I must have been 19 when I saw the movie ‘Letters to Juliet’ , and since then , I wanted to visit Verona! The way this town has been shown in that movie, I wonder how anyone would have not wanted to visit Verona. Or anywhere in Italy for that matter! And thats exactly how I decided on Italy when I had a two week long winter break in February 2015 while in France for a teaching assistant programme. I was with my British housemate, who was equally keen on Italy.
We found cheap flights for Italy (lucky us!) and thats how we fixed the deal, not knowing where exactly we would be going apart from Rome (thats where our flight was to) and Bergamo (thats where our flight was for going back to Paris) . I knew I HAD to visit Verona if I was in Italy – Thanks to the movie Letters to Juliet. And then, if you’re in Italy, why wouldn’t you go to Venice? So thats how we decided on it. Rome-Venice-Verona-Bergamo. Four Italian cities in 11 days. One big adventure.
Not knowing Italian was a huge drawback. But I was up for anything. That came as quite a shock to me, because I wouldn’t have expected myself to get into something like this a few years ago. But I knew one thing – I love travelling. So of course, I had to be courageous enough. Maybe thats what gave me the confidence from within.
And this trip was supposed to be my first real adventure (among many others to come, I hope!). I was living in France since a few months already, so I see it more like home, than a travelling trip. But this was supposed to be it! From booking flights to booking hostels and to actually surviving in a country where you don’t know the language.
We had our flight around 8 pm from Paris to Rome, and we reached Rome quite late at night. Thankfully, we had booked a bnb close to the airport and we were also getting a pick up from the airport. (Safest bet when you’re reaching a foreign city late at night) .
It was a huge relief to finally be dropped off safely and reach the bnb room, which was oh so perfect! And then, the next day the real adventure had to start off. Now, not having an internet connection on your phone in a foreign country and hence not having google maps is quite a shitty situation. I know we could have got an Italian number and an internet pack, but who would want to experiment with the language and spend extra money? So ofcourse we decided against it. Moreover, why not try and survive without google maps, like technology deprived human beings from a different era? I was totally up for doing that! And hence , this was the first problem we faced : Third world problems – How to read a map?!
Surprisingly, even though I’d never done that before, I turned out to be quite good at it. (I’d say I must have been a real traveler in my previous lifetime) .. So I was the official map reader for the trip and we started off by walking around, trying to reach the famous monuments on foot.
It all seemed walk-able. So we started off by exploring one part at a time.
Day One, we visited a few churches, a garden and walked around random streets. I was completely in love with Italian architecture and garden on the very first day itself. The gardens seemed to be from a different era altogether, specially with those small fountains. Every time I drank from a fountain, I wanted to have been wearing a plain white gown and have my hair done in the old school style with flowers and stuff. (Yes, I’m that much of a romantic, always imagining myself in these historical settings! Hehe .. )
It was a nice day, but it ended quite badly because we got on the totally wrong bus and then lost our way back to the bnb. It took us time to figure out the way, but we totally made it, and then treated ourselves to some great Italian Pizza! 😉
Day Two, we started a bit late, but managed to see some amazing things. Rather, I should say, we were at the right place at the right time. We went to an amazing garden. Gardens are always amazing though. But its a different kind of feel everytime. So we walked around these amazing locations, and I wrote a lot of poetry on the way, also writing about how I was feeling exactly at that place.
The best part about day number two was the sunset. Apparently, we didnt even know that the place we were at was famous for sunset viewing. We were just starting to walk back to the metro station. when we found groups of people nearby, and there was in making, the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my life. It would be hard to explain how exactly amazing it was. The feel of that place . . All the happy faces .. The beautiful colours in the sky, as if God himself was sitting up there with a palette, painting the sky, along with the faces of his own children. And then there was an old man right there, playing his piano for everyone, which was kind of very ‘filmy’. It actually feels like being in a movie sometimes – all these European towns – with this amazing music playing in the background.
And with that, we went back to our bnb, quite content with the day, and excited for the next, for we were to shift to a hostel, right in the center of Rome, close to the Colosseum. And also because one of my Indian friends was going to join us on this trip hereonwards.
Day Three – I was quite excited about the dorm we had booked for the next three days in Rome. This was going to be my first dorm experience. After watching the Bollywood hit ‘Queen’ , anyone would be! Haha 😀
Now this was one heck of a place. I had never experienced a hostel before, so this was quite a good first experience, though there were better ones in store. The owners of this hostel were very kind and welcoming, which made it quite relaxing. They offered some fantastic Italian wine as a welcome drink, and showed us to our dorm.
Next, we ventured out again into the city. The mission of the day was to have dinner in a chic Italian restaurant, in that great weather. The weather in Rome came as such a relief because I was literally dying in the cold of Northern France. But here in Rome, the sun was shining, and the evenings were warm too. .. So in search of our ‘chic’ Italian restaurant, we went around walking near the river that passes through the city, and the narrow lanes again, were the restaurants were. We found quite a nice place to have an early dinner at, and the evening passed away with lots of laughter, some great Italian white wine, and pizzas and pastas! Ah the good life!
Day Four – was all touristy and historical. We started the day with the Colosseum, which is the most famous monument in Rome. It ofcourse amazed me, to see all those ruins, being such a history enthusiast. But I’m sure it isn’t something that would amaze everyone. Given that its just ruins and half a part of the Colosseum was bombed, which gives it a unique look from the outside. But it sure wasn’t worth the expensive ticket we bought for entering it. Except for the exposition of roman ruins which was interesting. Apart from that, the inside of the Colosseum saw nothing but tourists taking n number of ‘selfies’ with their selfie sticks, which is quite a trend everywhere these days.
Next, we went to the Vatican City, which is in the other part of the town, across the river. It was an architectural masterpiece. All the detailed things, and the huge statues and pillars .. Absolutely amazing. Even though I didn’t go inside the famous church – which seems so famous that there was a never ending queue to go inside. But I spent some really good ‘me’ time, sitting right in the middle under the bright warm sun, reading and writing and listening to music.
Next, we went to the place where I’m always up for going, no matter how expensive! A Castle! And oh, it was just as beautiful as you’d imagine a Roman Castle to be!
There is something absolutely amazing about castles. Personally, whenever I visit a fort or something, my mind starts envisioning how it must have been like when it was actually a functioning place. Something so grand and mighty. This was Castle St. Angelo. And its location was so perfect. Even if you don’t like going inside castles, you sure would want to go up there for the view that it provides. There’s a river and bridge right in front of the castle, and when seen from inside the castle top, it looks absolutely amazing. Specially around sunset. I’ve been quite lucky to see Roman sunsets from the best of locations, and that too, by chance! And that, was the end to another beautiful day out there in Rome.
Day Five – This was our last day in Rome. We’d had quite a chill time in Rome since we had so many days there. We managed to see a lot of things, and explore the city on foot. So we mostly spent our last day here relaxing and sunbathing in gardens, and the Spanish Steps, where there were a million other people!
We really had a good time in the hostel as well. The hosts were extremely kind, and they offered free pizzas to everyone that night. Huge boxes of huge Italian pizzas and a room full of people from all over the world. It has been great meeting people from so many different backgrounds, and sharing stories about life and stuff. And thats how I spent my last night in Rome, talking to a complete stranger about life, and setting my alarm for the early morning train to Venice the next day.
PS. All photos taken by me using iPhone 4, and edited using VSCO.