My time in Italy comes to an end tomorrow, and that might be a good thing as I think I have actually turned into gelato. Or pasta. I might now be a pasta-gelato mutant. Keeping up the blog while in Italy has been challenging, so please forgive me. There is enough to see here to keep a visitor busy every waking moment.
What an experience the past 12 days have been. No matter which city you find yourself in, Italy is a cultural masterpiece. From the seductive winding canals of Venice, the thought-provoking masterpieces in Florence, the tranquil beaches of the Cinque Terre or the ruins of the Eternal City of Rome, you would be be stressed not to find your muse.
My time in Italy has been vastly different from the rest of my adventure. The weather has teetered between 75-80 degrees, making for a complete contrast to the icy streets of Poland. There is a challenge in changing climates– I’ve had to lug a snow jacket from place to place! The sultry afternoons call for gelato and chilled wine as you stroll down cobblestone ogling Prada. I’ve officially stepped over into tourist high season and I am experiencing the full force of that implication. Hello selfie sticks. So. Many. Selfie. Sticks. The quest for water and bathrooms has never been so critical. There is an energy to the rambunctious busy time, but you will also find yourself begging for a moment of quiet respite.
In contrast to my usual ways, I feel diving into much history is futile. Italy is a well-known veteran of the world (at least everyone knows a thing or two about her), so I won’t bore you with old news. And although there were naturally a few moments of comedy and travel mishap, my time here went pretty smoothly. For one, the language was less of a barrier. I don’t necessarily speak Italian, but I know a enough survival phrases to navigate the city, find the bathrooms and keep my wine glass full. What else do you need, honestly? 🙂 Ironically, of all the places I’ve been, Italians have spoken the poorest English. Even in busy hotels and restaurants, the English can be choppy. It forces that brain of mine to work on over drive, that’s for sure!
Part of my struggle to update is trying to capture my specific moments during my time here became overwhelming. There is so much to absorb that putting it down into thought is paralyzing. Around every corner lies a fragment of ancient history, a bustling sidewalk cafe, a horde of comical tourists or a pictorial landscape.
I began in Venice, which I managed to capture in words before my mind became over-stimulated. 🙂
My three-days in Florence were a non-stop journey through some of the greatest minds the modern world has known–from artistic genius of Michelangelo to controversial science of Galileo to the plotting, conquering Medici family. A place like Florence is enough to humble anyone. In one day I looked David in the eye, then climbed the brilliant Duomo tower, then fell in love with The Birth of Venus.
Florence can a bit overwhelming. It’s narrow streets are crowded, it’s hot, lines are long and there is so much to see it’s hard to know where to begin. On some great advice, I picked up a Firenze card–an all-inclusive museum pass that let’s you skip the line. A pricey splurge at $70 for three days, but once you skip past the miserable hours-long line at the Uffizi Gallery, it’s all worth it. As in every day life, time is valuable when traveling and it’s important to evaluate where your money is best put to maximize your experience. I might splurge on a way to save hours in line, so I will just grab some take-away street food that night to make up for it.
From the hustle bustle of Florence, I headed to the gateway to the Italian Riviera: The Cinque Terre. The Cinque Terre is five pristine individual towns along the coast, close enough to hike them all in a day but all with their own unique brand of Italy. I stayed in the quiet, more work-a-day Riomaggiore–a sleepy fishing village free of cruise ships and all-you-can-drink margarita buckets (sadly, the resort mentality has reached the once unsullied shores of the northern towns). My room was 200 steps up a winding corridor of little apartments, lined with lazy cats, chicken coops and vibrant lemon trees. Run by a little local lady, she proudly pointed out her flourishing lemon tree and said I was free to take some. From my window, I could see the vast expanse of the Ligurian Sea, the colorful hillside buildings drunkenly leaning into one another, the emerald mountains east and the unhurried town below. It’s the kind of place where you wake to the rooster and the bustle of the morning fish market as an ocean breeze rustles the lacy curtains. Where you sip limoncello by a lapping shore and both the chef and the fisherman responsible for your dinner sit down with you and light a cigarette, curious as to what brings you to their sleepy town. The kind of place where all time slips away and you might awake in a hundred years.
Part of me was ready to leave the sleepy coastal existence out of fear if I didn’t get on the train, I might simply disappear into the whimsical dreamland. In truth, while sipping time away waiting for my transfer train at the La Spezia station, it was tempting to just turn back around. But the Eternal City awaited, and that is after all one of the crown jewels of my journey.
I’m currently listening to the vibrant streets of Rome below. I’ll have more to stay on that tomorrow, but right now I must complete my transformation into gelato.