Gray day in Venice. Luckily I've got a nice apartment, five cool American chicks, and- of course- this blog post to keep me going :)
My time in Italy is up! One day more and I head for the hills. Literally- I'm going to Vienna. And gaining a travel buddy (finally) along the way. It's crazy to imagine I've been solo-but-not-alone backpacking for essentially one whole month now. And I've got basically only one month (okay, five weeks) left until I return from my time abroad. I'll have been out for eight of the past twelve months once I touch down in STP. Insane.
But it's a bit too early to get nostalgic for experiences I'm still not through with. Let's talk about Italy.
Rome I already briefed y'all about. Amazing city to walk around in, but I moved on pretty quickly [in retrospect, definitely WAY too quickly] due to my severely lacking social scene.... C'est la vie.
Florence is where I left off in blog world. I stayed there four nights (the longest of any city in Italy- and actually in my backpacking journey so far) because I really just couldn't get enough of the city! To me, it felt like Rome on a smaller, more Cleome-friendly scale: less streets to get lost on, a bit calmer vibe, gorgeous river in the middle with actual grassy banks, and still lots of old buildings and museums to go check out.
Another reason I felt no need to rush out was thanks to the cool people I met (at last!). I met a guy studying in Rome, Max, my first night, who acted like my guide around Florence for a day. A fun group of five American girls studying in Grenoble (France) checked in the next night, and that's who I'm staying with in this apartment in Venice. And I found a museum-going buddy in Robin on my last full day in town. So a much better friend scene there, which allowed me to take my time and enjoy the sites a little less hurriedly than in Rome.
Florence is definitely near the top of my "Favorite Cities I've Seen" list.
Bologna [I think the English and Italian names are the same...]
Now this was a different type of tourist experience.
For one, I was only going to Bologna because I had a place to stay (my dad's old Italian girlfriend and family live there- not that I'd ever met them... but in traveling, any and every connection is valid). I don't even think there's a hostel there. And two, Bologna is not really set up in any way for tourists. Which is great! Makes for a very authentic Italian town experience. But for all the pros (no entrance fees, no one speaking English, no people trying to sell you stuff on the street), there are also some cons... mainly that NO ONE speaks English. Makes it tricky to, say, buy a train ticket, or, for example, understand when people are yelling at you for entering a private art showing....
But I loved walking around the city! I pretty much just walked down cool looking streets, under all the archways, and into any open door I could find. Not many large monuments, but enough to keep you occupied for a good chunk of time. Also, Bologna has parts that are incredibly green and flowery and gorgeous. Which I was able to find thanks to having a tour guide in the form of Cinzia- my mother for the two days I stayed in Bologna :)
Getting that homestay feel in the middle of traveling was an experience too great for words. In backpacking you're always in a hostel, no privacy, strangers everywhere, everything costs you money, and you feel the need to go go go. Being able to sleep in a non-bunk bed, in my own room, have my meals cooked for me and my laundry done, was almost too much. I felt immediately at home, and just went into relaxation mode. Which was desperately needed. [Though now I'm finding it hard to motivate myself to get out and do my normal eight hours of walking a day....]
So I was really sad to leave Bologna. 'Nuff said.
Venice is one of those cities I'm pretty sure the majority of the [Western] human population wants to see. Because it's supposed to be magical- it's a floating city, for goodness sake. One that may go underwater in the not too distant future... but let's not think about that.
[Also, not sure if everyone but me realized this, but an aerial map of Venice shows that the city looks like a fish. How cool!]
I think Venice is a nice place to visit, certainly, but a few days is by far enough (for me). It's so cool walking around as there are no cars, narrow, twisting alleyways lead everywhere, and you're surrounded by water. But the city is also extremely touristy, expensive (literally everything costs money- and more euros than the rest of Italy), and has NO nightlife. I'm serious. It's like a ghost town at night. So I guess a decent spot for a family vacation, then... haha.
Walking around and stepping into church entries (so I don't have to pay <- cheap backpacker tip), plus the occasional artsy shop has been fun. And getting lost in the crazy, non-planned city streets is definitely part of the Venetian experience. But after one more full day tomorrow (in which I'll be kicked out of the apartment where I've been holing myself up...) I think I'll have gotten my fill.
Though walking around at night, having the streets to yourself and taking in the reflection of lights on the water is quite magical. Venice works well for lovers I'd say, too.
To sum up Italy, I enjoyed every place I visited for different reasons.
Rome for the history and the walking and the monuments.
Florence for the atmosphere and the people.
Bologna for its authenticity and my insider experience.
Venice for its novelty.
Italy is a terribly beautiful country that inspires romance with every scene you drink in. Incredible cities. Ancient histories. Wonderful people (locals and travelers). Delicious food.
...But traveling through this country also burned a not-so-attractive hole in my pocket. I'm ready to stop living in poverty. I'm ready for Eastern Europe!
Vienna- it's on.