Verona: It’s a (Fictitious) Love Story, Baby Just Say… Yes?

Love, ah Love!

Some people live by it, while others die for it. And amongst the latter, the most infamous couple in history are none other than Romeo and Juliet. Even though (yes, it’s true) they might not even have existed. Who knows? And yet to the town of Verona tourists flock, in a bid to see the city in which Romeo and Giuletta was based in (and may have lived). Yes folks, that’s Giuletta and not Juliet to y’all. Them Italians don’t use the letter J!

There’s the whole love locks done to the n–th degree here, as well as the notes to Giuletta (why, I ask you?). And of course, the statue of Giuletta – touching her breast is meant to make one lucky in love. This I DEFINITELY do not understand. Didn’t her love interest ingest poison and well, die?

People will find whatever means to make others do stupid things (or pay money) it seems.

Love locks in Verona

Love locks in Verona

Graffiti on Juliet's House

Graffiti on Juliet’s House (Casa di Giuletta)

Verona Market Square

Verona Market Square

Verona Market Square

Verona Market Square

Verona Arena

Verona Arena

Statue of Juliet

Statue of Juliet – touching her breast is meant to make one lucky in love.

Juliet's Balcony

Juliet’s Balcony

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Snapshots of a Sinking City: Highlights of Venice

The last big city of my Italy trip. Also known as the Queen of the Adriatic Sea, the City of Masks and/ or the City of Canals. I’ve always wanted to go with my significant other, but – well, I thought, why not just GO? After all, who knows how many more years it will remain above sea level? The first sight that greeted my eyes was the Grand Canal. Venezia, oh how beautiful you are.

Throngs of tourists? Check. Inconsiderate pushy people? Check. The occasional obnoxious Italian trying to navigate their way through tourists and pushing their way without so much as a scusa? Check.

And yet, I fell in love with this city. Because as I sat at the edge of a secluded pier with Davide (a friend from Couchsurfing), I could envisage in my mind the mysterious wonder of mist rolling in during winter. The beautiful lights of San Marco twinkling like fireflies trapped in the gray refreshing fog. Boys laying down jackets so their girlfriends won’t have to step on puddles (in the case of acqua alta, I suppose more drastic measures might be called for).

And in this city, La Serenissima, love and dreams walk next to one another, hand in hand. And lovers embrace, each smile answering an unasked question in their partner’s heart.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

View from Rialto Bridge

View from Rialto Bridge

Santa Maria della Salute Basilica

Santa Maria della Salute Basilica

Piazza San Marco (St Mark's Square)

Piazza San Marco (St Mark’s Square)

Acqua alta (High Water)

Acqua alta (High Water)

Gondolas of Venice

Gondolas of Venice

Canals of Venice

Canals of Venice

Lucca under the Tuscan Sky

My favourite Tuscan city, Lucca. As you walk on the ring park located above the city defensive walls, you fancy that you hear the wind rushing through the narrow alleyways. Looking around, buildings are in shades of sandstone. From a tired dusty yellow to a cheery beige, there are 50 shades of yellow stone represented.

It takes about 15 minutes to get to Torre Guinigi from Lucca’s train station. However, do not miss a walk around the city walls – a nice leisurely 4 km stroll. Torre Guinigi towers (pun unintended) over the city, with 200 – 300 stairs to the top. All in all, one of the most manageable towers to climb thus far – I think Siena or Florence’s were the worst. Definitely do it, definitely visit Lucca. If you do not visit anything else in Lucca, the experience of spending an afternoon here is more than enough! Especially if you should fancy an Under the Tuscan Skyesque experience.

This was the town that time forgot, and definitely one of my favourite Tuscan cities.

The streets of Lucca

The streets of Lucca

Lucca

Lucca

The Duomo di San Martino, Lucca

The Duomo di San Martino, Lucca

View from Torre Guinigi

View from Torre Guinigi

Lucca

Lucca

The City of Pizza and Squalor

I was told that people generally had two reactions to Naples – they either hated it or they loved it. Unfortunately, I was very much the former. Don’t get me wrong, I can certainly understand and see why people would love it. It’s gritty and real and in your face in a way that Rome was not. However, my first experience of Naples went like this:

I step out of Stazione di Napoli, or Naples’ Central station. Clutched in my hand is a slightly crumpled map to Hostel Mancini, located across Piazza Garibaldi. As I walk down the main road connecting Naples’ Central station to Garibaldi Square, catcalls and hoots ring out after me. Yes, there was no escaping it – I felt harassed as I made my way to my hostel. Pungent scents wafted off the heated surface of the pavement and I play a little game where I try to wheel my bag along the road while avoiding cars that go zipping by at (sometimes) dangerous speeds. I am not a fan. 

I stayed in Naples for 2 days. I ate some pizza. I left.

Streets of Napoli

Streets of Napoli outside Hostel Mancini

At Da Michele, Napoli

At Da Michele, Napoli

This is the famous pizzeria featured in Eat, Pray, Love. Da Michele is a family run pizzeria. As I walk in, the fragrant scent of baked bread and tomato surrounds me. The place is crowded, families sitting and happiness is the flavour of the day. I was amazed by the cost of a pizza here – 4€ for a pizza!

Pizza Margherita from Da Michele

Pizza Margherita from Da Michele

I ordered a Pizza Margherita – the picture above shows the basil, fresh tomato sauce baked into the mozzarella and the dripping olive oil. My first bite was heavenly – the chewy dough combined with the crisp crust and tanginess of the sauce. I’m not a huge pizza fan (still am not), but I had to admit this was pretty amazing.

Abel, Jon & I

Abel, Jon & I

Abel and Jon got bored in Rome and came down to visit me in Naples. After they foretold all the possible disasters that awaited me if I stayed on in my hostel (they’re pretty gloom and doom), we decided to grab dinner and head back to Rome for another day.

Panorama of Naples

Panorama of Naples

So, Naples is sandwiched between the coast and the mountains. There you go.

La Notizia Pizzaria

La Notizia Pizzaria

Pizza Napoletana from La Notizia

Pizza Napoletana from La Notizia

For dinner, we headed to La Notizia. I would say that Da Michele had better pizza than La Notizia, but that could possibly be because we stuffed ourselves way past full in La Notizia- once I pass a certain level of fullness, food just tastes bad to me. :p Oh well, thank you Naples for the food!

Strongly Suggested in Rome

Louder and larger than life, Rome dazzles the senses. From the ripe tomatoes that tease your tastebuds before exploding in your mouth, to the weathered old men grabbing their hair raising caffe from their regular morning bar, and to the ghostly images that flit through your mind as you take in the ruins of a long ago ancient past.

Here are some recommendations with regards to experiences that I hope will help to solidify Rome as one of your favourite cities as well. This is of course, assuming you’ve done the major relics and sights that Rome has to offer. Because nothing – not a single bit of it – should be missed.

1. Eating Italy Food Tour

http://www.eatingitalyfoodtours.com/taste-of-testaccio-food-tour/

The tour I went for was the Taste of Testaccio, in which we were brought through traditional markets to see where the Italians bought their fresh produce and ingredients as well as sample the best of traditional italian food. Sincerely, DO NOT MISS.

Here are some of the moments from the specific food tour:

Tiramisu

Tiramisu

Testaccio Market

Testaccio Market

Flavio

Flavio

Suppli’ (Fried Risotto Ball)

Suppli’ (Fried Risotto Ball)

2. Ride a Segway around Villa Borghese

Segways may be found for rent at a rather affordable rate around Villa Borghese Park. You definitely don’t want to miss this experience with views like these along the way:

Pincian Hill

Pincian Hill

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

Villa Borghese

All Roads lead to Rome

All roads lead to Rome? Roma Aeterna‘s history spans almost three thousand years. Birthplace of the Baroque style, many structures owe their inspiration to Rome. And as I walked down the cobblestones in summer, I envision Michaelangelo, Raphael and Bernini doing the very same thing hundreds of years ago. In this gorgeous city, exploration is best done by night when the hordes of tourists go to bed (the picture of the Trevi Fountain was taken at 2 a.m.). If the sights and names of the Vatican, St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel should fail to inspire you, you may be beyond help.

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Trevi Fountain, Rome

The narrow alleyways of Rome

The narrow alleyways of Rome

St Peter's Square at night

St Peter’s Square at night

Colosseo

Colosseo

Palatine Hill Ruins

Palatine Hill Ruins

Lungo il Tevere Roma (Summer festival along the River Tiber)

Lungo il Tevere Roma (Summer festival along the River Tiber)

Pantheon

Pantheon