Greetings from Barcelona!
This is my first time traveling outside of Italy since arriving in January! Unlike most of the students in the program, my roommate and I remained local for the first half of spring break and didn´t leave for Spain until Wednesday of the next week. Taking advantage of the time off for travel is definitely important, but staying in Rome for the first half was still fun (as Rome always is), especially with all that rare available wifi! 😉 Immediately after everyone´s last midterms, the residence was emptied out! It seemed that most students were traveling to at least two other countries, if not a third.
Getting to the Fiumicino Airport was relatively easy. Instead of taking a cab, we opted to take the subway from Cipro to Termini and then from there take a train straight to the Fiumicino stop for less than 10 euros. Taking a taxi from the city is about a 30 minutes drive, so it can be costly. Once we landed in Barcelona, we took a bus from the airport all the way to the center of the city, and our hostel was walking distance from there. My roommate and I were hesitant about booking a student hostel, because we had never stayed in one before and had no idea what to expect. There´s definitely a stigma with hostels, in that they´re dirty, dangerous, crowded, cheap, etc. but I´m pleasantly surprised at how safe, clean, helpful, and convenient my experience living in one has been so far. The hostel is called “Sleep Green” and it advertises an eco-friendly environment. Hostels are good ways to meet other student tourists from all around the world. One of our roommates, for example, is American but studies in France, so it was nice to talk to her and compare experiences living in Europe so far.
Barcelona has a completely different vibe from Rome. And what´s crazy about making that observation, is that I have also come to realize how meaningful Italy has become to me. I´ve lived there for a month and a half now, and reflecting on being outside of the country has brought me to the conclusion that Rome is now home. I do love Barcelona; it´s a beautifully modern and diverse city, but I still can´t help but compare this and that! Being here reminds me of being in D.C. where I’m from, because of all the different cultures and types of people, as well as the eclectic and trendy restaurants that cater to them. Barcelona does advertise tapas bars and the paella dish, signature to Spain, but there are so many different cuisines. This is in contrast to Italy where almost all restaurants are Italian or offer some type of traditional Italian dish, because most of the people are…Italian! The culture is more distinct in Rome, whereas in Barcelona, people speak multiple languages because of all the influx of travelers. You never know where someone is from! When asked, me and my roommate had the complicated task of explaining that we study in Rome, go to school in Philadelphia, and are from our respective hometowns. Whenever we heard Italian being spoken from passersby, we got excited! Being here has only confirmed how much we identify with the Italian culture now.
The weather in Barcelona could not have been more perfect. On our first day, we explored some main streets and walked all the way down to the Marina Port Vell. The water was beautiful, and we just sat down and soaked in all that sun! Over the next few days, we went to Park Guell in the hill of El Carmel, which is a municipal garden complex designed by the famous architect Gaudi, during the modern expansion of Barcelona in the second half of the 19th century. His work is very distinct, and sets out to symbolically contradict Western architecture. The climb up to the entrance to the Park was a hike, but the view from the top was spectacular. You could see the entire city from all around to the coastline and the sea beyond.
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in Barcelona, and now that I´ve had a taste of another European city, I can´t wait to see more! With that being said, I am still excited to return to Rome and be “home” again. 🙂