My friend and I are avid runners. We have logged countless miles together over the years and were lucky enough to travel to Italy with our school. Figuring that we needed to stay in shape since the we would be consuming massive calories as we ate our way around the cities, we decided to run as much as possible. I can gladly say that this was the single best choice we made on this trip. We saw so much more of Rome, Venice, and Florence than anyone else in our group and got to see much more than the beaten path and touristy attractions. Our second day in Italy, we were given an hour and half to travel on our own, away from the group, and unsure what to do, we decided to make the most of the time frame. So in our jeans we took off arbitrarily down some side street in Venice until we came to the end of the island. For 45 minutes we wound our way through Venice, going nowhere in particular, but passing through remote plazas very few tourists see, markets along the canals, and local kids partaking in pick up soccer games in the alleys. Several times, we had absolutely no idea where we were, but this did not bother us. We were taking in much more of Venice than most do. We finally returned to our group a few minutes late in San Marco Square, sweaty and exhausted, but satisfied with our journey. Our next major run started from our Florence hotel, the Grand Hotel Mediterraneo (which was amazing) and stretched along the parks along the Arno River. This early morning run was pleasant as the streets were quiet (as opposed to the midday roar of traffic we encountered later in the day). Our final major run took place in Rome. With a midday tour of Pompeii scheduled, we pulled ourselves out of bed before day break and set off in no particular direction. This was rather scary at first, as it was dark out and we were in a foreign city. After a few miles, we found ourselves looping around a quiet park somewhere in suburban Rome. Following a main road which we though would take us back to the hotel, we stumbled upon the Piazza del Popolo, a beautiful square we had visited the day before. Deciding it would be cool to run up the Spanish Steps, we took off down one of the roads of the Trident and then bolted up the stairs. Shockingly, we were the only ones on the steps. Here we were, at one of the most popular tourist locations in Europe, completely alone (this was around 5 AM, keep in mind). Realizing the need to get back for the bus, we turned around going back the way we came. Later that day, we returned to Rome for our final night in Italy. The group was to take the Metro to the Piazza del Popolo, and my friend and I, now knowing the way on foot, decided to run there. Upon reuniting with the group, it was decided that we would all go our separate ways for dinner. Can you guess what my friend and I did then? We went for another run. Deciding to visit the Trevi fountain again, this time at night, we ran down one of the roads of the Trident only to end up at historic Piazza Novarra. We grabbed some gelatos from a famous gelateria, and walked towards the Trevi Fountain. Unable to find it, we ran in circles for another 20 minutes until we gave up and stumbled upon it on our way back. After revisiting the beautiful sights at night, we called it a day. The next morning we went for a peaceful 2 mile jog before our flight along the suburban streets of Rome. This was a nice change of pace as we ran by the houses of the locals going about their business on a beautiful morning.
Running was undoubtedly the greatest experience I had on this trip. We were able to see much more of the cities in a shorter time and were able to take in the scenery that makes Italy such a popular destination. We were exhausted at the end of the week, but it was very worth it. A word of caution; bring a map. A word of advice; be free spirited. Don't go along the beaten path all the time. See more of the city than you would have otherwise. It will make your trip much more enjoyable.