Ancient Greek sculptures and monuments, culture-rich cities with breathtaking views and beer with dinner. This is what I and about two dozen other high school students from Lantana, Florida in the spring break of 2011. We toured Greece and Italy during a 10-day period with instructions from father for my brother and me to get as many photographs as possible.
As our plane descended into Athens, excitement grew upon being greeted with the vast mountain landscape of Greece. Coming from the flatlands of Florida, this was a pleasant surprise to us all. After sight-seeing and spending our first night at an inner-city Athens hotel, we were off to the Acropolis; the most historic sight in Greece. Beautiful from top to bottom, our tour group spent a few hours taking in the stories and sights the Acropolis had to offer. It was one of the most educational experiences I’ve had and I was in awe at the size and age of the structures and how well preserved they were.
Later that day we ventured into downtown Athens where I indulged in a delicious combination of pita bread, chicken, tomato and Tzatziki sauce native to Greece. This is known as a gyro, and the two I ate for lunch that day may be deemed as my best meal in Europe. After departing Athens we visited Delphi, another city in Greece where we toured its museum and mountains.
We then set course for Italy. Students of Italian heritage were looking forward to travel upon their land of origin while most other students were enticed by the lowered drinking age. Our destinations in Italy included Pompei, Capri, Florence, Sorrento and Rome. My favorite of those places to visit was Rome because of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. After separately touring the Vatican, our tour regrouped and anxiously waited outside the Vatican Museum.
Once inside, we were met with beautifully lit hallways decorated with intricate floor-to-ceiling paintings. I was constantly spinning, looking up and down, trying to soak in every detail of the corridor. The spinning didn’t do much besides make me dizzy. The hallways eventually led to zenith of the entire museum: The Sistine Chapel.
One of the first things you notice about the Sistine Chapel is how quiet it is compared to rest of the museum. Not due to the number of people, or for security reasons, but simply because gorgeousness of it will leave almost anyone speechless. It’s a vast room with nearly every inch covered in a painting that tells its own story. From the ceiling to the walls, the 5000 square foot painting radiates emotion that crashes over each individual who walks through. No picture regardless of clarity, and no description regardless of length, could capture the jaw-dropping beauty of the Sistine Chapel, let alone the feeling of awe that comes with gazing upon it with your own eyes. And if you were to ever look down from the ceiling, you would see nothing but other people with their eyes fixated on the paintings with their mouths wide open in amazement.
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