Tag Archives: weekend trips

Amalfi Coast: A Weekend in Southern Italy

The Amalfi coast in the region of Campania is one of the most visited areas in all of Southern Italy, and it’s easy to see why after spending a weekend in the beautiful towns of Sorrento, Capri, Pompei & climbing up Mount Vesuvius.  

This weekend, we took a group of 57 students from different programs down to the Amalfi Coast: NCSAC (our Northern California Study Abroad Consortium), SDICCA (our San Diego & Imperial County Community College Association), and Mount St. Mary’s University in Maryland.  Our hotel was located in the little town of Sant’Agnello, just next to Sorrento, with a gorgeous view overlooking the bay.

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It was a short bus ride and a steep walk down the staircase built into the cliffs to get the port of Sorrento on Friday morning, where we took a ferry over to the island of Capri.  By 11:30 am, we were relaxing on a private guided boat tour around the island, enjoying the spectacular views of the many grottos and  the crystal clear blue waters surrounding the island.

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After the boat tour, the students split off into different directions to explore the island.  While some people enjoyed the freshly squeezed lemon & orange juice slushies known as granitas in the center of Capri Town, others took the bus over to Anacapri and rode the chairlift up to Monte Solaro, the highest point of the island.  After enjoying the views from the top, one of our students made a new friend while waiting for the bus to go back down to the Marina Grande port.

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On Saturday, everyone was free to explore the surrounding area on their own, so a big group of students headed off to the train station trying to decide where to go first.  A few students decided to visit Naples for the day, with a stop off first to check out the ancient Roman ruins at Herculaneum.  Other students decided to take advantage of the sunshine and visit the towns of Positano & Amalfi, where they spent the day relaxing on the beaches.

Sunday morning we set off for our guided tour of Pompei. Our guides showed us around the highlights of this ancient ruined city, from the preserved amphitheater to the Casa del Fauno, one of the villas that still has its original mosaic-tiled floors.

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After eating one last delicious Napoli-style pizza, we hopped back on our private bus and made the winding drive up to the summit of Mount Vesuvius.  Once we arrived, we strapped on our hiking shoes and trekked up to the very top of the volcano, admiring the views of the gulf of Naples and staring straight into the mouth of the beast that destroyed an entire town in 79 AD.

It was a long and action-packed weekend, and by the time we arrived back at the Naples train station everyone was looking forward to being back in Firenze.  Within a few hours on the fast train, we’d left behind the Amalfi Coast and were back in the heart of the Renaissance, exhausted but content at having seen such a beautiful region of Italy.



Venice: The Island of Burano

While most people are familiar with the beauty of Venice & the island of Murano (where the famous Venetian Murano glass is made), not many people find out about Venice’s other island, Burano.

With its colorful houses and hand-crafted lace industry, this island is definitely worth exploring if you have the chance.  Check out some photos below of Elizabeth H., one of our AIFS student ambassadors, as she discovers the tiny town of Burano.

Roma, Roma: A Weekend in the Eternal City

 Written by: Brigitte F.

I have been to the Eternal City; Rome was overwhelming and awesome. I saw more monuments and ruins than I have ever seen before.


When we first arrived in Rome, before our group tour, a few of us explored the area around our hotel before our group tour. The Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, ancient Roman ruins, and Trajan’s Column were all within a few minutes of our hotel.


We had a tour of the Colosseum; even though it was pouring rain while we waited outside, it was still a great experience. Our tour guide told us a lot of information about the Flavian Amphitheatre, gladiators, and the structure’s uses and abandonment over the years. We walked through the Colosseum, trying to imagine what it looked and felt like in its heyday. It is huge! Definitely a must-see place. Walked past the Arch of Constantine (with scaffolding) and Roman ruins everywhere.

In the evening I walked to the Isola Tiberina, a small, cute island in the river, with another girl from the program. It was a little difficult to find at first, but we understood the misleading map eventually. It was nice to see different parts of Rome as we looked for the island. A group of us ate at a restaurant with friendly staff, inexpensive prices, and TVs that played old 1980′s American music videos. That night we visited the Trevi Fountain beautifully light up. There were a lot of people circled around it throwing coins, making wishes and posing for pictures.

brigitte f. in rome

On Saturday we had a guided tour of the Vatican City, so technically I visited another country! My absolute favorite part of the tour was standing with my neck bent and face tilted upwards staring at the Sistine Ceiling. I spent so long gazing at all of the frescoes, trying to soak them all up. A few of us spent so long in the Sistine Chapel we actually got left behind and had to join another AIFS tour group (but we found our group quickly). I had very few words after experiencing Michelangelo’s work. The tour ended and we were let loose to explore on our own. St. Peter’s was amazing; it has so much detail to look at. The Pieta is one of my favorite sculptures and I finally saw it in person; sadly it has to be kept behind a protective barrier so I didn’t get to look at it closely.

michelangelo pieta

I mailed two postcards to my mom from the Vatican City and then a group of us left on an optional walking tour. We meandered through Rome; ended up at the Pantheon. The Pantheon is such an interesting building! It’s thousands of years old and a tribute to Roman engineering, plus it just looks awesome. We walked to the Trevi Fountain and I made a wish!

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clarke, katie and brigitte at trevi fountain

After a short stop at the hotel a few of us headed out to stick our hands in The Mouth of Truth. We stopped for pizza before strolling down to the Spanish Steps and climbing to the top. It was a great nighttime view of Rome.

The next morning we packed up our luggage and left for the catacombs; but we didn’t want to miss the Pope’s weekly address so we changed course and made our way to the Vatican City. Even though I understood virtually none of it, I’m so glad I got to experience the Pope’s speech.

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The crowd was full of people from all over so excited to see him, many had posters and screamed. After his address, we left for The Catacombs of St. Callixtus. We walked down steep steps and through dark, cold, windingpassageways that used to be filled with dead bodies. The catacombs were fun and creepy to walk through and the surrounding countryside so green and lush. Our tour started later than we anticipated so we were a little rushed after the conclusion of the tour. However, every taxi we tried calling said it could not send any to us. We waited at a bus stop but no bus came; so as taxis drove by we hailed them down and bit by bit our group made it back to our hotel. We grabbed our backpacks and ran down the hill to meet the AIFS group at the bus stop. A parade had just started and the buses were full… but we all made it to the train station on time!

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It was a beautiful train ride home and nice to relax after a packed weekend. I have to go back to Rome, it is a really exciting city full of many things to do and see. Once again so many monuments and pieces of art I studied and longed to see, and now I have!

After an awesome weekend in Rome this week of school was very stressful. We all had to take tests and quizzes, turn in papers, and make sure spring break plans were set. Now it’s officially vacation and I can exhale! I leave for Croatia tomorrow; I’ll stay in Split and Zagreb then Budapest. I’m really excited because I know this is going to be a great adventure! I’ll return on Monday in time to crash and sleep for hours, then jump back into classes.