Monday, 29 June 2015

Florence!


And the next stop is…. Florence!

After the chaos of Rome, Florence felt like such a nice break. We were still doing a lot of walking around and we were always exhausted by the end of the day, but it just felt more relaxing than Rome. It was so beautiful as well. It’s situated in the basin of a few hills so you get the feeling of being in a city but there is also the beautiful view of nature all around you.




Florence is such a cultural city. There are loads of religious buildings everywhere - the hostel we were staying in was actually a converted convent, right next to a still active church. There are also so many art galleries as it’s believed to be the birthplace of the Renaissance style of art. We went to the Uffizi Gallery when we were there and saw Botticelli’s Venus (as well as quite a few other paintings and sculptures), which was pretty cool and made Ashleigh’s day. The Last Supper used to be there, but they moved it to the Galleria del’Accacdemia unfortunately… 



My favourite place we visited in Florence was the Boboli Gardens. 
They were the gardens behind the Pitti Palace, which was formerly the residence of the grand duke of Tuscany and later of the King of Italy. 
 The gardens were so big and absolutely beautiful. Because they were high up, you got an amazing view of the entire city of Florence as well. After a long day of sight seeing, it was great to be able to lie in the gardens and just relax. Of course you had to pay to get in, but it was only 3.50 euros (for students) and it was worth it because it was so beautiful.




The Duomo was also beautiful. Unfortunately it was under reconstruction when we were there (just like practically everything else we saw in Europe), but it was still gorgeous. 





I would definitely recommend Florence to anyone who wants to go away for a short romantic break. Everyone says that Paris is the ideal romantic destination but I would disagree. Florence is definitely the city of love.

I read a lot of travel blogs before I left for the trip and I read quite a few posts that said that Florence had the most amazing good. Seeing as we were on a student budget we didn’t really get to experience this… we were feasting on an average diet of store bought bread, sliced cheese and ham to fuel all our walking. However, if you’re going away for a nice short weekend break, definitely check out some nice restaurants and see if Florence lives up to its culinary reputation.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Rome!


First stop… Rome!

Our euro-trip started in the capital city of Italy. We landed at about 9pm, had to get a shuttle bus to the main train station in town which took about an hour, and then try and navigate our way to our hostel. By this point it was roughly 10pm. It was dark, we were three girls with massive backpacks on who were exhausted and had no idea where we were going. Safe to say it wasn’t the greatest start to our trip. But somehow we managed to stumble our way to our hostel and collapse into bed. I don’t think by this point it had even really hit us that we were actually in Rome, let alone about to start a 3-week long backpacking tour around Europe. I don’t think it really hit me until the next day when we got up and walked to the Colosseum (??!!) which was only about a 20 minute walk away from our hostel. 





Rome was such a strange place in my opinion… it was just like any normal city and it was actually pretty run down and dirty and there was graffiti everywhere, but you would turn a corner and bam! There was the Colosseum, or there was the Pantheon. It was surreal. I don’t know what I was expecting but I don’t think it really lived up to my expectations. Not to say that it wasn’t so cool to see all these famous, historical sites because it really was! I just think I expected more from it. I was expecting this beautiful city that I would be in awe of and be dazzled by everything that was there, but it wasn’t really like that. It was so chaotic and crazy and dirty and the drivers there were erratic.

I’m making it sound like I hated it! I’m not meaning to! I did love it and I’m so happy I went and I would recommend anyone to go and visit but unlike Florence and Venice, I don’t think I’d necessarily go back. I saw all the main sites so there isn't really anything else I would get out of going back.








Also, just for all the girls out there, especially the ones who are super pale and have red hair like me, be expecting to get lots of stares and comments from Italian men. It was so strange. It is such a touristy place and with all the Western movies and tv shows and things like that, you’d think they would be used to seeing people like me but they really weren’t. They had no reservations about staring and saying things to us. I was even asked by a waiter after we had finished our meal for a picture. It was so surreal. I didn’t really know what to do so I just said yes but we got out of there pretty sharpish after that, especially seeing as his hand was inching dangerously low whilst we were posing for the picture…

If anyone is looking for a hostel to stay in when they are in Rome, I would definitely recommend the one we stayed at – the Sunshine Hostel. The host is so nice. She treated us like her own children. She gave us pastries every morning even though we hadn’t paid for breakfast and she hugged us when we left. Its quite a small hostel but its clean and comfy and the showers were good. That was something that ended up being very important throughout our trip and we ended up finding ourselves judging the hostels based on their shower facilities.  For three of us for 3 nights, it cost about 166 euros, which is actually pretty good for a hostel in Rome. We met some really nice people there as well. One thing I learned from staying in hostels is that you’ll make friends with any random person that’s there at the same time as you.

Also, something we did basically the entire time we were there was rush through everything. We kept waking up really early and getting out the door by 9:30am and go see all of the things we wanted to see and we’d be done by like 2 in the afternoon and then we’d have nothing to do for the rest of the day. It meant that even though we were exhausted, we’d feel like we were kind of wasting our time there. So if you’re going sightseeing, take it easy. You’ll think there’s so much you need to see but everything is really close together and you’ll be able to see it really quickly. I mean, we managed to walk to the Vatican in about half an hour, and we thought it would take us all day. If you want to see the Vatican by the way, get there early. By the time we got there, there was a queue 4 hours long. Needles to say, we did not wait in it. We also just wanted to see the Sistine Chapel but you couldn’t do that. You had to buy a ticket to see everything so it got quite expensive. Seems a bit strange that it was so expensive to get in and there were so many stalls set up outside the Vatican selling things. Seems like something Jesus would have been very much against… 



If anyone is planning on going to Rome and has any questions, feel free to ask!