Italy – February 2015

These are only a couple of the pictures I took last week in Italy. The trip was meant as a celebration of travelling alone and the fact I was able to travel still, as I have absolutely no idea what my life will look like after I finish my internship on October 1st. I booked the tickets back in November – Rome was easily accessible with Ryanair, I always wanted to go to Bologna (it is a student city famous for its food, so no real surprises there) and Trieste ranked #1 on Lonely Planet’s 2012 list of “most unsung places”. I originally intended to go to Napels as well, but figured that there are limits on how much one can walk around and sit in trains whilst sleeping in hostels in a mere six days, so I abandoned that notion. I do intend to go there at some point (I have heard rumours about a Caravaggio church, so I NEED to go).

A couple of my experiences below:

  • Rome is as beautiful as ever. I was blessed with sunshine for the first two days, but even in the rain it remains absolutely stunning.
  • There are only six places left before the beautiful San Paolo fuori le mura has filled all its papal medaillons and Rome will supposedly perish. Pope Francis’s portrait has been executed wonderfully.
  • I was not able to throw a coin in the Trevi fountain as it was being restored and according to local legend it is now not sure if I will ever return to Rome – which is absolutely unfounded, because there is no way I am not returning in the future.
  • Galleria Borghese is still one of the greatest museums in the world.
  • Rome’s street vendors are selling selfie sticks en masse. This makes a lot of sense, seeing as Rome is very selfie-photogenic.
  • Street vendors cannot resist the temptation of money waived in front of them, even if it means they need to sell their goods at a price that is probably making them a loss. I would hereby like to thank that street vendor near the Colosseum that sold me a large umbrella for three euros after a good two minutes of “I really do not have more than three euros, look at it” in the pouring rain. I greatly appreciated your generosity. Sorry I left it in that Bologna art house.
  • Words cannot express how good homemade Italian mozzarella is in comparison to storebought mozzarella in Belgium or The Netherlands. I had a very good lunch at Obicà with the “intense” mozzarella variety.
  • The ‘visciole’ (wild cherry) flavour at Giolitti is divine.
  • Bologna is a maze and a map is absolutely necessary – I would recommend a Use-It one, which my Airbnb hostess provided for me and was very helpful. I like to think that my sense of direction is better than average, but Bologna threw me off. Its galleries are very useful in the rain and some of them are adorned by pretty frescos, so it is definitely worth looking up. I had an amazing lunch for an amazing price at Trattoria del Rosso  – menu del giornos in Bologna can certainly hold their own against menu del días in the Basque Country, and that is saying something coming from me. I will probably make a post about my love for Basque food in due time.
  • Whilst waiting for my night train, I sneaked into a little cinema showing “Mr. Turner” for three euros. Apparently this particular cinema (which I found with my Use-It map) was part of a wider network of what I think is predominantly arthouse cinemas showing European films, called Europa Cinemas. I had never previously heard of this initiative, but I think it would be worth checking out now that I am back in Belgium.
  • I found out that I do not particularly like Guinness whilst passing time in Madigan’s, the Irish pub closest to the station. In retrospect, I should probably have ordered that Carlsberg. [Update: it wasn’t poured very well].
  • Night train survival skills: spread your valuables in your bag. That includes taking multiple wallets. Only put largely unnecessary stuff in the wallet that is most easily accessible to your robber, because he will very likely throw it out when he has managed to rob you. This is how my identity card was stolen and how I retrieved it two coupés down in the garbage bin ten minutes after I realised it had been stolen and had called my mother in panic. It would be best if you manage to fall asleep in a coupé with more than two other people still in it. It would be even better if you fall asleep in a position wherein no one is able to open your bag at all.
  • Trieste in early February is cold. And windy (apparently the wind is referred to as the “Bora” and yes, it is akin to stormy conditions in Belgium or The Netherlands). And snowy. I would just generally not recommend going there in the winter. I am sure it is absolutely lovely in the summer. The train ride there is absolutely spectacular with stunning vistas over the Adriatic.

I am already excited for my next trip – hopefully it will be Spain in April. I will not be able to travel during the summer due to my internship, so that probably means a lot of weekend trips.

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