I walked 82,000 steps last week. No joke. My first week studying abroad, and I’m already about 0.00016 to the moon.

But all joking aside, you can’t walk 82,000 steps and not see anything to make all the mileage worth it. Especially in Italy when you’re taking a week long class called the Cultural Introduction to Italy. This is a class designed to get you introduced to the Italian landscape: see the sights, eat the food, drink the wine and maybe meet some friendly locals along the way! All of this while trying to recreate as many Lizzie McGuire moments as possible. Because who isn’t a Hillary Duff fan at this point; come on people, it’s 2019!

It all started in Rome. Here we spent two days trying to follow in the footsteps of the great Roman Empire. Wow! I saw the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, Titus’ Arch and the Trevi Fountain all in the same day. But, instead of being floored by all the great architecture, I was busy taking a lot of photos for everyone’s Instagram.

Which is fine, I really don’t mind, I’m good at getting everyone’s good angle. I even do that thing where I squat and point the phone upwards to make my short friends look taller.

But, all this photography isn’t an easy task to accomplish while two security guards holding large machine guns loom over your shoulder. Seriously, at every major tourist location in Rome there are at least two full uniformed military people with incredibly large guns. Don’t even get me started on the security at the Vatican!

Okay, granted, I’m being a bit dramatic. It really wasn’t that bad. But, for anyone reading this article as a guide to Italy, and as I’m now a tourism expert, you have to have your shoulders and knees covered when entering St. Peter’s Basilica. You’re fine just entering Vatican City in your crop top and “hot shorts,” as my tour guide called them. But, if you want to enter any of the churches in Rome, you have to cover up.

I understand that this is a hard thing to do when you feel slightly like a rotisserie chicken baking in God’s oven. But all you have to do is bring a light scarf to throw over your shoulders and you’re good to go! Then the scarf becomes an easy thing to remove if you decide, like me, to make the 1,000 step climb up St. Peter’s Basilica to see all of the Vatican City under your feet.

This is a tough climb. You can pay an extra two euros to take the elevator halfway up. But they really should ask you, “Do you want to pay the extra euros for an elevator?” when you’re already halfway up. As my group all looked at each other and said, “We’re young! 500 steps! Are you kidding me?! We could do 500,000!” before then proceeding to pant and heave like a pack of dogs when we were only at 200.

It’s humbling, though, when you reach the top. Really, really worth it.

Once you take a moment to breathe in, step back from taking another thousand pictures of all of your friends and just think about the millions of people that have climbed these steps and have seen the city at this height. It’s jarring to think that you’re just one of thousands that visit Italy everyday, to experience a culture that has existed for ten times longer than the United States. To walk in the footsteps of the great artists, architects and minds of history… oh, and Hillary Duff of course.

We did make it to the Trevi Fountain. Walking up, everyone overwhelmed with excitement, “Oh I’m going to be just like Hillary Duff and throw a coin in backwards!” all for it to crash in place when we saw the fountain was empty. Empty! Really?

Yes really. If you don’t know, the Italian Government collects all of the coins at the bottom of the fountain to donate to charities around Italy. It wasn’t that big of a deal, we took a break for some gelato, popped back around an hour later and low and behold, the water was flowing and everyone got their photo. With that we said goodbye to Rome and we were off to some lesser known cities around Italy.

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