Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Days 456 to 459: 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.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Days 453 to 456: 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, 19 June 2014

Days 451 to 452: Bologna

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

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Days 447 to 451: 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:

Friday, 13 June 2014

Days 444 to 447: 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, 10 June 2014

Days 441 to 444: 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.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Days 439 to 441: 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.

Days 438 to 439: 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.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

50. Wonder: Florence Cathedral

(For the Florence Cathedral preview, please click here.)

Days 435 to 437: 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.

Sunday, 1 June 2014

49. Wonder: The Leaning Tower of Pisa

(For the Leaning Tower of Pisa preview, please click here.)

Days 432 to 435: Pisa and Lucca

Once upon a time, Pisa and Lucca were rival republics, competing in trade and religious politics, even going to war with each other occasionally. Now just separated by a 30 minute train journey, the fates of both cities have changed much since then. In many ways their fates mirror each other: obviously they are no longer independent republics and have been absorbed into Italy, content with having become small-scale cities of around 80,000 people each, with a walled medieval centre packed with cafes, gelateries, petite hotels, and flag-bearing guides leading around packs of middle-aged foreigners. They are quintessentially charming Italian tourist towns. Their biggest difference can come down to one thing: towers. Pisa has a wonky one and Lucca has a few straight ones, and for this reason Pisa is internationally famous whereas I hadn't heard of Lucca up until a week before visiting.