Italy Part 2 – Venice, Florence & Rome!

Venezia,

Firenze,

e

Roma.

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…Italian city names are definitely on point.

Having spent  1 week darting to-and-from each to the next with my 3 gorgeous girls: (A, Y & Y), Venice is now probably my most favourite European city ever. By night, it turns into a sheer wonderland…

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And, I now know where to find the best fro-yo in the world… (Rome!)

We also started to suss that any restaurant worth going to would not need a creepy man in a bow tie outside luring girls in with bluff offers like “women eat free tonight!” or some free wine on the house – yeah, right, BYE “honey bunny”.

If the menu looks crap, that’s probably because it is crap…in Italy you can pretty much judge a restaurant by its cover….but we learnt this a little too late. In the end we go so sick of the excessive Euros spent on rubbish meals and disappointing/so called bargain ‘tourist menus’ (we are students after all) that we decided that local supermarkets would be out best friends and supplier of 1 euro pizza slices and fresh baguettes in the evenings. We saved the final night in each city as the ‘special’ night for eating out.

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We also liked to co-ordinate ourselves in pretty dresses according to our theme for that evening…Did someone say Maxi night? :)

But even so, due to the over-consumption of gelato…

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and Italian pastries (I HAD MY FIRST CANNOLI, OMG):

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We weren’t even hungry in the evenings so there was really not much point in having entire meals to ourselves.

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I think I mentioned in the previous post that we all kept our own mini travel diary (more like a list of messy bullet points) of little events that occurred throughout the week. I’m going to try and import some of those things into this post if I can de-code my writing and perhaps unpack my yet still untouched hand luggage…Here goes!

Venice:

  • First impressions: Were along the lines of wow, it’s hot. The weather was around 25-28 degrees during our stay. After emerging from Santa Lucia station, the first thing in sight was the Grand Canal right straight ahead. Pretty. The city didn’t seem as busy as I had thought it would be (definitely a perk).
  • Since everyone had pretty must warned me against the hustle and bustle of Venice, I was expecting to be disorientated by a sea of oncoming people as soon as I got out of the station; but this wasn’t so. It was busy, but there were just a lot of people sitting around. Nothing chaotic, which was pretty nice and let us admire the buildings + bridges as we waited for the hotel guy to meet us…Our first (smart) investment was a big ‘ole collapsible MAP.

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  • Hotel: We went for an apartment. It was seriously cheap but pretty nice. It was situated about a 10 minute walk from Rialto Bridge though it was tucked away on its own cute + little side street, which was peaceful. We had our own kitchen. Even though this should have meant eggs for breakfast, the cutlery was really dirty and the dishwasher didn’t work so we attempted it once and never again…The shower was full on freezing – permanently. Nevertheless it was spacious and comfortable enough. On the morning that we left, we were frantically trying to find our key so that we could make our train…but with the key nowhere to be found + every bin emptied out, we opened the front door to find that it had been in the door for the entire night….close one. Our ‘landlord’ had already assured us that Venice was safe. We had also got our own sense of this over the 3 days that we were there for, but this was proven when the key had lain untouched all night! Silly mistake…

For anyone thinking of going to Venice, I would seriously advise arranging to meet up with your hotel/apartment owner beforehand (if they will), since there are zero roads (and therefore no taxi’s) and because money spent on the ferries is a waste of time- you can walk from one end of Venice to the other in under an hour, everything is close by. On our final night, we had just arrived back at the apartment in the pouring rain. Our flip flops were saturated and our makeup was running. Outside of our little, dark backstreet stood a bunch of soaking wet + bothered mum and 2 kids with suitcases trying to hold up a map. We asked if they were okay and quickly ushered them into our apartment so that they could see their map clearly. It was around midnight and they had been dropped off at the wrong end of Venice. Dark out, the sky was chucking it down and they had no idea where they were, let alone how they were going to make it to point B…Their names were Christina, Emma and Ben. They were from Canada. The kids were so optimistic and self assured about everything, despite their hopeless situation! This was great, since it was a while before they managed to contact their own hotel owner to meet them at someplace else. We finally managed to get them there and it was such a relief to hand them over to their final destination for the night. What lovely people they were!

  • City – Venice is beautiful, Venice is colourful, and Venice is bright…Venice is full of fabulous gelato by both day and night (#rhyme). We didn’t do any rigid sightseeing. We walked everywhere so we just wandered in a given direction, always stopping to look inside shops and pretty much just taking our sweet time (it took us 3 hours to do a 15 minute walk and we didn’t even realize until the way back). We saw pretty much all of the sights and they were so pretty, but since we weren’t under any kind of structured tour, we also got to see the back roads of the city and discovered loads of little corners, canals and streets that made perfect + uninterrupted photos.

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  • It definitely wasn’t as busy as we had thought it was, and that pure tranquillity in the air undoubtedly comes from the fact that there are zero motor vehicles around – this was something which we had gotten all too used to by the time that we had moved onto Florence…

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Venice introduced us to the city pests. Without wanting to sound too mean, there are so many annoying street vendors + general beggars to pester the heck out of tourists and won’t leave you alone (for the 10th time today, no, we do not want your sunglasses or toy rubber balls with eyes) Although we understood that those begging for money may be desperate, it reached the point where they became plain intimidating. Money was being demanded as if it was expected of you – a touchy topic; and you were constantly being watched + targeted from afar. This was definitely not a comfortable feeling and it really got tiring after an entire week of it all over the streets, trains and even in restaurants (yes, you would be eating lunch and suddenly someone hover right next to you with a cup of coins, pointing adamantly at your plate of food). Prepare to be cursed after doing your best to ignore their angry plea for cash.

But with all of that said, there are a lot of genuinely homeless people sleeping around with dogs in the main cities in general. I personally felt that any loose change was more gracefully given to those who hadn’t out rightly asked for it in the first place. But even in our group of girls, feelings on this issue were pretty /conflicted…

and lol…

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  • Shops + Food: There are loads. A lot of them are pretty repetitive, but they all sell good food + snacks. The gelato is irresistible and the patisseries too. If travelling here, and you expect to have an evening meal out, then I’d recommend restaurant hunting whilst out during the day. Mentally saving the good restaurants saves evening indecision.

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  • Sightseeing: All we did was walk routes and take pictures. This was fun.

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Florence was also super pretty. The architecture is like a hybrid of both London and Paris, but it is more ‘reserved’ and less bustly as a city…though the general road traffic was quite a contrast to the peacefulness of Venice.

IMG_9509 - Copy IMG_9545 - Copy IMG_9553 - Copy IMG_8956 - Copy IMG_8890 - Copy IMG_8882 - Copy IMG_8854 - CopyWe had a cool + centrally located hotel with an amazing continental breakfast buffet (though we still went crazy on supermarket ‘albicocca (apricot) croissants and PLUM CAKES!!). The gelaterias in Florence were top quality. The stacks were some of the highest we saw during our trip, they were at least 30cm high and swirled with love…Florence was definitely the most expensive city for both food + souvenirs.

We climbed up 2 of the cathedral towers…10 Euros for an all day ticket was good. The climbs were crazy. The staircases were so incredibly narrow + dark (and 2 ways!!). The only incentive to keep climbing was the horrifying thought of potentially being trapped inside those narrow stone walls forever…We did one first thing in the morning, but had to come back for the bellower climb in the evening since you have to pass through the cathedral in order to get to the staircases and we weren’t dressed right to go in (fair enough).

But here was the view…the climbs were utterly exhausting, but these sets of views greeted us and made every single bit of exasperation + reluctance (in the evening) well worth it!!

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During the days we trekked around the city, we saw the pretty Baboli gardens and the Ponte Vecchio Bridge – the place where we scheduled our return trip for sunset – which on one night was INCREDIBLE!! After a crazy trawl through the streets we reached the bridge and wove our way through the crowds to catch this stunning sundown within 30 seconds of its disappearance…phew!

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The photo does not do it justice at all! The four of us got separated. A and I decided to make a bolt for it. We ran as fast as we could down the road pulling at each other’s hands screaming “Oh my god, Oh my god OH MY GOD!” My 250mm lens was bobbing around like crazy on my neck and our flip flops were throwing us into the paths of cars (those crazy Italian drivers again) at high speed…but we made it!! We stayed until twilight, enjoying the view whilst Y sketched the scene.

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After it got dark, we dawdled back through the pretty lights of Firenze. We posed for some more pics and then saw a real life butterfly catcher. ..Casual.

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By Saturday we were moving onto Rome…such a big city it turned out to be! Our accommodation was a bit of a joke…despite thinking (courtesy of booking.com) that we were signing up + paying for a b&b, we arrived at a huge block of flats with a massive gate like a chamber and had no idea where we were supposed to go from there. Little did we know that 4 floors (and 8 staircases or a dodgy elevator upwards) was the little Asian guy who ran our ‘room’. Basically, this guy owned this flat with 4 ensuite bedrooms and 1 kitchen and was renting them out to tourists….when we arrived nothing was done. We sat on the bed and waited for him to scrub the toilet and clear the crumby food mess that the last people had made. The ‘hotel’ printer was also broken so we delayed our informal payment for as long as possible, before settling for a hand written receipt.

Nonetheless, although we didn’t get the best first impressions of this place…it turned out to get more comfortable as we started to trust it more as a legit place to stay…we might invest a bit more next time! Or perhaps we were just spoiled by Florence?

Rome was way busier than either of the last 2 cities. On the way there, we were very cautious of strange pick pocket women taking ‘helping’ out train passengers with their luggage as they boarded. Sounds helpful, right? It is, until you realize that only they now know where your luggage has been placed…

Our ’hotel’ was right next to the train station: Roma Termini. Situated on the edge of the central city, the area was not quite as nice as those 10 minutes away. We did not enjoy being creeped out by the dozens of leery men who hung around on the neighbouring streets, especially at night…

We also found the Coliseum extremely under whelming and very overrated. It is literally just an ancient building stripped of all authenticity…overcrowded and far too over priced as well.

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For me at least, the Rome highlight was definitely seeing the Vatican…

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And the 24 hour patisserie near by…AKA: Necessary pit stop.

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Oh, and let’s not forget THIS saucy policeman guiding traffic across the road!

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We had a lovely dinner to mark our last night…

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Before an amazing final gelato each to top it all off…

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We climbed the Spanish steps at night…

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Before hurrying hurry in order to get rid of the street vendors trying to shine LED’s up our skirts and another cheeky vendor desperately following us for our attention; before trying out: “you like sex?” Wow, seriously? It was time to run the few miles back to the ‘hotel’.

It’s quite enchanting how much cities change at night; when people are off the streets and the air feels fresher! You can walk in the road and see the pretty lights all around you. You can also link arms with your girls and put Taylor Swift on loud speaker, before revealing your true selves to any over-hearing passers by…

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Italy was so fun! In fact, it’s so stiffening to type this entire trip up because I can’t quite believe that it all happened so fast. Week 2 in Italy was just the biggest blur! We had so much fun and laughter and random memories that we will only remember as the 1 word triggers which we managed to jot down in the diaries…I thank God for cameras so much! I swear, by the time the trip was up my camera actually felt ‘denser’ from all of the photos that it was pregnant with! Backing them up was the biggest relief of the month.

Unfortunately we didn’t find the opportunity to wear our bikini’s…but we are dead set on being travel buddies next year too! Yay!!

Has anyone been to either: Venice, Florence or Rome? What did you think of them + which was your favourite?

Do you think that my opinion of the beggars is too harsh?

Do you ever try to find cost-savvy ways of saving money on holiday/vacation mealtimes too? Is it wise to look up restaurants on trip advisor – or is this kind of planning too rigid for a holiday?

And lastly, what are your summer agendas?! I want to know what everyone else is up to this year too!

I’ve been back for one week now and it feels like forever! I have a couple of sweet-tooth inspired/butter cream based reviews coming up, as well as a yummy London fish and chip review too! –  Basically three of the best things ever. Be excited and come hungry.

The foodie is home.

 

Have a fabulous week! Happy Monday!

 

Tash xo

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