Viva Italia! Araksya's Travel To Italy - Los Angeles News | FOX 11 LA KTTV

From Anchor Araksya Karapetyan

Viva Italia! Araksya's Travel To Italy

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Well, many of you have been tweeting me and messaging me on Facebook asking me about my recent trip to Italy. So I figured I would write a little about it, why not?

Let's start my saying this was my first vacation since I started working here in March 2012, so yes it was time to take some time off!

I've been to Italy a couple of times, but that was years ago, at a time when the dollar was strong! I miss those days, these days you're lucky to get anywhere between 53-70 euros when you exchange $100. Ahhh, the memories...

So I had been to Venice and Florence before, but it was my first time in Rome. Rome is a must, let me tell you. It may now one of my top favorite cities in the world. Paris and Prague are right up there too though!

Here is some advice for anyone interested in traveling to Italy- do not go in August. It was ridiculously hot, humid, and uncomfortable. August is the time of year, when all of the locals leave town and go off to much cooler destinations, and that's when the tourists take over!

ROMA: What an amazing city... I was literally walking in history. The entire city is a giant museum, out in the open. It can be overwhelming at times, you don't know which way to look. Rome's beauty was truly an assault on all of your senses.

The architecture is breathtaking and beyond impressive. I kept asking myself, how were they able to do all this back then? I was in complete awe. Now, normally I am not really a "tour" kind of person, I like to do my own thing on my own schedule, but in Rome unless you take a couple tours you wont really get the full benefit of being there. Sure you can look and appreciate the beauty around you, but believe me you want to know what you're looking at. So I took a couple tours and I have to say that made all the difference.

With tours you can also avoid the ridiculously long lines- you pay a little extra but believe me it is well worth it.

Besides I learned so much! For example, did you know the Colosseum was entirely covered in marble? That's right, the whole thing. But through the years, the Romans removed the marble and recycled it in a sense- they used it for other construction projects around the city. So as you're walking around Rome you could very well be looking at parts of the Colosseum, you just don't know it.

I loved the noise, the excitement, and all the hustle and bustle of Rome...there was so much action, so much life around the clock!

VENEZIA: This was my third time in the magical city of Venice. My favorite moment is when you step off the train and look at the view in front of you. It just doesn't seem real. You feel like you are on a movie set and the beauty surrounding you is a backdrop. Of the three cities we visited, Venice was the most expensive without a doubt, but that being said it was jam packed with tourists. One thing that caught my attention was the number of Russian tourists actually. Walking around every other word I heard was Russian.

At times, because everyone pretty much congregates around St. Mark's Square... it can feel little crowded shall we say.

There isn't a whole lot to do in Venice in my opinion, so one to two days is plenty, if you don't have a lot of time to spare on your trip.

FIRENZE: There is a sense of the old blending in with the new in this city... it's historical yet there is a modern flare in the air. By the time we got to Florence I was all toured out. And since I've been to Florence before, and done pretty much the whole museum thing, I took it easy. We just hung out, walked around, ate, drank, window shopped... it was perfect.

But that being said there was one museum stop I had to make, someone I just had to see... that would be Michelangelo's David. It really is an incredible piece- looking at photographs doesn't do it justice.

To fully appreciate Michelangelo's genius you have to see David in person. The details simply take your breath away- how he was able to capture the muscles, the veins, the movement of David's body even in his stillness- there are simple no words. It is a piece you have to not just see, but experience in person to understand. At 26 years old Michelangelo was given a block of marble and somehow he managed to turn it into a masterpiece.

MY "DO NOT DISTURB" LESSON:

Unfortunately, on my last day in Florence I had to deal with a 12 hour bug, some kind of stomach virus that went through my system, and made my day a challenge to say the least.

Oh and there was the incident with the maid who thought no one was in the room and came in with what appeared to be bad intentions.

I woke up just as she was walking towards the table that had some euros on it. Okay, let me explain-  my mom and sister went down for breakfast, I had a headache and stayed behind. They had the "do not disturb" sign up and but it clearly didn't matter. About a minute after they left, I heard the door bell ring, then the door open and close a couple times... I was half awake and thought it was the door next. But no... when I opened my eyes, I saw the maid casually walking in (with no cleaning supplies mind you). I said "excuse me" and she looked at me confused, turned around, and walked out! I went to the door to find the "do not disturb" sign hanging outside- I thought maybe it hadn't been up. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt. But when my family came back I asked them if they had forgotten to put the sign up- they said they hadn't forgotten and asked me to describe the maid. When I did, they got really upset- it turns out as they left the room, that same woman saw them in the hall walking out, and therefore she must have assumed no one was inside. Had I not been sleepy I might have made my presence known when I heard the door bell ring and the door open and close, but because I didn't, she must have thought no one was there. I don't want to accuse anyone of anything, but that's what happened and it just seemed a little sketchy.

Which leads me to believe this type of thing may happen all the time and we just don't know it. This is a good reminder to be extra careful with what you leave in the room- don't relay on that "do not disturb" sign. If there is a safe, always lock up your belongings. Don't think "oh I'll be back in a few minutes, it's safe."

HIGHLIGHTS/TIPS:

  • FREE APP: I downloaded the VIBER APP before I left and it was awesome. For those who don't know, this is a free APP- you can talk, text, send pictures for free while you are overseas provided you are somewhere with WiFi of course. And let me tell you, that is not a problem- pretty much everywhere you go there is WiFi- from coffee shops, to stores, to restaurants. So download this APP and have fun!
  • A REAL BREAK: I actually took a big time out from social media- no twitter, no facebook, no emails, nada. There were moments I found myself wanting to do a quick check on twitter or facebook, just because it has become such a habit. It seems like any moment we are left alone, are waiting in a line, or just sitting there bored, we reach for the phone and get busy! Sometimes I feel like the phone is my third arm. I can't even remember those days when cell phones didn't exist. How did we function? Well, we somehow did right?! Anyway, disconnecting was so refreshing! Granted I felt detached from the world at times, but at the end of the day it was a great decision. If and when you can, try to take a break from everything!
  • BAGGAGE: If you can... try to travel with only a carry-on. I can't believe I am saying this, and I really can't believe I actually did it! I am impressed myself. Nine days in Europe, as a woman, with just a carry-on. I should get a medal for this. On a serious note, it really made life so much easier. Running through the airport, getting on and off the train, not having to wait for my bags, it was well worth it.
  • TIPPING: When it comes to tipping, I know you aren't supposed to tip in Italy technically... but I don't know why I found that to be such a difficult thing to not do. Even when some places charge you a service charge when sit down (usually 3-5 euros per person) I still found myself leaving a couple extra euros here and there. For me it wasn't an obligation, but rather my way of showing appreciation for good service and a pleasant experience.
  • AIRLINES: Avoid Alitalia if you can- terrible service, horrible food (the one meal we got) and overall an uncomfortable experience. On the way back home we had a layover in Amsterdam and flew back with KLM. What a different experience that was! The friendliest crew, the best service, great food too- the entire flight (I am not exaggerating) we were constantly being fed something, non-stop someone was going by with a cart giving us something to eat or drink (from Dulce de lech ice cream to all the free beer and wine you wanted). 

This is what flying used to be like...I think.

WHAT I MISSED ABOUT AMERICA (yes, even in a week):

As much as I love to travel, see new things, meet new people... I have to say whenever I come back to the Unites States I find myself having a new appreciation for this country. I feel like I have some kind of power with my American passport in my hand in a strange way... like I am protected and nothing will go wrong.

Anyway, of course there are good things and bad things everywhere, every place has its problems, but really when it comes down to it, America is the best county in the world (for me). Its all about the little things, daily life challenges, and conveniences, again in my opinion. I can't even tell you how exciting it was to get in my car my first day back, walk into an air conditioned Peet's coffee shop, order a cup of coffee and have a smiling friendly barista ask me about my day. The everyday luxuries,  yes luxuries, which many of us I think its fair to say take for granted, is what I miss most when I travel.

Here are a few things that come to mind: I need my AC- a fan blowing in my face, circulating hot air doesn't cut it, I need ice and I like my water and soda cold- after all these years getting a fair amount of ice or a cold drink seems to be a challenge in Europe, they just don't have the capacity or capability, or maybe the space for refrigeration like we do. Salad dressing- look I am not asking for blue cheese or thousand island, just a simple vinaigrette will do- but dry salad is just not my cup of tea. This was a first this time around- pepper. Tables had salt but no pepper, you had to ask them to bring pepper, and when they did they wouldn't leave it on the table (maybe pepper is expensive there I don't know) - kind of reminds me of the Parmesan cheese at restaurants here, where you don't just want one or two scopes, you want them to leave the whole bowl!

Also, I like to have my space, as cute and charming as things can be in Europe, it really can make daily life challenging. And I even like some rules and regulations from time to time- especially when it comes to driving! I can't tell you how many times I thought I was about to die in a taxi cab- the roads there are a free for all- people just push the gas and go! Other cars and people don't seem to matter. But with that being said I will say for as crazy as they drive, I didn't see a single accident while I was there- close calls, yes, but even those didn't seem like a big deal to the drivers there.

These are all just minor, even silly things of course that I am mentioning, but for me it confirms the fact that as much as I love to see the world, deep down I have become such an American when it comes to my lifestyle. I don't think I can live anywhere else in the world. I am used to feeling safe, having my independence, having endless possibilities at my fingertips, having an abundance of choices and options, luxuries and comforts.

Sure there are lots of issues and problems in this country, don't get me wrong, and sure everyone seems to work themselves to death (if they're lucky enough to have a job these days) but with all of those negatives, there's still no comparing.

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