By Sarah Titus
Urbino is an ideal city to study abroad for many reasons, one of them being it’s a central location to many travel destinations throughout Europe. The city of Amsterdam is one of these. After catching a 45-minute bus from Urbino to Pesaro, one just has to hop on a train in Pesaro and ride for several hours to reach Bologna. Once in Bologna, you can catch a two-hour plane ride to Amsterdam. If you are planning on traveling to Amsterdam from Italy in the summer months, book your ticket in the early spring in order to get the best deal. If you wait until the summer, you can potentially be paying upwards of 150 euros for your return ticket.
Once arriving in Amsterdam, it is impossible to not become immediately taken aback by the raw beauty of the city. The canals around which the city is built, the many bikers making their way about the city, and the local people chattering in Dutch all contribute to the city’s welcoming feel for visitors.
For students traveling on a tight budget, a variety of inexpensive hostels are available right in the heart of the city. The Bulldog is a hostel located next to the Red Light district and right off of one of the main canals. The hostel is located within what used to be a canal house, which makes the experience authentic and unique to this area of the Netherlands. Prices start at 18 euros per person per night to stay in an eight- to 12-bed coed dorm room. Lockers are available to keep your belongings secure, outlets by each bed for charging devices, and a shower and toilet available within the actual dorm.
Once you drop off your backpack and get your bearings of the city, it’s time to do some exploring. Amsterdam is home to many unique historical sites as well as museums. The “I Amsterdam city card” is a pass you can purchase for 48 euros and lasts 48 hours. It will allow free entry to the majority of museums and attractions in the city, discounts and special offers, a free city map, a free canal cruise, and free use of the GVB public transport in Amsterdam, which includes bus, tram, and metro.
The Jewish Cultural Center (which includes the Hollandsche Schouwburg and Museum & Portuguese Sunagogue), the Museum Het Remembrandthuis, Oude Kerk, and the Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder are all places you can visit free with the city pass. It is quite an experience to witness the difference places of worship that were scattered throughout the city, some still used even today
In Amsterdam art-lovers are able to actually see with their own eyes one of Rembrandt’s most famous pieces, titled “Zelfportret met verbaasde blik,” which means “self portrait, open mouthed.” In this art piece, the artist experimented with the physical dimensions of the human face and the numerous expressions it can make. The Museum Ons’ Lieve Heer op Solder is also spectacular, as visitors get to enter into a typical canal house that opens up into a secret church on the inside. Its name translates to Our Lord in the Attic; it was built on the top three floors of the house, where many Catholics came to worship during the 17th century after parting from the Dutch Reformed Church. Religious prosecution did not prevent people from worshipping, but rather inspired them to create their own religious sanctuary safe from the prying eyes of others. This safe haven was one of those places, with the outside of the house looking like a regular canal house.
While in Amsterdam, the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gough museum are must-sees for history and art enthusiasts. The Van Gough museum houses many of Van Gough’s many works he created throughout his life, including one of his most famous pieces of the sunflowers titled “Tournesols.” Visitors are awestruck as they stand and look at the painting, noticing Van Gough’s unique style that differed from the realistic paintings that were popular as well during his time.
Not far from the Van Gough museum is the Anne Frank House, which is an experience like no other. To personally witness the small rooms, the hushed atmosphere, and the isolation made Anne Frank come to life. Many people have already learned so much about her already, as they remember reading her diary in high school, but her family and the trials and tribulations they went through together as a family resonate throughout the canal house.
On top of visiting the many historical landmarks and museums scattered throughout the city, make sure to try several different foods that are local to the region. Stroopwaffels are a popular Dutch treat that are commonly sold on the streets in outdoor marketplaces. This is a Dutch sweet made with two waffle-like cookies with a thin layer of caramel in between. They are delicious for those with a sweet tooth, and the man baking and selling these at the outdoor market was correct when he said my trip to Amsterdam “was now complete!”
To travel to Amsterdam from Urbino and back, the transportation will cost approximately 80 euro during the summertime. This includes the bus ride to Pesaro, the train ride to Bologna, and the airplane ticket to Amsterdam. This price can vary, depending on how long you wait to book your airplane ticket, as well as how quickly you want to get there (fast trains throughout Italy are more expensive). While in Amsterdam, expect to spend around 16 to 20 euro per night for a hostel, as well as 48 euro for the Amsterdam city card pass if you want to tour the main sights, attractions, and museums throughout the city. The amount of money spent on food really depends on the traveler, as it is easy to spend 20 euro on a sit down meal right off the canal. If you are opting to spend less, there are many hole-in-the-wall type restaurants that serve light lunch type meals, which can be purchased for around 10 euro as well.
Walking the streets overlooking the canals and drinking in the rich religious history of Amsterdam is simply an experience that cannot be beat.