Diary of a Backpacker: Days 4-9, Italy!

Days 4-10: Italy

The second stop on my whirlwind trip around central Europe. You can read it on Scotcampus.com here.

 126

Rome

How we got here: Flight – London Stansted to Ciampino, Rome
Where we stayed: Hotel Oriente/My House hostel(5/10)
Attractions visited: The Colosseum (a MUST), the Roman Form, the Vatican, Castle Sant’Angelo, Trevi Fountain, The Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, Piazza Navona
Best way to navigate within the city: by foot or via Metro

 

I’m writing this onboard my first ever high speed train from Rome to Florence and it’s moving so quickly my ears have not had the opportunity to regulate themselves. A gentlemen wearing a navy suit and far too much finger bling for my tired eyes to handle has just examined my ticket – well, I thinkthat’s what he asked for. Like I say, I’ve been trying to pop my ears. If not knowing Italian wasn’t hard enough in this situation, I also can’t hear anything. The poor guy might’ve just forgotten to put on a watch this morning, and if so, I hope he thoroughly enjoyed looking at my passport photo anyway.

 

So far, my experience in Italy has been an education. Turning up in the city centre of Roma to begin we were distraught to discover that our hostel had fallen through, teaching us right from the word ‘GO’ that back-up plans are essential. Safety for the night came in the form of an emergency night’s stay in a nearby hotel, a lovely, immediate 90€ setback. Locals creep at every second corner in Rome, watching tourists struggle with their backpacks as they look desperately for some English-speaking companionship and juggle holiday money into broken pay phones – something you should be constantly aware of if you’re ever travelling abroad. 

 

During our stay we visited as many of Rome’s Top 12 Tourist Attractions as we could manage (see above), as recommendedon the back of a 5€ map – all of which I would recommend you wear comfortable walking shoes for. Although everything is accessible by foot, one landmark generally leads straight into another and you won’t want to stop moving. The beauty of Rome’s architecture is amplified in Italy’s sweltering pre-summer peak heat and the buzzing atmosphere generated by keen tourists from all over the world follows you everywhere you go.

 

The Italians were generally quite accommodating offering advice in English whenever we needed directions or were asking for prices. However, pedestrian crossings and green men appear to hold little to no value in road safety acting as more suggestive than compulsory guidance. So, if you don’t develop eczema worrying about pick pockets, crossing the road will fit the bill just as nicely and you’ll probably internally scream a lot. 

 

Italy actually offer many discounts for EU citizens and students of history or architecture which is pretty cool. Their desire to keep access open to their historical landmarks is clear throughout the country; you should definitely ask about what’s on offer for you if you ever visit museums, libraries or galleries.


 

 

Cinque Terre

How we got here: Train
Where we stayed: Cinque Terre Holidays (6/10)
Attractions visited: Island ferry which visits all five islands
Best way to navigate within: you must travel by boat or train to reach all parts of the area

 

Cinque Terre (literally translated to ‘five lands’) is collection of rugged, former fishing towns located along the coast of the Italian Rivera. Having shifted away from their fishing roots many years ago, the locals survive nowadays entirely on tourist expenditure and making wine. The summer months, therefore, are crucial to Cinque Terre’s existence. Relics of the previously thriving fishing industry – like rowing boats, unusually colourful algae-stained houses and nautical decorations – are present throughout each of the five villages and attract a lot of tourist attention to each village. Despite having to balance the incredibly steep climbs into each buzzing town square with the hinderance of luggage and 30 degree heat, every level of the villages are well populated.

 

The quickest way to experience all of Cinque Terre is via the frequent drop-off boat service which operates between the coasts of all five islands at a cost of 15€ for the whole day. Due to having such a limited time here, we also utilised the boat service – like many others – to appreciate  each town from a distance as there is little difference between the first four. The train station is located in number one, Riomaggiore, and sees hundreds of tourists off onto aqua shores a day but the most popular area is island number five, Monterosso. Monterosso is positively buzzing with street performers, gift shops, beach go-ers and exciting outdoor water adventures to embark on. So, if you do not wish to donate a lot of your time to this unique setting, a visit to just Riomaggiore and Monterosso is enough to get the main idea.

  

 

Venice

How we got here: Train
Where we stayed: Nuova Locanda Belvedere Hotel/Hostel (8/10)
Attractions visited: Spiaggia Libera beach and San Marco Square
Best way to navigate within the city: Water bus

 

You’ve seen it before littered within the pages of romantic epics and Hollywood action movies: the city of romance, of disguise, of water… And intrusive “looky-looky” men. The turquoise blue canals of Venice sparkle in the sunlight beneath intricately designed bridges, even when it’s raining (which it did, quite a lot actually). The beautiful thing about visiting is that you don’t need to trudge through museum after museum to fully appreciate the fascinating life of those who have lived here and sculpted the city which the world still marvels over today – though, there is  plenty of culture on offer for those who want to. 

 

Venice was a very laid back conclusion to our hectic trek across Italy spent mainly in shops comparing masquerade mask prices. (They’re quite big over there.). Dotted all over the waters are men dressed in black striped t-shirts and straw hats rowing excitable tourists through the more intimate Venice canals on gondolas with plush velvet interiors. While we were not on a budget that enabled us to freely part with 100€ for this luxury, it appeared as though hundreds of others were every day. If you visit on a bigger budget, this definitely looked fun to take part in.

 

In Venice, we also spent a lot of our time simply watching water busses and gondolas swim by carrying daily commuters going about their business. Once again this involved making use of the island boats and watching things from a distance. Taking a few hours to observe from the outside is proving to be the most eye-opening method of learning on this trip, one which I believe must be applied by all those who travel.

 

Summary: Italy

HighlightVenice in the sunshine

Downsidethe overwhelming population of illegal souvenir sellers at every tourists corner

 

 

{As a result of food poisoning, we will no longer be visiting Croatia due to a shortage of time. Our next stop takes us to Budapest where we are both excited to have some “properly cooked” Goulash, mmmh…}

 

 

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