Oh me oh my, has this post been a long time coming. Since the beginning of March, I’ve been on no less than three holidays – a big ol’ trip to Japan via Budapest for a few days in April, and waaay back in early March myself and the boy popped off to the continent with his parents for a little trip to Italy.
I don’t now why I haven’t written about this until now – things seemed to have got in the way a little bit, but it’s better late than never, eh?
I’ve always wanted to go back to Italy – I went nearly 10 years ago on a school trip to Rome, but a) we were on a school trip, and b) there’s something about capital cities which makes me feel like they’re not really a proper reflection of a country. Either that or I was just a miserable teenager upset at spending 6 Euros on a pint.
Venice was a-m-a-z-i-n-g.
If you’ve never been to Venice before, there is absolutely no way of explaining just what the labyrinths of streets and canals are like in real life; one moment you could be squeezing your way down a narrow passageway, the next it gives way to a huge piazza with a massive church and little nonnas sitting on benches in the sun, chatting away and having a drink in the sunshine. It’s beyond lovely.
We went in early March, which I think was just before peak season, but even so it was bustling and busy in the streets, full of Italians and tourists alike. Being in Venice is almost like living on a film set or in a story book; there is something so familiar about it, having seen or imagined it numerous times, but even so there is something magically overwhelming about the sheer beauty of it which you just cannot prepare yourself for.
After tiring ourselves out walking around the labyrinth, we stopped off that evening at a restaurant a stone’s throw from where we were staying for the first of numerous pizzas. Bellies full to bursting and slightly tipsy from approximately 3 litres of wine, we toddled back to the hotel for some kip.
Waking up bright and breezy (with perhaps just a hint of a foggy head) the following morning, the first thing we decided to do with our full day in Venice was head straight down for a gondola ride. When in
Rome Venice, eh?
It’s one of those things which you have just got to do when you’re in Venice, and it definitely didn’t disappoint. Make no mistake, it is certainly not cheap – I think we paid about 130 Euros to go on an extended ride through the back streets – but you do see a side of Venice which you wouldn’t see normally (unless you took a swim in the canal).
The rest of the afternoon passed by in a whirlwind of beers, pizza slices, gelato and more exploration. We walked all the way down to San Marco piazza and saw the basilica, but decided not to stay for the pricey souvenirs, and so started meandering our way back to our side of town for a beverage and a spot of something to eat. On the way we passed the famous Harry’s Bar, which I stuck my neck into for a peek, and ate another slice (or two, or possibly three) of delicious pizza. I cannot tell you how much I wish the UK would catch on with this – there are pizza slice shops on practically every corner in Venice, each hawking slices for mere pennies, which disappeared faster into my belly than you can say ‘mozzarella’.
The following morning, after a swift final slice in Venice’s BEAUTIFUL train station (seriously, it’s like something out of Thunderbirds) we hopped on a train up North to Lake Garda, nestled between Verona and Brescia, a popular holiday destination for Italians and Brits alike.
The main town near to where we stayed, Peschiera del Garda, is positively charming. It was a bit too grey to see the lake, but we had a wonder around the town, stopping for coffees and ice creams like tourists do, even if the locals were bundled up in their puffa jackets. It was noticeably colder up in these parts, and people seemed to think we were a little strange for taking our holiday in the beginning of March when the season doesn’t really get going til the end of the month.
One of the highlights for me during our time in Lake Garda, I have to admit, was a sandwich. Not just any old sandwich, however. We stopped at a little health food/grocery shop/bakery/deli/adorable little place called Marco e Daniela Time, and were presented with the most beautiful sandwiches we have ever eaten in our entire lives. Me and the boy were over the moon with our veggie specials, and after a bottle of beer plus some biscuits drowned in marsala (and maybe a cheeky espresso) we were all set for the day, with massive grins on our faces and bellies full to bursting. If you’re ever in this part of the world at any point in your life, I urge you to make a stop here, it’s so worth it.
Italy completely and utterly surpassed all my expectations, and just looking at these pictures makes me want to go back. Italians are so welcoming and lovely, and even in a mega-touristy place like Venice we were made to feel at home. The difference between these two places as well makes me wonder what things are waiting to be discovered tucked away in other corners of the country.
If you’ve ever been to other parts of Italy and can recommend anywhere for another trip, please do let me know!