Italy…

So I got it in my head that Italy would be a kinda cool place to check out.

As luck would have it a friend from work was planning a tour group experience of Northern Italy… and even more luck kicked in when I heard a good friend from work was also going to go and even encouraged me to consider chilling in Hong Kong for a couple of days prior to Italy.

So just after Christmas I packed my suitcase with clothes and a smaller bag with camera, eReader and iPod and boarded a plane to Hong Kong. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into our hotel in Kowloon and began our exciting adventures. Travelling allowed me to connected with my inquisitive side and my desires to see and experience new things. Honkers was great, the bright vibrant colours and the clean efficient environment made for easy exploration and loads of laughs and wow moments.

At night in Hong Kong the skyline is incredible and the immensity of the city is highlighted by sharp contrasting lights on every building.  It wasn’t what I expected the city to be like and I was pleasantly surprised on numerous occasions.

From Hong Kong we flew to Milano in Northern Italy. We had a day of exploring the city and I managed to nearly get run over by a stampede of Moroccan men who were trying to escape the Polizia as they ran past me with their illegal counterfeited handbags and other wares with a little car giving chase. I saw the Duomo and it’s amazing outer work and stood on the side of the street enjoying a fresh arancini. We travelled for a day trip to Como and enjoyed a ride on the lake drinking in the serenity and stunning environment. We rode the funicular to the top of the mountainside and oohed and aahed at houses we’d never be able to afford and speculated which one might belong to George Clooney.

We caught the train to Venice where we hauled our luggage up 5 small steep flights of stairs to our room which left us giddy from the altitude and delirious from the thoughts that we’d have to do it for 5 days. I fell in love with Venice. Strolling is my favourite pace of walking and so it was that I felt at home keeping pace with the locals and tourists alike as we took our time wandering from shop front to piazza to small bridges and to small alleyways.

Arriving several days before the tour was to begin was the greatest decision we made. It meant a day trip across the water to the small island towns of Murano and Burano, of the two I couldn’t pick a favourite. We met a local who told us to see Torcello so we did where I managed to take some of my most favourite photos of the entire trip.

Venice meant I got to see the Duomo, the Doge’s Palace, the Accademia, The Peggy Guggenheim gallery as well as a variety of  glasswork shops and mask shops. We came across a little shop of handmade works on the day we decided to let a coin flip decide our directions and I walked out with a puppet of il Dottore della Peste (the doctor of the plague). We were lucky enough to be in Venice for the feast of the Epiphany which included a hotly contested witches gondola race to the Rialto Bridge. This was followed by celebrations in a small piazza with hot red wine,  hot chocolate, biscotti and venetian chocolate.

From Venice we travelled in our newly formed tour group to Castle Brando just out of Treviso. The castle sat in fog which gave it a beautiful atmosphere. We spent our evenings wining and dining before retiring to the dungeon for cocktail hour, one of the evenings we had the pleasure of listening to a trio of musos who sang songs in a variety of languages. We had a day out to Roccat winery where we tasted great Prosecco and then bought many bottles for the rest of our trip.

From there we travelled over the Dolomites stopping in the snow long enough for a snack and to practice our snowball throwing skills. We stopped on the way down the mountains at a friend of our tour guide where we enjoyed afternoon tea complete with a shot of grappa. We stayed in Trento for  several nights enjoying a visit to our sister school as well as a side trip out to Verona to check on Julliette and make sure Romeo was behaving himself.  I managed to dazzle my tour group friends with my amazing entry into the amphitheatre which included a slip, a drop and a forward roll and a show stopping final pose. Then I had the pleasure of teaming up with the irrepressible talents of Kathy G and we proceeded to demonstrate our acting skills in the very centre of the grounds for all to admire complete with the cry of “Are you not entertained?!”

We travelled out to Torino which was the surprise of the tour for most with a plethora of things to see and do and a welcoming attitude about the whole city. We visited Don Bosco and the Royal Palace. We had tea in a tearoom and walked to the spire where we rode the lift to the highest point for views of the sprawling city before spending near 3 hours soaking up the history of cinema in one of the most amazing museums I’ve been in. The exhibition was on horror films and the history within was detailed and incredible. We even managed to star in a clip of the Matrix much to our amusement.

From Torino we took the winding roads out to the coast to the small town of Levanto. This town was beautiful! We stayed in a palace and pretended we were wealthy Europeans visiting the coast for the sea air. The sun came out and gave us a beautiful clear day as we travelled through the 5 small cliff towns that make up the Cinque Terre. I have one of my greatest/funniest memories from this day as Anita and Kathy G decided to make a break for it and run from the lady we thought was scamming us for money. As the lady screamed “come back… where are you going? Oh mamma mia!” We watched as the two girls sprinted back and forth up the stairs in plain view of everyone in our small group. We may have skipped out on paying for our ticket to walk the trail, but karma returned when we tried to ride the train in the wrong direction only to be caught by the inspector and fined 50E for not having the correct ticket. We made sad faces in the next town but couldn’t help but laugh in the evening.

From Levanto we travelled through Tuscany admiring the landscape before arriving at Siena where we would spend 4 nights. Siena was amazing with an incredible history that is both rich and exciting. Learning about the Palio only made the city more enjoyable as we strolled the streets and explored to our hearts content. Once again we had the pleasure of being the only ones in the hotel we stayed in, meaning we didn’t impacted on others when we decided we really should have a girls card night that soon got very loud, very funny and very messy with an exploding bottle of Prosecco sparking us all off into gales of laughter. We travelled for day trips out of Siena, with one day devoted to the glorious city of Florence, and another day to San Gimignano. Both so very different and yet beautiful for different reasons. Florence was commanding and inspiring in it’s architecture and artwork, whilst San Gimignano was like a small town with quaint streets and coffee shops and towers… so many towers! I climbed the Bell Tower in Florence and experienced vertigo in the small narrow stairways. I saw the Uffizi art gallery and loved the statues of Niobe and her children forever immortalised in fear as they stood witness to their impending death from the wrath of the goddess Leto.

Behind Venice, Siena was my second favourite place in Italy. the history and the culture that exists in Siena made it so interesting and enjoyable to explore and the people were lovely.

From Siena we made our way to our last destination which was to be Roma. We stayed in a convent during our time in Rome which proved to be a great source of amusement for me as the sisters reminded me of my nonna and the place looked and smelt like my nonna’s house. It rained the whole time we were in Rome but we still managed to check out the Colosseum, the Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, the Vatican City and of course the oldest Gelati factory in Rome just happened to be on the same block as the convent… too good to be true!

I’ve thrown a coin into the trevi fountain so I guess one day… I’ll see Rome again.  Italy did a lot of things for me. It helped me visualise history that I wanted to understand and it helped me to understand my own genetic history a little more. I also found out some truths about myself, some of them I’m not quite ready to talk about but have at least come to accept, which in turn has given me some peace of mind.

Our stop over back in Hong Kong allowed me to spend money and that’s what I did. I got an ePad (Android is fun) and a mini projector (which I think I’ve fallen in love with). I’d do this trip all over again in a heartbeat it was that great, I made some great friends and saw some incredible things and I’m forever thankful that I’m in a position in life that has allowed me to experience what I did without fear or concerns.

Now I’ve just got to adjust to being back home… at least until April when I will travel again! Look out Cambodia I’m coming to see you next!

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2 Responses to “Italy…”

  1. pam ogilvie Says:

    Great work lindy lou. Love your blog

    Pam

  2. Thanks Pam you’re so cool! 😀

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