Well my Italy portion of my trip is already over 😦 On Sunday, Ben and I just relaxed in Zurich and waited for our trains. I then caught my train to Milan, which ended up arriving an hour later than expected. So I was in Milan in the dark, when the buses were no longer running. The Italian guys sure lived up to their reputation. Within five minutes of me arriving in Milan, some guy approached me, and after several, “Please, come to the disco with me,” replied with several, “No, I have to find my hostel,” he ended up buying me a metro ticket and made sure I got on the right metro to get to the hostel. I got quite annoyed with the stares I got from the men while I was in Italy. I noticed that many of the other women were wearing pants! Well, I refuse to wear pants when it’s 34 degrees outside; I just wish I could wear my shorts with a little peace. I also felt bad being in Italy and not knowing the language. I mean, really, the only Italian words I know are “penne con pollo,” so it was hard for me to communicate since that’s not always something you can fit into your everyday conversation. However, I’ve used my French here as much as I’ve used my English because most Italians seem to know French better than English (or at least the ones I’ve met), so I guess at least I don’t have to be that stuckup American girl who expects the world to only speak her language. I always wonder if that’s what they all think when we come and only speak English…
Monday was just not a good day for me. Everything I had to do in order to get to my hostel by the Cinque Terre seemed to go wrong. That morning, I got up early to catch the train to La Spezia. Maybe I was really tired or maybe I just wasn’t used to it but I almost had a heart attack when a big, black bird came and sat on my window sill. I don’t know how Snow White does it… Anyway, to get to La Spezia, you have to change trains partway through and my two trains were extremely close in time. Luckily, everything in Italy seems to be late (literally, I don’t think I got on a train that was on time for my entire week) so even though my first train was late, so was my second. As soon as I got on the train, I remembered that I forgot to validate those stupid tickets. I still don’t understand the point of validating a ticket when you BOUGHT the ticket with a date and time anyway. I was just hoping that no one would come through the train to check tickets. But unfortunately, luck wasn’t on my side that time. The lady checked my ticket and said I could either get a fine or get off the train. I don’t know who in their right mind would pick the fine when given the choice so I gladly got off the train. I had no idea where I was but I had an hour and a half to kill so I just walked in a random direction, bought food to make three sandwiches, got two yogurts and a whole package of cherry tomatoes (all for less than five bucks! It’s so nice to not have to spend an average of 18-25 dollars on a meal anymore) and I found a bench right by the water and picnicked there. I later found out the town I was in is called Chiavari; it was good to have fallen upon it by accident and finally have my first real taste of Italy! I got on the next train to La Spezia, only to find out that buses don’t run in the afternoon, so then I had to sit and wait for the bus for three hours. Then I GOT on the bus, only to find out that you had to get a bus pass from the train station; you couldn’t pay on the bus (unlike every other bus I’ve been on). So I tried to explain this to my bus driver, ask where I pay, etc. in French and English but she didn’t understand. So I just gave up and sat down on the bus without paying. Finally, I got to Biassa which is a cute, little town with not much to do. And I was stranded there since the shuttles to the Cinque Terre only leave in the morning. But the hostel was nice; my roommate was from Australia and seemed to know quite a bit when it comes to travelling.
On Tuesday, I took the shuttle to Riomaggiore, one of the towns of the Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is also known as one of the best walks in the world. It’s a walk that runs from village to village with five villages total (hence the Cinque). There was one section that was closed off so we had to take the train instead, but other than that, I did the entire Cinque Terre! It’s not too hard of a walk; it’s just the stairs combined with the sun beaming down on you with no wind that’s not too fun. I sweat more than I think I ever have in my life, in places I didn’t even know it was possible to sweat. Even my eye sockets were sweating! But luckily, there was a beach in each town to cool off in. I think all of the Italians thought the tourists were crazy for doing the Cinque Terre in 34 degree weather. I’m so glad I did it though! It’s such a beautiful area of Italy that still isn’t that well-known. I spent the rest of the day in Monterosso del Mare, the last village, and spent my time on the beach and by the water.
The next morning, I got on a train to Florence. On the way, I made a stop in Pisa to get my picture of the leaning tower. What I didn’t realize was that it was a 25 minute walk to get there from the station. So carrying all of my stuff in the hot weather, I slowly made it to the tower. Very busy, but cool to see! Then I got on the train to go to Florence. Now, walking the Cinque Terre in 34 degree weather is hard but it’s possible. But walking through Florence (on flat ground) in feels-like 42 degree weather is nearly impossible. I didn’t even know a temperature above 35 degrees actually existed when it comes to weather. But unfortunately, it does. I talked to the other people in the hostel about how there was so much we wanted to see and do but it was actually physically impossible. After walking for half a day, all you could do was lie on your bed and try to keep cool. I had no energy to do anything or talk to anyone. I will never again complain about our Saskatoon 27 degree weather with no a/c! I would have done anything to be thrown in a snowbank. And I found out that hot Janelle=crabby Janelle. I really didn’t like Florence. Maybe it was the weather that made me feel like that, but all I can associate with it is negative thoughts. I did like the Duomo, but other than that, there wasn’t anything that really blew my mind. So I will skip over Florence.
On Friday, I was SO happy to go to Rome and be in 34 degree weather again. I saved some money and took the 3 hour train instead of the 1.5 hour train. But a half hour after the train was supposed to leave, we were STILL sitting in the Florence station, trapped in a train with no air conditioning. Everyone was just sweating! And we had to continue like that for the next three hours until we got to Rome. Now I know that maybe saving my money isn’t always the BEST idea… I got to Rome and I was absolutely starving since I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. So I went with a girl in my hostel (Christine) to get gelato (obviously). Now, I’ve had my fair share of gelato and I’ve made a point to always get a different flavour (so far lemon, melon, strawberry, watermelon, peach, grapefruit, coconut, raspberry, banana, mint, coffee, and chocolate), but this was by far the best gelato I’ve ever had! After our gelato, we walked to the Vittoriano, a beautiful monument. Then we went to the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, which were awesome! I absolutely LOVED Rome! I wish I could have stayed longer! Every building was absolutely beautiful and it was just so fascinating that so much of it had such a huge history. Christine and I split up so I went to have my first pizza in Italy (so good) and then I went to the Trevi Fountain before going back to the hostel.
Saturday, I walked to the Pantheon and then went to the Tazza d’Oro for the “best coffee in the world.” I got iced coffee, which was actually ICED COFFEE. Like frozen coffee made into a slush, not like Timmy’s with added cream and whatnot. And all I can say is WOW! I don’t know coffee that well but I knew that this was some good stuff! After my coffee fix, I walked to the Vatican, the smallest country in the world. I wanted to see St. Peter’s Basilica but unfortunately I forgot about the “no exposed shoulders or knees” rule so I was forced to head back to my hostel to put on (gulp) jeans. Shani, another girl in my room from New Zealand, had arrived at the hostel at the same time so she joined me. We went back to look at St. Peter’s, which was huge! It was neat being able to see so much of Michelangelo’s work! Afterwards, we walked to the Pantheon before finding a restaurant for dinner. 10 euro for all you can eat buffet and a cocktail, what a steal! The buffet was all deep fried haha, it was the weirdest buffet I’ve seen: deep-fried cheese, onions, peppers, broccoli, etc. It was good though and definitely worth it! The best part was dessert: deep-fried apples, yum! Shani and I walked to the Trevi Fountain and threw a coin in. Apparently if you throw in a coin, you should have luck in finding love. So it better work!! We then headed to the Spanish steps and took in the atmosphere. It was great! And it was fun having someone to explore with, as it can get boring doing it alone all the time.
Sunday morning, I had to leave Rome to go to Venice. On the way there, it rained (thank goodness!); I don’t think I’ve seen rain since I was in Paris… But then it also rained most of the time I was in Venice. And that’s when my throat started to get sore and my nose started running nonstop. I was sick in Venice 😦 I walked around for a bit and then I got an unlimited waterbus pass and then just took it everywhere; I could have stayed on it all day long! It was just a big boat that went through the grand canal but it was so relaxing and it was probably the best way to see Venice. I went out for dinner before heading back to my hostel to get to bed early so I could fight off this cold. I woke up the next morning feeling better but still not great. I decided I would spend the morning in Murano, an island known as the glass island, where beautiful glass products are made. I would have bought everything if I could! Unfortunately, I don’t think I’d be able to carry it for the rest of my trip without breaking anything. Also, many of the items were a little out of my price range. But I did get a glass Christmas ornament so that should suffice. I had my last pasta lunch before going to the train station so I could leave Italy.
Italy was a great country to visit: lots of history, so beautiful. The culture reminded me a lot of France; Italy is still very dirty and I didn’t get the warm welcome that I got in London and Switzerland. However, it was still an awesome experience! I loved every place I went to (minus Florence); I just wish I could have stayed longer, especially in Venice since it was cut pretty short. Now I’m off to Croatia to see some more beautiful sights! Hope everyone enjoys the tiny bit of summer we have left, and good luck with everyone who’s going back to school or work! Love always
Something in the Water – Brooke Fraser