Total Pageviews

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Amore A Prima Vista

As the next ten weeks go by before I make my big move I am going to dive right into my new blog writing! My plan is to write a short review of each country that I have been to. The reviews will not be anything in great detail, just a brief overview of some of my favourite parts of each trip. 

While I have enjoyed each place I have been, I do have a top three for countries visited (all favourites for different reasons). I will start with my all time favourite... Italy! 
In the coming days I will write about my other two favourite countries. Any guesses of what they are??


I have been to Italy twice. My first trip to Italy as I mentioned in my first blog was on a High School trip. We spent a lot of the time driving in a huge purple bus with a bus driver that was definitely not sober or fit to be driving! This combined with the tight winding roads made for a pretty interesting few days! 

On this trip we made stops in Venice and Verona. It was while in Venice that I absolutely fell in love with this country. Italians are very superstitious and often have monuments or fountains where you are to make a wish. While I am not superstitious myself, I do remember standing by the Grand Canal and hoping to one day return!

While in Venice, I felt like I had stepped back in time. The narrow alleyways with quaint little book shops and cafes were unlike anywhere I had ever been. We started the day with a tour of St. Mark's Square and Basilica. We toured old dungeons and saw the Bridge of Sighs (This was said to be where prisoners would get their last view of Venice before their imprisonment - hence, they would sigh). We attended a glass blowing demonstration and also took a gondola ride down the narrow canals where we passed a house that once was lived in by Mozart.

The Bridge of Sighs, Venice

In Verona we visited the famous courtyard which has the balcony from Romeo and Juliet. Below the balcony is a a bronze statue of Juliet. Surrounding her are thousands of post it notes and letters from people who have come from all around the world to write to Juliet about their love problems. Apparently, if you write her she will write back and guide you through your troubles!
Romeo and Juliet Balcony, Verona

Five years later I spent a month doing a teaching practicum in Milan. During my evenings I spent my time touring around Milan and enjoying the delicious cuisine! On my weekends I tried to see as much as I could. I spent time in Florence, Rome, Cinque Terre, Lake Como and Mantova.

Teaching in Milan

Castello Sforzesco

Duomo Di Milano
Of the places I have visited in Italy, Cinque Terre tops the list! I had always thought Venice would remain my favourite as it is so unique and unlike any other city. However, Cinque Terre (translated to Five Lands or Villages) is a coastline area nestled in between the mountains and sea on the Northwestern coast of the country. It's beauty can not be beat!
I spent the day here hiking through the villages with another Canadian teacher. If I remember correctly, there are three different possible routes you can take to hike through these villages. There is also a train that stops at each village so you can hop on and off if you are getting tired (we took the train through the last two villages). 
We decided to go with the easier route, which meant we got to see more of the villages (and also meant we didn't have to hike up steep hillsides through Olive Groves - which looking back, does sound pretty nice!).

Hiking through Cinque Terre

The Village of Manarola 

If you ever find yourself in Italy, please make a visit to this beautiful area of the country. You will not regret it! Although I was only there for a day, I would definitely recommend spending at least a few nights (preferably in the summer so you can take advantage of the seaside). 

If you are looking to do some shopping in Italy, I found that Florence has the most authentic variation of local Italian designers and boutiques - for more reasonable prices. Milan is of course one of the fashion capitals of the world, but with that comes the high prices! I very much enjoyed browsing the high end stores along Montenapoleone. However, being a traveler on a budget, I couldn't do more than browse and window shop in Milan!
While in Florence there are many leather markets and shops to visit. I bought an amazing baby blue leather jacket and tan boots - both of which I was able to negotiate a much cheaper price for! 
Florence like most of Italy and Europe also houses some very famous pieces of art, so make sure to find your way to the museums and galleries!

The Statue of David

Ponte Vecchio in the background

Rome, Rome, Rome!! Where to begin? This is a city with much to be seen. Because my time here was short, I didn't get to venture much outside of the main touristy spots. Of course there is the Colosseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, The Vatican... the list goes on.

The Colosseum 
While I do enjoy the finer things in life, I do realize when I'm traveling I cannot always afford to stay in places of luxury. While in Rome, I stayed in what looked like a quaint little hostel that I found online. Upon arrival I was greeted by narrow, dirty halls that led to a narrow, dirty room with six bunk beds made up of stained sheets. I had to cover my pillow in a sweater and line my bed with clothes because I was too afraid to touch these dirty sheets. Luckily, I managed to escape without bedbugs!! I also had the shower turn off midway through washing my hair. I later asked the English lad who was working in the hostel what happened.. he told me I took too long and every guest has a time limit for the water. He then tried to sell me his bottle of water for several euro to try and get the rest of the shampoo out of my hair!!!

On Top of the Spanish Steps

The Trevi Fountain
Several hours before I arrived in Rome I had been in Barcelona. During my flight to Rome there was an earthquake in the Abruzza Region of Italy (not far from Rome). Many of the sites in Rome were closed that morning because of the quake, and the catacombs remained closed for the duration of my time in the city. That evening we felt aftershocks in our hostel. Luckily, Rome was not really affected.

The Vatican
Swiss Guards at the Sistine Chapel

Lake Como is a beautiful area. If you don't believe me, just ask George Clooney! 
On this day I spent most of my time walking trails along the lake and enjoying the town. I took a rickety cable car to the top of a mountain where I met an Italian woman living with about a dozen cats. She was trying to sell souvenirs to us tourists. I tried to ask her about her lifestyle living up on this huge hillside. How does she get her groceries up there? How often does she go down to the village? Unfortunately, her English was poor and my Italian is non existent, so she just continued to try and sell me postcards. 
On the Lake there are many boat excursions offered. You can also see snow covered alps in the distance! It really is a beautiful spot.

Lake Como 
Lake Como
My month in Italy was full of traveling, eating pizza, pasta and gelato, and seeing some pretty amazing places. By no means am I an expert on the country or these cities that I have visited, so I am sure there are tons of other wonderful places to be seen, but this is just a glimpse into my time in what I consider to be the most beautiful country.
I cannot wait to return again one day!

Aperitivo with some of the teachers.


Stay tuned to see what other two countries make up my top three choices! :)

No comments:

Post a Comment