Backpacking Europe: Italy

Benvenuto. Picture it…Sicily 1922 a young peasant girl…naw just kidding but I did make it to Italy. I couldn’t wait to experience all of what Italy had to offer from the marvelous museums to the mouthwatering gelato. Now, there are a lot of divine cities to visit while in Italy from north to south, from countryside to city side, you will never get bored. Since I only had some much time to visit Italy I wanted to experience all the major cities and sites working my way from the top of this booted shaped country to the bottom. 

Venice

Venice is built upon 100’s of small islands which are separated by canals and linked together by bridges. In the pass Venice has been known by many names: The City of Canals, The Floating City, The City of Bridges, and others. There are no roads in Venice just canals weaving in and out of this ancient city full of history and charm.

In my opinion since Venice is a very small city, it doesn’t take long for a visitor to see the major attractions. I ended up sending a full day here and leaving early the next morning because it literally just took me a couple hours to see and do everything I wanted.

I arrived at the Venice train station from Vienna that morning. After I located my hostel I was off to explore the city. The streets and the buildings were nothing like I experienced while backpacking Europe. There were so many canals and twists and turns, you could certainly get lost down there but no problem, the island is so small you will eventually find yourself back to the main square. My first stop was Piazza San Marco which is the main square in Venice where many come to sit and eat, watch the nearby sea, or enjoy feeding the pigeons. I went to visit St. Mark’s Basilica which is located in San Marco square. It was free to get in St. Mark’s but be sure  to cover yourself before visiting (this is something I would have to learn while visiting many churches in Italy). The knees and shoulders must be covered when entering the churches and since I forgot about this rule I had to pay a €1 to get piece of fabric to cover my legs.

Other sites to see and do at San Marco Piazza is Doge Palace, tour the Grand Canal, or take a gondola ride. I chose just to send the rest of my time exploring the different streets while enjoying chocolate gelato after chocolate gelato. Later on when I went back to my hostel I met Carlos from South America who was into photography so in the evening we explored Venice beautifully lit city at night and took photographs. After a night of fun, I was ready to take off to the next city so the next morning I was on the first train headed to Florence. 

Florence

The next morning I was so excited to be heading to Florence because I was dying to finally see, in person, the birth place of Michelangelo’s David. Now this is one of the things I don’t like about Italy; you have to have a reservation for the train. If you don’t they will make you buy one or kick you off. Every other European country I visited if you didn’t have a reservation for the train that simply meant you would have to stand so I thought it would be the same in Italy…nope I was wrong. When it came time to check tickets I showed the guy I had a Eurorail pass and a reserved ticket but my ticket was for a later train. At the time I purchased the ticket I thought I would need a longer time in Venice which I did not. He said that I would have to buy another reservation ticket for the train I was on…crazy. I refused, I said why should I have to buy another one when I have one already but he stated it was for a later time. I told him I was not going to buy another ticket for €22. And so I found myself somewhere in between Venice and Florence in some train station, that still to this day I don’t know what city I was in. But it didn’t matter to me because the next train was coming in an hour so I would wait for the next one and be a stow away. As I was waiting at the station for the next train to arrive, I occupied my time by reading and editing pictures. It was here that that I met the first of quite a few guys I would be appealing too, Lawerence. He was not an Italian, he was from Africa living in Italy. At first he was nice and just came up to me having a polite conversation. Then as the conversation progressed Lawrence’s true colors came out. I will just leave it at, he wanted me to stay in that city with him and not go to Florence until the following day. I wanted to get away from him, not because I was scared or anything but because he was starting to get annoying. I grabbed my stuff and headed to the platform because the train was suppose to be coming and guess who decided to follow me *rolling my eyes*. As I was waiting for my train, which is now late, I had to listen to crazy Lawrence profess his love for me and beg me to stay (it’s just my luck that it’s never a hot tall Aussie like Chris Hemsworth to say stuff like this to me…whomp whomp). My train finally arrives, thank God, 15 minutes late and I can finally bid Lawerence, adieu and good riddance. At last I’m back on track heading to Florence and to make sure there won’t be any other occurrences of being kicked off the train, I hide in the bathroom till the train reached Florence.

Oh, what a beautiful site Florence is; the beautiful architecture, the sculptures, the landscape it was all breath taking. I headed to my hostel to check in and it’s actually an apartment covered into a hostel which is super cute but there is no time to dillydally I had a new city to explore.

The Florence Cathedral, Piazza della Signoria, Piazzale Michelangelo, and Palazzo Vecchio are all the places I visited my first day. A copy of Michelangelo’s David is located in Piazza della Signoria but later I would find out that the copy doesn’t compare to the real one. I met a really nice and fun girl in my hostel, her name was Ece and she was from Istanbul. She became my travel buddy in Florence and later on in Paris.

The next day Ece and I visited Uffizi Gallery and Galleria dell’Accademia where Michelangelo’s David is housed. David is the most gorgeous statue I have ever seen. The only words that I can find that could best describe the exquisiteness of this sculpture is to quote from Michelangelo: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” After the museums I had to catch a train to Pisa to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I was only going to be in Pisa for 2 hours and head back to Florence. I walked from the Pisa train station to the Leaning Tower and when I got there I was able to take one picture of tower before my camera was stepped on and broken by some woman from Holland. I made that idiotic family pay me €60 for my camera. I took some more pictures with my phone but I was upset about my camera. I couldn’t fully enjoy my time at Pisa so I couldn’t wait to get back on the train to Florence.

When I arrived back at Florence while I was walking to my hostel I met Richardo, an Italian guy. He invited me to his place for dinner and he also wanted me to change my train ticket and stay in Florence longer. I don’t know whats up with these Italians. When I got back to my hostel everyone was at the kitchen table talking and smoking (I think everyone in the hostel smoked except for me). It was a beautiful gathering of people from different parts of the world sitting around the table having a conversation. This is the main reason I love staying in hostels; you can’t get an experience like this staying in a hotel. After the conversation ended Ece and I went out to explore some more of Florence and say goodbye because the next day I was headed to Rome and Ece was headed north but we planned to meet in Paris.

Rome

Aw Rome, or Roma for the Italians. The birth place of government, art, literature, and it was one of the largest empires in the ancient world. My motto while visiting Rome was “when in Rome, do as the Romans do” although later this would come back and bite me in the butt. First on my to do list was to visit the Vatican Museum, see the Sistine Chapel, and visit St. Peter’s Basilica. I would recommend buying your tickets online before visiting because the line is very long for purchase and it’s a shorter line for pre-purchased tickets. I walked to Vatican City and it felt like I was walking during the time of ancient Rome 1. because I was wearing my gladiator sandals and 2. because there are still ruins from the once great Rome empire present as you walk down the street.

The Vatican Museum is filled to the bream with so much art that it would take days or even weeks to see it all. There are paintings, sculptures, statues, and artifacts which are exquisitely crafted but the heart and soul of the Vatican Museum is the Sistine Chapel. Oh it was a site to see like with Michelangelo’s David, I was in awe of the Sistine Chapel; another master piece by the master. Words cannot describe the beauty within this room, it’s just something you will have to visit in person. Once you’re done admiring this work of art, head out the back door and go down the stairs and turn right. You will be at the door of St. Peter’s Basilica.

The stunning St. Peter’s Basilica was once the largest church in the world and stands in Vatican City. This is the traditional site where the apostle Peter was crucified and buried. His remains are located underneath the alter inside the basilica. Once inside there is a beautiful sculpture created by Michelangelo of Mary holding Jesus’s body after he was taken down for the cross. The other popular statue is of St. Peter, this one can be touched. Many people come to touch the foot of Peter which is now completely smoothed down. Take your time here, there is a lot to see and take in. Also, be sure you are covered (knees and shoulders) when visiting the basilica because they will not allow you inside.

After my visit to Vatican City I headed back to my hostel for a little R&R before heading out for the night. When evening came I decided to head to a vegan Italian restaurant. As I was looking at my map to see where I was headed, this guy asked if I needed help and I said I did. He asked if I was going to have dinner and I said I was and he asked if he could come along. Sure. His name was Luka, an Italian lawyer for one of the soccer teams. We had dinner that night and had a great discussion about our love of nutella. After dinner he took me on the back of his moped at night to the Spanish steps, the Trevi fountain, and St. Peter’s basilica. It was the perfect evening in Rome…well until I made a rookie mistake. Remember how I mention my when in Rome motto was going to come back and bite me in the butt…we’ve come to that point in the story. Luka, with his very causal Italian tongue, asked if I would like to come over and I said yes (not really thinking; kinda like if someone offers you a piece of gum). I won’t go into to much detail but I got myself into quite a predicament and had to high tail it out of there to diffuse an awkward situation. I found myself running down the street at 2:30am in Rome thinking to myself that I needed to change my flight home to stay longer in Europe…I’m having way to much fun.

The next morning I visited the Colosseum; my first new world wonder and my second world wonder. The Colosseum is a massive stone amphitheater, once the center house of Roman entertainment for gladiator combats and wild animal fights. It is now a major tourist attraction for people all around the world. Get here early before it opens to get your ticket and beat the morning crowd and the afternoon heat. If you don’t want to pay for a tour guide, before leaving home download Rick Steve’s app. He gives you an audio tour of the Colosseum.There is so much history buried within those walls…if only they could speak. Just find a quiet spot on a stone and take it all in and enjoy the moment. Also included with the ticket into the Colosseum is entrance into the Roman Forum which isn’t as impressive as the Colosseum but still there’s a lot of history to be learned. After the Colosseum and Roman Forum I got on the train to Naples. The sole reason I was in Naples was to eat at Pizzeria da Michele. The same place Julia Roberts ate at while filming Eat, Pray, Love. I just had to try their pizza because of how much the author of the book enjoyed the pizza there and after all Naples is the birth place of pizza. Now when it comes to true pizza the ingredients are very basic just marinara, mozzarella, and a couple leaves of basil. The pizza was very good and cheap. The rest of my time in Naples I explored and got some gelato; killing time before my train came. As I walking down the street enjoying my chocolate gelato, yet again another Italian guy decided he wanted to get to know me better *rolling my eyes*. His name was Peter and he was in the jeans industry. Then he started to tell me how he wanted to show me the “true” Naples and not the city and he wanted me to stay and change my train ticket. Timeout: I’m getting really tried of these guys who want me to change my ticket to stay in their city longer. I was mainly insulted because none of these men even offered to buy me another ticket for my inconvenience of changing my train ticket…how rude (in my Stephanie Tanner voice). Needless to say I was very happy when I was back on the train heading back to Rome. Once I got back to Rome I went to visit a few more church and the Pantheon. The next morning I would be leaving for whats to be the best city of them all…Paris.

I’m in love with people and places I haven’t seen yet

  

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