So I was going to post each day about my adventures throughout Italy, but I thought that one long consolidated post would be better, there is so much to talk about and each day I have been writing little bit by little bit of what I have been learning about myself and the world throughout my travels. Although it would take me forever to tell everything, I have picked out the best bits from my Italian adventure to share on this blog (and I’ll have many other stories to tell when I get home for sure).
I left Sydney on Friday January 2nd 2015. After recovering from a great New Year’s Eve/going away party at my place, ringing in the new year lying in my backyard with my friends in a unicorn onesie, I finished off all my last minute packing on New Year’s Day. I said final goodbyes to some extended family and I was all set to go, I was leaving 35 degree summer to head to my very first European winter. I went to the airport with my mum dad and brother and my lovely honours supervisor/mentor/friend Gwyneth came to see me off at Sydney airport before I left. A bit emotional when I was leaving, but once I got on my flight I was okay.
My first flight was good, Sydney to Perth with no delays, then Perth to Abu Dhabi was delayed by three hours. After killing some time at Perth airport (thank you free wifi) I was on my way to Abu Dhabi for my longest flight out of the three, 11 hours. I have realised that I am actually a pretty good flyer, turbulence is actually quite soothing weirdly enough. I have realised as well that I really don’t know what everyone is complaining about re: aeroplane food. It’s actually quite good. Maybe it’s because my only other experiences flying are with Jetstar to the Gold Coast and Adelaide, but yeah, aeroplane food rocks. Once I got to Abu Dhabi, I only had a 2 hour wait for my next flight, which was good because I pretty much walked the entire length of Abu Dhabi airport to catch my flight to Rome, so I had plenty of time. We were delayed on the Tarmac for another 2 hours because of fog, which was sucky, but it meant that my time into Rome was 9am instead of 6am, which was okay with me.
My first day in Italy was January 3rd, I flew into Rome airport at about 9am, after leaving Sydney at about 9am the previous day. So after 24 hours of travelling and little broken sleep, sitting on three flights to reach my destination, I had arrived. I wasted no time in exploring the new city and booked a tour for the next day to Naples and Pompeii. My first day was spent getting used to my new surroundings and immersing myself in the Italian culture. After having my fair share of gelato and cannoli, I successfully avoided feeling jet lagged (I put this down to staying up all night the nights leading up to my trip away, totally in preparation for the new time zone or something like that haha). I experienced my first European shopping trip and bought a new snow jacket (for €25 down from €75 so I think that was a bit of a win and now I have a jacket for the snow). I now know the struggle of wanting to buy everyone awesome souvenirs but probably not having the baggage space to fit them all in to bring home (it’s okay, I have 32kgs of baggage on the way home and am prepared to wear layers upon layers of clothes so I can get more stuff, or maybe I will post some things home haha).
In walking around and getting myself a little bit lost in Rome, I found the most beautiful places and met the most amazing people. I walked past a man who was sitting down in the piazza and was offering Palm readings for €20. I spoke to him for a little while (I’ve always been interested in having my palm read, but when I found out the price, I said oh, I’ll just have the tarot card reading (it was only €10) but he said he’d do the palm reading for €10 for me. It was interesting, apparently I have a very long life line (which is always a good thing) and said that I am very passionate person who will be very successful in my career and won’t have to worry about money (yay). It was funny though, cause he picked up on my relationship troubles and he said that I will meet someone in Europe and I’d wind up staying here. Who knows right?
Day two in Italy and I was up nice and early ready for my bus tour to Naples and Pompeii. I have decided that although the cities in Italy are absolutely beautiful, I have a soft spot in my heart for the countryside and this was reaffirmed throughout my bus trip to Napoli. It was amazing to see the sights of the city and the tour of Pompeii was eye opening. We had lunch at a small Italian restaurant (included in the tour, which was good) and I made friends with an Australian family who were now based and living in Germany. The tour also lead me to meet a family who lived in Sydney and were over in Italy touring around and visiting relatives and a group of people travelling from Moscow for their winter holiday break. I bought some chilli key ring souvenirs and took so many photos of the amazing cities of Napoli and Pompeii.
Monday in Roma was my first full day of exploring the city, I bought a citysightseeing bus ticket (those red double decker bus tour things you see in Sydney) and planned my day to visit the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and Colosseum. Vatican City was amazing, and a great testament to how much money the Catholic Church really does have behind it. It was interesting to walk through the Vatican museum, every single room was breathtaking, just to think about the hours upon hours of work that went into all the paintings and sculptures there was absolutely incredible. In the afternoon, I went to visit the Colosseum and took some amazing photos of the sun setting there. On the way back to my hotel that night, I caught the last citysightseeing bus for the whole round trip. I liked driving around the city and seeing the sights that way. I got some amazing photos and was snapchatting everyone like crazy because my bus had free wifi.
After having such a good time on my tour to Naples and Pompeii on Sunday, I decided that I wanted to book another tour. It was a good way to meet other people who were travelling and I wanted to see more of the Italian countryside. The cities, while all beautiful places do not hold anything on the pristine Italian countryside. Next time I visit Italy, I really want to have the opportunity to drive around more, especially to visit Cheti and the province that my family comes from. I do think that the Sicilian islands would be lovely to visit as well, and I would not be opposed to coming back here in the winter time, around December to January, the temperatures are quite mild, it’s really nice, still cold, but because it didn’t rain and wasn’t windy it was quite manageable (though I am not sure that I am going to be able to say the same about the UK, haha).
Tuesday was my next tour, up early again to meet the tour group and this time I was catching a high speed train to Florence for the day. The transportation system in Italy seems to run quite smoothly from what I have encountered (though I am excited to get to Oxford to not have to travel for a few weeks). On arrival in Florence I met another solo traveller, an American lady named Susan. We spoke together before our train trip and before our walking tour started in Florence we both took the 400+ stair climb to the top of the bell tower for an amazing panoramic view of the city.
In Florence, we walked around the city with our group before checking out some of the museums and immersive ourselves in the culture of Firenze. We were walking to lunch from the main piazza near the church and were approached by some gypsies with their faces painted white and wearing matching white costumes. This was my first experience with the infamous ‘Italian gypsy’ who Nonna always spoke of me becoming one. They were quite nice but I always made sure to keep my bag nice and close to me.
This tour group was full of Americans, and I mean full. There was a family from Texas, Susan, another family (who I think may have also been from Texas) and two other ladies who were travelling together, all from the U.S. On the tour, I was also mistaken for an American by our tour guide. Apparently my accent isn’t typically ‘Australian’ or whatever. American people are nice, but you can so tell that they are American haha.
Lunch in Florence was lovely, we had a few hours of free time in the city after lunch with the tour group. I did my best to adhere to the stereotypical Australian stereotype and was the only one on my table to have a drink of wine. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t drink wine… You’re in Italy! Haha.
My free time in Florence was spent browsing in the many stores (so happy it was sale time, troppo saldi!) and I was lucky enough to witness the buona festa parade. January 6th in Italy is a public holiday, continuing on from Christmas called Epiphany, celebrating the three wise men finding Jesus or something. All I know is that according to Italian tradition, a witch come on this day and give presents to kids, so any excuse for a parade and presents right? It was amazing to watch the parade and be a part of an Italian cultural event.
It was great fun getting lost in the little alleyways of Florence. At one point, because streets were blocked due to the parade, I got so lost so I went to speak to a police officer to ask for directions. I asked him if he spoke English and he said a little bit, I replied “parla Italiano poco poco” (I speak a little bit of Italian) and eventually he helped me with directions to get back to the meeting point of my tour group.
After getting back into Rome quite late on Tuesday night, I decided to go out for dinner. Up until now I had been eating at station cafeterias and food bars because they were a lot cheaper and the food was amazing, but I thought that I should go out for dinner at least once when I was in Rome. I found a small Italian restaurant (go figure right) and ordered my favourite Italian meal, gnocchi. Not as good as Nonnas but it was a nice meal (and the waiter gave me his number and a free shot of limoncello, so that is always a win).
Wednesday I got on a plane and headed to Venezia. The only leg of my travels that I didn’t have transfers from the airport to my hotel booked, but I thought it would be okay. It wasn’t a bad day to waste travelling actually, it started to rain just as I got to Rome airport. Unfortunately, my flight was then delayed. Hours later, it was dark, but I was in Venice so no complaining. I got my luggage (three massive bags) and left the airport, determined to get to my hotel. After purchasing a ticket for the bus to piazza de Roma, I was on my way. Getting three massive a bags onto the vapporetto (water bus) in the dark when I didn’t know where I was going seemed to be quite a challenge, but I had help from the lovely vapporetto attendant who helped me bring aboard all my bags and reassured me that this was the correct was to San Marco piazza, where I needed to be to get to my hotel.
Eventually, my vapporetto ride ended and I was at what I believed to be San Marco piazza. After one wrong turn, I found myself navigating the back streets of Venezia, (which by the way have way too many stairs for anyone travelling with any luggage, let alone three bags) at around 6:30pm at night. It was absolutely freezing, I had no idea where I was and all I wanted was some wifi and my hotel room.
Eventually after walking in circles for what felt like hours, I found my hotel room. I have never ever been so happy to check into anywhere in my whole life. Venice is beautiful and the trek was totally worth it, but I think that I like knowing that I have transfers to and from my hotel and the airport ready to go before I get somewhere. It was a great adventure and learning opportunity and now I know for next time.
My full day in Venezia was not going to be wasted! I got up nice and early Thursday morning ready for a day of exploring around Venice. With the vapporetto ticket that I bought, I was entitled to all travel on vapporettos around Venice and used this to my full advantage, heading over to Murano to explore a little bit before coming back to San Marco piazza to visit museums and go on a gondola ride.
I was trying to find the best and most cost effective gondola ride option. In walking down San Marco piazza I stumbled upon a small tour company group who were offering gondola rides and a 2 hour walking tour of Venice for €42, as opposed to the €80 they wanted to charge just for a 30 minute gondola ride. After learning about the architecture of Venice and why people came to live on the islands in the first place, it was time for my gondola ride. It was an amazing experience navigating through the small canals of Venice and was interesting to see how much of Venice relies on the waterways for the functioning of their city and how much it has developed over the years.
Of all the cities in Italy that I got the chance to visit, Rome was the easiest to navigate. I think that because Naples, Florence and Venice all have very small, often identical looking walkways, it’s easier to loose your bearings (also, if you think that is the same church or pizza shop as you saw before, you are probably wrong, there are churches and pizza shops on every corner, haha). I loved all of them equally and I hope that I get the chance to explore more of this wonderful country sooner rather than later.
My trip to Italy was over way too soon. It was so amazing though, my first big European overseas adventure by myself begins in probably one of the most beautiful places on earth. I would highly recommend travelling to Italy, especially in the winter time (and you all know how much I hate winter at home). I hope that next time I can spend some more time here driving through the traditional non touristy spots of Italy (although driving here terrifies me just a little bit, they are all crazy) and learning more about my family’s heritage.
I have to make sure that a note the amazing support that I have felt from back home during the entirety of this trip. It’s weird, it is kinda a good feeling knowing that people back home miss me a little bit, it’s only really been a week, but I miss all of them so much. I guess when things like this happen in your life, it shows who in your life is always going to be there for you, whether you are at home or half way around the world. It’s nice to know that I have people who are looking out for me and the fact that people are still messaging and checking in on me is kind of amazing.
Last year, my life changed forever. I finished uni, I finished a toxic relationship and in these last few weeks I have grown more as a person than I have in the last 12 months. I am excited for 2015, I’m excited to be living and breathing it right now, taking on all opportunities and relishing the fact that I am lucky, but I am lucky because I worked hard to be lucky and I don’t need anyone else to be able to appreciate that.
Travelling alone is one of those things I think that everyone needs to do at some point in their lives. It opens your eyes to new experiences and although being quite lonely at times, it shows that you that you are never really alone. Even if feel like there is no one who cares, chances are there is someone who does, you just don’t realise it. You learn to rely on yourself. No one in life is going to help you with your luggage, nor should they, you shouldn’t expect anyone to do anything for you. That’s not coming from a cynical viewpoint, but just reinforces that the only person that you can really rely on to move forward in your life is yourself. No one owes you anything and if you keep thinking that the world owes you something, you will never be successful. In saying that though, there is an importance in being there for others without expectation of the same in return. I’m optimistic that people in my life will help me and be there for me, but I’m not reliant on anyone at all anymore and I never want to be again. Through all the big life pondering realisations and time to think, travelling alone opens your life up to different experiences you wouldn’t find with anyone else. In saying that though, I can’t wait to travel with a travel buddy again, but I’m glad I did this by myself.
Next stop is London and then Oxford to begin my new crazy adventure of working as a research fellow. I am so excited to get started and get the chance to broaden my research knowledge, write another amazing research paper and of course, see more of the sights and travel around Europe! As much fun and games as this trip has been, I am super serious about giving myself the best shot at having an awesome career and this role is the first step into that, so I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.
Big shout outs to everyone who reads this post, I know it’s really long, but I have tried to break it up with a few photos and all that as well (you are obviously an amazing person for reading all this way and I appreciate you a lot).
I will be primarily be using this blog from now on to document my time as a research fellow working at PRIME research, so my apologies in advance if some of the content is a bit dry and research-y. I will continue to write about my travels and adventures in England and Europe and post updates on Facebook (and send snaps to all those who have me on snapchat, isn’t social media wonderful?) so you can all keep up to date (and keep being jelly :P) of my travel adventures.
Thanks for reading. I feel as though you should probably have some sort of degree now because this post was so long. Haha.