styles of flamenco and the types of hand clapping and three different sets of dances. It’s so fun!

 

Looking forward to going to Granada this weekend. Waking up extra early tomorrow for registration then heading out on the bus at 11. I’m so excited to see the Spanish countryside. Maybe we’ll see some horses? Wish me luck!

First Few Days in Spain

Hello again everyone!

I arrived in Seville airport early on Wednesday morning after almost 24 hours of no sleep and lots of travel. The flights were long, like 6 hours for the overseas flight, and much shorter than the expected 9-10 hour over night flight. I initially met up with about five other students on the trip when I left Minneapolis International and we kept picking up more people along the way. By the time we reached Seville we had about ten people, some not even from our program, traveling as a group. It was nice to meet the others on the flight out here and also to make some friends from around the US also studying abroad here.

The first day was a little overwhelming and by the end of it I was so tired! Initially the language was really disorienting and difficult to pick up. I’m getting better though the longer I’m here. It’s only been like two days and I’m already able to converse a little better with my host family.

My host family all speak in Spanish around my roommate and I. I think they all speak english to varying degrees, but they want to help us practice our Spanish. To be honest, I can only really understand maybe 40% of all the words they say. That being said, I understand like 60-70% of what they’re trying to say. Like I don’t understand the whole sentence perfectly, but I get the topic and the importance of what they mean… At least I think 😅

So far we’ve traveled around a lot as a group with the other students who are on our trip. They say we should branch out and meet more locals or foreigners not from the US. It’s definitely a goal for me, but I think for the first couple weeks I really need to stay with the group to get acclimated to the culture and city. Once I’m more comfortable here I want to try and meet others.

Here are some pictures from my travels thus far:

Left: The Plaza de España.

Middle: Group photo with the girls at the Plaza de España.

Right: A pigeon decided to land on my head and stay there for like five minutes. We named him Stuart the Pigeon.