Words I didn’t take as many pictures in Venice as anywhere else, for some reason. When we got there we realised we had a lot less money than we were expecting to, and at the same time realised that Venice is super expensive. Our plans for a gondola ride and a night at the opera were dashed against the rocks. I’ve decided it would be an amazing place to go one day when I’m incredibly rich, perhaps when I’m a cougar and I can take my toy boy. I was constantly, childishly amazed by the water. The water bus was surreal at first and then quite unpleasant (hot, crowded, an old bearded man moving closer and closer towards me). There were lots of free art galleries and exhibitions but most of the art was more than a little weird. The hostel we stayed in was awful. My shorts disappeared from the bathroom. When I asked about them the owner very casually told me they must have been stolen (as though it was a common occurrence) and then insulted my weight (in a roundabout way). They were eventually returned to me and it turned out they had been in the bin. I was not offered an apology. The hostel was called Ca’ Contarini. Don’t stay there, whatever you do. We went on a Murder & Mysteries walking tour which was great fun: you essentially walk around the city at night (or late in the evening, whatever) while being told stories of, you guessed it, murders and mysteries. It was not at all spooky but really interesting. There was a crazy woman on the tour who kept shouting about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and complaining that her husband couldn’t walk over bridges or speak English, and she was pretty scary. We went to a food market which was lovely even though we couldn’t afford anything, and didn’t have the ability or time to cook it anyway. The seafood stalls were very cool, but probably quite disgusting if you’re not a fan so I apologise for the picture. We technically had another full day in Venice after we checked out of the hostel as our flight wasn’t until 10pm, but Venice did not seem to be the city for lounging around doing nothing on a budget so we went to the airport quite early in the day and spent a few hours reading and enjoying the air conditioning. I was very sad to leave Italy. I will definitely return one day, especially to Venice when I can afford to do expensive things and eat at restaurants that have a 6 euro ‘orchestra supplement’.
Lots of pictures, not many words. Facebook me for more pictures.
Words Verona was incredibly pretty. It seemed a lot more peaceful than the other cities we visited, which I personally enjoyed, being a country bumpkin. There were still a great deal of tourists around (including a horrible gaggle of them who literally barged past me on the bus shouting ‘JULIET’S HOUSE???? JULIET’S HOUSE????’ at the driver) but there seemed to be less hustle and bustle. We went to Juliet’s house, which I liked from an English student perspective, though it still irks me that Romeo & Juliet is heralded as being an amazing love story when it’s just not, really. I stroked Juliet’s boob and got a picture taken but I look like a gremlin in the picture so it’s not going on here. We bought a 2-day Verona card for 15 euros each which was incredibly handy – even though we only went to 4 museums in the end, they would have cost approximately 6 euros each without the card. We had to pay 6 euros to get into the Giusti Gardens because they were privately owned, but it was definitely worth it. They were a lot less effort to walk around in the heat than the Boboli Gardens were, but just as beautiful, if not more. The next morning we went to the Castelvecchio Museum. I thought the building was better than the exhibitions – do we notice a pattern emerging? The building was incredible though. In the afternoon we went to the Natural History Museum. I fell in love with a tiger. The museum staff seemed to be employed to follow you around the place at a short distance, presumably making sure you’re not wrecking the joint, and I don’t think she knew what to do with herself when I stood and stared into a tiger’s eyes for about 15 minutes straight. I had a great time in Verona, and I’m very glad that the Romeo & Juliet angle wasn’t shoved in my face too much. We stayed at B&B Ai Leoni which was really nice.
Picture heavy & word light again. Go here for more pictures.
Words After being told by a woman in the hostel in Naples that Pompei was ‘a bad area to stay’, we had high hopes for ancient Pompei but low hopes for modern Pompei. They both turned out to be amazing, though. The hotel was amazing. I know most people do Pompei as a day trip but I would definitely recommend staying a night in Hotel Diana. While waiting for our room to be ready we sat in the beautiful garden that was shaded with orange trees and were brought a glass of fresh orange juice each. Ancient Pompei was hot and tiring but absolutely breath-taking. We hired an audio guide from the hotel for 10 euros each. We definitely didn’t see all of it but we saw quite a lot, and there were some amazing views. We got the train to Florence the next day. Italian trains are amazing. Air-conditioned, quiet, lots of leg room and they don’t smell. On the first day we saw the Piazza della Signoria and spent a very long time wandering around the Mercato Nuovo, even though all I ended up buying was a 4 euro pashmina which it was far too hot to wear. We saw an incredibly strange man: he had a greasy, lank, jet-black mullet, was wearing quite smart-casual businessy clothes with Converse, and while walking down the street, stopped at every Vespa he came across and checked his hair in the mirror. We watched him walk down one street and he did it about 5 times. Discovered another book bar, which was also closed. Italy hates me. The next day we went to the Uffizi gallery. I thought the gallery itself (as in the building) was amazing, while the artwork was very impressive but not my kind of thing. In the afternoon we went to the Palazzo Pitti, but decided to only pay to see the costume gallery and Boboli Gardens, both of which were fantastic. Managed to tick all but 2 things off my ‘to do in Florence’ list.
This post is going to be quite picture-heavy. However I’m not posting all my holiday photos on here as I think my blog would explode (there are 812 of them). I’ve posted all photos on my personal Facebook page if anybody is interested in seeing them all.
Words Ryanair staff are incredibly rude and unprofessional. While in the queue to board the plane we overheard two staff talking about how they had dealt with an awkward customer the other day, and then we heard this exchange.
Ryanair Woman #1: Well, was he English?
Ryanair Woman #2: No, he was Spanish.
Ryanair Woman #1: Well exactly. They’re the worst.
I was more than a little gobsmacked that they were having this racist conversation in the earshot of their customers.
On our first day in Rome I was incredibly tired, hot and a little grumpy, but I managed to power through with the help of pizza and gelato. We went to see the Roman ruins, and in the evening the Trevi fountain, which I thought was absolutely incredible. I’ve since heard people say it’s overhyped. I hadn’t heard very much about it before seeing it, and was expecting a normal fountain, so I was absolutely blown away by it. We woke up the next day with big plans to go to the Vatican, but they dissipated as we showered, ate and dressed as we realised the queue would be stretching for miles in the blistering heat. I had a coffee from Sant’ Eustachio, who are apparently hailed by the NY Times as ‘the best coffee in New York’, despite being in Rome, which I thought was pretty funny. We decided to go back to the Trevi fountain, and saw somebody being told off by a police officer for dipping their feet in. Italians take their fountains seriously! On the night we tried to find a book bar called Bibli which was closed. The next day we got the train to Naples. In all honesty, I thought Naples was horrible. I ate some good pizza and went to the National Archaeological Museum, but other than that it was smelly, dirty and quite unpleasant.
Part 2: Pompei & Florence coming soon!
I managed to read four books while I was away. I’m sure that four books in ten days is nothing for some people, but for me it’s pretty good, especially considering that a lot of those days I was on the go for over 12 hours in 35 degree heat, visiting museums and eating delicious pasta and other stressful activities like that. Also I’ve decided I want a Kindle. It turns out it took pretty much nothing to knock me off my staunch anti-Kindle perch. My only condition is that I don’t buy it for myself. I’ll get drafting that letter to Santa.
From my list of classics, I only ended up taking Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and The Secret Garden, mainly because I packed, re-packed, unpacked, threw my belongings around the house etc. a lot of times and decided that taking five books was just too much. I loved them both, especially The Secret Garden.
Then, because I was all kinds of wrong in thinking that two books would be enough, I acquired a copy of The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway, which I read in less than two days. Eye-opening and heart-breaking.
So then I was left sitting at the airport in Venice itching for something else to read. After walking past the shelf marked ‘English books’ a good few times because I’m an idiot, I ended up getting The Solitude of Prime Numbers by Paolo Giordano for 11 euros (as a book bargain hunter, this stung, a lot) and reading over half of it before I even got on the plane. I then finished it on the train home the next day. Absolutely captivating. I can tell this is going to be one of those books that I try to force onto everyone I love, including my boyfriend who only reads books authored by Jeremy Clarkson. I want everyone to read it.
I haven’t even opened the cover quite yet, but Q&A by Vikas Swarup is sitting on my pillow waiting for me.
High Fidelity by Nick Hornby and The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy.
- How many books would you be able to read in 10 days?
- Best book you’ve read lately?
- When you read an amazing book do you want everyone else to read it, or do you want to keep it to yourself?
* Picture from here
Something about my upcoming trip is making me very aspirational.
I’m imaging myself looking stylish and elegant even in stifling heat, springing out of bed every morning bright eyed and bushy tailed, speaking fluent Italian to everyone I meet, and reading classic novels in my downtime.
Fact is, I’m going to be a chubby, sweaty, whining, English mess in the heat. I can deal with this. I’ll probably drink too much wine on a night and regret booking trains so early when I have to drag myself out of my bed at the crack of dawn. Such is life My Italian language skills will probably fail me at the most inopportune moments. That’s fine
The classic novels? I think I might be able to manage them. I have two plane journeys and five train journeys to fill.
So far I’ve decided on The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 20 Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne, and The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates. Chances are I won’t read anywhere near all of them in 10 days, but I’m going to take them along and see which takes my fancy.
- It’s my 21st birthday on the 15th of the month. Next weekend I’m having a little get together with some of my faves (Holly, Becci, Rich, Kerry, Tom, Biddy, Becky, that’s you guys!) Plans include a meal out, a few beers, maybe some kind of country escapades including a castle or a waterfall or something.
- I’ve been reading the Guardian Weekend magazine Summer fiction special. Maybe not very light ‘summer reading’ but very good nonetheless.
- I fly to Rome on the 16th to start my little cultural holiday. Even though booking airport transfers for the way back is proving to be a complete pain in the arse, I’m incredibly excited nonetheless. I might just have to stay there. That won’t bother me too much. My enthusiasm is manifested in my tumblr, where I have reblogged approximately one million Italy-related pictures.
- I’ve managed to select three items of clothing that I would like to get rid of, two of which I have been hanging onto for literally years – about five years, in fact. I’m aware that a dress, a shirt and a cardigan isn’t going to make much of a dent in the amount of crap I have amassed and need to unamass, but… baby steps.
- I bought 7 cans of cream soda for 23p each. I think that is all that needs to be said.
- When’s your birthday & do you have any plans?
- What have you been reading?
- What are your good things?
+ Buying a scrapbook. There’s nothing in yet but it’s beautiful and will soon be filled with beautiful things.
+ Wasabi peas. I bought some on a whim from Tesco and they’re pretty tasty. When I ate the first one it was so spicy I thought I was going to cry, but the spice lasts for about 2 seconds and then gives way to a slightly sweet deliciousness. Nice as snacks, great on salads.
+ My holiday to Italy next month. I’m getting very excited and have made a ridiculously long lists of things I want to see and do. I want churches, gardens, wine, ancient ruins, opera, coffee, Shakespeare plays, pizza, markets, gelato and maybe even a gondola ride. Figuring out what to pack is a bit of a pain because we’re there for 10 days and we’re travelling from place to place, but I would happily wear a sack to wander round Italy at the height of summer.
+ Seeing the boyfriend a week earlier than expected :)
+ Gilmore Girls. Don’t hate. Guilty pleasure.
+ Running on the treadmill for the first time in… well, far too long. Granted it was only for 20 minutes but it felt good!
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Just realised you can’t really see it very well, but the bushes at the top of the field spell out ‘PAX’, which means peace in Italian. Even though I’m not religious, the cathedrals and churches in Assisi were quite awe-inspiring simply because of how beautiful they were.