I'm so behind. I intended to post this two days ago but life happens. Sorry for the delay- enjoy.
In 2007, while studying in England, a group of friends and I spent about 8 or 9 days backpacking across Italy. It was amazing. Even now, I can't believe the things I saw. Each step, even before we arrived in Italy, was an adventure.
Backpacking means you have all your belongs in a backpack. My Victorinox bag is excellent. I was steamed about buying it at first because of the price but it's held up for three years and many travels. I knew how to pack when I was going to Italy but I still over packed. My friends had two jeans- the one they were wearing and one in their bag. Though I'd been out of high school awhile, I still held onto the mentality that you were dirty if you wore the same jeans two weeks in a row so, I had four- one I was wearing and three in my bag. My bag was stuffed which meant I couldn't buy as many souvenirs because airplanes have a size limit for carry-on and Ryanair only allowed you one-not a purse and a carry-on- one carry-on period. I got souvenirs but they had to be small and I layered clothes on the flight back.
We flew Ryanair out of Stansted which is this airport in the middle of nowhere. Our flight was early in the am and, unlike NY, the trains in England don't run all night. So, we decided to leave the night before and sleep at the airport. Sounds like a plan. Stansted doesn't have many seats, so we had to sit on the floor which still was fine with me. But, it was November so the floor was cold and we dressed for Italy which was much warmer. I really tried to sleep but the floor was far too cold. I eventually gave up and watched HP on my media player.
Ryanair is like the Greyhound of planes. If you purchase a ticket early enough, it'll only cost you about 20 pounds which, three years ago, was $40. Not bad. My friends got that deal, I didn't because I bought my ticket only a week in advance and by then, the price had gone up to about 75 pounds- $150 one way. But, I wanted to go to Italy so I shelled out the bucks. Ryanair doesn't have assigned seating so you sit anywhere. People with priority seating board first. Priority just means you bought your ticket well in advanced. The seats don't lean back which was unfortunate since it was 6am and I was working on no sleep.The cabin lights stayed on the entire ride. I've ridden planes a lot but you never know how bright those lights are until you're trying to sleep with them on. So, needless to say, I was beyond tired when we landed.
We stayed in hostels most of the time. Until I went abroad, I'd never stayed in a hostel and knew only what I'd seen on TV. For those that don't know, with hostels you pay per bed. It's like sleeping in a dorm. You don't usually book in advanced but you can for some places.
The only time we booked in advanced was for Rome. After Rome, we traveled to the other cities with places in mind not knowing if they had beds available. Fortunately, the hostels we tried first had beds for all 9 of us, usually in two different rooms. The only time we stayed in the same room was in Verona.
In Rome, we stayed in The Stargate Hotel. It had an old broken elevator so we had to walk to our floor.The steps were pretty but after the fourth flight you stopped caring. Everyone on the floor shared 4 bathrooms- one had a bathtub/shower but the tub was stained with something, so no one used it; another had a door that didn't lock; one had no hot water and one didn't have anything covering the window. But we were in Rome so, no one cried over it. Fortunately, the other places we stayed in were awesome. Especially Hostel Archi Rossi in Florence which had art painted on the walls and people could write messages on parts of the walls not occupied by artwork.
In Venice, we stayed at Jolly Camping Village and we slept in... I'd call them campers. They were nice with a kitchen, dinning area, and two bedrooms. It cost us either 20 or 25 pounds a night.
I don't remember the name of the place we stayed in Verona but it reminded me of a boarding school with several bunk-beds in one room and a large bathroom at the end of the hallway. The building was old but beautiful. Outside the windows were what looked like ruins.
To say these cities are beautiful is a gross understatement. People have asked me which ones my favorite and still I can't decide. They are all wonderful for their own reason. You can't compare them.
The history each city has was awesome. In Rome is a place called Cimitero dei Cappuccini where the bones of dead monks are used as decorations. Some areas had whole skeletons. It was creepy and I loved it. I was amazed at the detail up until the end. The last area had a sign reading "What you are now we used to be; what we are now you will be." Standing in a passageway with bones on either side of us- the sign was the creepiest thing ever especially since it was in front of two small skeletons that looked like children. Don't worry we couldn't take pictures so you won't have to see it but at the end, they had postcards. I had to buy three. I bought postcards from every place we traveled not to send to people but as a keepsake. They've come in handy for this blog. So did my travel journal.
I never though I'd actually see some of the art and architecture I'd studied in my Art History classes. The Uffizi Gallery in Florance had the Birth of Venus and many Madonna and Child paintings I'd studied. I had the best lasagna ever in Florence. Bondi not only had excellent food but a hilarious paper place-mat which we took as a souvenir. Two kids are looking into their diapers. Under them reads "There is a difference." Three years later and I still love it.
Though I'm not a romantic, I did enjoy Verona even though it's ridiculous to charge people to see the tomb of a person who didn't exist. Verona's tourism is built around Romeo and Juliet. You can visit Juliet's balcony and her tomb. Verona is a peaceful place and it's gorgeous.
Italy is not English speaking, obviously. The language barrier was sometimes a problem. For touristy places, it was fairly easy to find someone who spoke English when we needed help but, we arrived in Florence at a small town and couldn't find anyone who spoke English but, with a lot of hand gestures and the little Italian they knew, they managed to communicate what they needed. A little over a week traveling Italy and you begin to recognize certain signs like uscita means exit. Tabacchi is a store selling, among other things, metro and local bus tickets. Public bathrooms are called WC.
More Italy to come then Scotland, Pairs and England- not necessarily on that order.