Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Out Of The Mouths Of Babes

As the last review, on the Sagrada Familia, might have suggested, we were in Barcelona. But only for a few days. Originally, the plan had been to spend a couple of weeks in northern Spain, then pop back to Scotland for a weekend of weddings, before continuing the travels. But for the last few months, Danielle's wisdom teeth have being causing her a lot of discomfort, and so we decided to pop back to Scotland for a couple of weeks. She had a couple of her wisdom teeth removed, and we spent a lovely week up north, in the country, at my mother's house.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Days 459 to 466: Rome

Rome. It's quite a famous city. It may be the most influential city of all time. The Romans turned it into the most fabulous city in the world two thousand years ago, and ever since then it's been on a roll. The Catholic Church set up shop there, Renaissance art flourished, and spaghetti carbonara was invented. It was the very obvious capital for a unified Italy from 1870. It's had its ups and downs, but there's no doubt Rome has lived a very full life. The evidence is all around. Rome is packed full of history, monuments, ruins, all gloriously spread across the city like juicy currants in a hot cross bun.


Monday, 14 July 2014

Days 454 and Day 456: Pompeii and Herculaneum

This is not a nice mountain.


Days 455 to 458: Sorrento

Sorrento is a coastal holiday town on the edge of the bay of Naples, about an hour in a dreadful train away from the dreadful Naples. It's... ok.


Friday, 11 July 2014

Days 452 to 454: Naples


Naples is an absolute dump. Finally, Italy doesn't deliver.

Pisa, Lucca, Florence, Siena, Perugia, Milan, Verona, Venice, and Bologna: all were wonderful, all I would happily return to. Even Genoa I'd happily spend some more time in, although I think Danielle would leave me to it. But Naples. Oh, Naples. Am I still in Italy? Is this still Europe? Or have I been transported to somewhere in the third world, a city piled high with rubbish and patrolled by people who look like they've just failed the auditions for Jersey Shore?

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Days 450 to 451: Bologna

"Where are you off to next?" the Hilton receptionist asked, upon check-out.
"Bologna."
"Ah, the city of arches!"
"Uh... yes?"


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Days 446 to 450: Venice

Venice has two prospective Wonders on my list: St Mark's Basilica and the Santa Maria della Salute. During my four days in Venice, I saw them, but no reviews will be forthcoming. That's because I wasn't able to visit them properly, and form a proper opinion. And that's because of this:


Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Days 443 to 446: Verona

Many years ago in Verona, a young couple in love died through a mixture of unfortunate circumstances and misunderstanding, in a tragedy to resonate through the ages. Their names were Romeo and Juliet and they are entirely fictional. Fortunately, their lack of actual existence is no obstacle for the modern day visitor to Verona, as the city has set up some "historical" landmarks to visit. Want to see (the fictional) Romeo's house? Why, there it is. How about Juliet's balcony, where the (fictional) couple pledged to be married? No problem. And what about Juliet's tomb, where the body of Juliet, and possibly of both Romeo and Juliet (both still fictional, of course) may lie? A sarcophagus is waiting for you. Verona is a strange place.


Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Days 441 to 443: Milan

I wasn't looking forward to Milan. A flash city of fashion, what possible appeal could this superficial city have for a fashion dreg like myself, who once used to only wear green because it made shopping quicker? After the delightful medieval haunts we'd spent our last two weeks in, this would be a different side of Italy, a brash plastic side where money is king. Well, I was wrong. Once again, Italy delivers - Milan is terrific.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Days 438 to 440: Perugia

In recent years, Perugia has become notorious in Britain for being the city in which Meredith Kercher was murdered under circumstances never fully explained. The press love a pretty girl, and in this case they got two - one of her convicted killers was a girl, also quite pretty. You can be sure she got a lot more press attention that the two men associated with the killing. Pretty foreign girls, possible sexual motives, unexplained killing, legal incompetence, a nice catchy nickname - "Foxy Knoxy" - for one of her killers, oh yes, it was perfect material for selling newspapers. Sadly, what has been overshadowed is the city of Perugia itself. It's not some subterranean haunt of shadowy murders, it is a truly delightful place of stunning beauty and surroundings, with a lively student population. Yet again, Italy delivers.



Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Days 437 to 438: Siena

Although the Sienese won't appreciate it (like all neighbouring Italian towns, there are centuries of rivalry), Siena is basically Florence-lite. About a quarter of the size, it has a lovely - but slightly less lovely than Florence's - cathedral, a glorious -but slightly less than Florence's - medieval and Renaissance history, and gorgeous medieval streets packed full of vaguely zombified tourists - but again, and thank God, slightly less packed and slightly less zombified than Florence's.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Days 434 to 436: Florence

My first impression of Florence was: wow, there's a lot of tourists. That was my second, and my third impressions too. In fact, over three days, it was a constant impression that never wavered. Wow, Florence has a lot of tourists.

It's for that reason that I make the excuse for Danielle and myself that we seriously underperformed culturally. Did we see the Uffizi, the Galleria dell Accademia, or the Palazzo Vecchio? No, no, and no. The queues were too big and we had neither the time or the patience. We also had a very underdeveloped plan of attack. If you go to Florence in the summer and want to see some nice stuff, you'd better plan it well. After six months of travelling, we simply hadn't anticipated a city in which your movements need to be meticulously planned, else you spend your whole day in a queue. Is Florence worth the queues? No. Few things are worth hours of queueing.