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When Media Profile announced the Work Away Benefit, nobody could stop talking about where they wanted to go. I had already booked a spring trip and love Toronto summers, so my plans had to wait until December when I hopped across the pond to Italy for two weeks: One week in Florence, another in Rome.

Why Italy? Well, for starters, I’d never been to Europe and Italy is rich in history, culture and architecture. The time zone is six hours ahead, which allowed me to explore the city before I start work in the afternoons (9 a.m. in Toronto). December in Italy is a slow month for tourism. Tours were cheaper and less crowded, allowing me to shoot uninterrupted photos. And lastly, the food. Oh my, the food. But more on that later.

Pointe Vecchio Bridge

Safety First

As beautiful as Italy is, it is rife with pickpockets. Even the tour guides remind groups to zip up their bags while walking through the basilicas and markets. I kept everything in my waist pack strapped across my chest, under my bubble vest. Italy is also known for its cobblestone roads and pathways. I brought my most comfortable pair of sneakers, which were still tested to the limit on longer days. Lastly, the December weather can range between 3 to 16 degrees Celsius, and it rains frequently, so it’s best to pack layers.

Exploring Two Iconic Italian Cities 

From the time I got off the train station in Florence, the landscape and architecture floored me—I felt as though I was in a history textbook. I found myself taking photos of large doors and random buildings just because they looked unlike anything I’d ever seen. The globe on the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore drew my eye and became the centrepiece of the skyline view in Florence, similar to the CN Tower in Toronto. On my first day, I signed up for a walking tour. Not only was it educational to discover the history of some of Florence’s most prominent landmarks like the Duomo, Medici Palace and Pointe Vecchio bridge, it also allowed me to get a lay of the land and ask the guide for restaurant recommendations. 

My tour of the Galleria Academia consisted of less than ten people. This allowed the guide to bring us into the small musical wing, where the first three versions of the piano and the first-ever wind instrument were displayed. It also allowed us to get up close to Botticelli’s paintings and capture clear photos of Michelangelo’s David. 

Stepping out of Roma Termini, the first thing that hit me was how grand everything was. Whether it was the Vatican, Colosseum, Castel Sant’Angelo or The Pantheon, I was shocked and impressed by how massive these buildings are. Seeing the final resting places of prominent historical figures like Raphael and Julius Caesar truly brought home that these were real people, not just characters in books and movies.


Inside the Colleseum
Trevi Fountain
Trevi Fountain
RIP Raphael - Pantheon


Seasonal Sights

An added bonus to my trip was experiencing the Christmas season in Italy. The lights whimsically strung across buildings, elaborate nativity scenes, Christmas markets and the celebratory Christmas tree in Vatican City were particularly beautiful sights to behold. Each time I laid eyes on these spectacles, I took a moment to really appreciate them because even if I make it back to Italy, it most likely won’t be in December.

Christmas Tree - Santa Maria del Fiore
Santa Maria del Fiore

Foodie Feasts

Of course, Italian adventure is only complete when experiencing culinary delights. You can get delicious pizza, flavourful pasta, rich gelato, or skillfully brewed cappuccino that tastes like a warm hug at any spot in town. Florence, in particular, is known for its high-quality beef. Many restaurants offer a Florentine Steak, priced and served by weight. At Garbo Ristorante, I ordered a 1.6kg (56.44oz) steak with a side of potatoes. Not sure if I should be proud or ashamed that I was able to finish it all in one sitting—no regrets!

Thank you to Media Profile for giving me this unforgettable off-peak opportunity. I can’t wait to see what 2023’s adventures bring.

Curious to learn more about MP’s adventures abroad? Stay tuned for future Our Take #PassportToMP blog posts where employees will share their work away experiences.

Hayden Narine

Communications and Community Relations Officer

Yes, Not Even Water
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