I’ve just realized that I have 23 hours left and the plain takes of. Probably I should’ve planned the whole trip better, but I think a main idea and a couple of phone numbers will do. It is always better to have a general plan and just leave the rest to chance. Mainly I have accommodation in all the major places. I think only Rome is missing, but who knows. A hostel will probably do.
I’ve checked the Italian trains (http://www.ferroviedellostato.it/) and I must say they are not the cheapest ones. So most probably I’ll combine it with hitch-hiking, although I’ve been warned that it is not so easy in Italy. Who knows… Just so I don’t forget. You can try a lowcost bus company such as Terravision (www.terravision.eu). It mainly handless shuttle transports from airports to cities, but it also has connections between major cities. I’ve already used it in London and the quality is quite good, and the price is almost 40% lower than at a regular bus company.
Just some organizational matters for back-packers. I’m not yet packed (:P) but what the hack. Try to make the bag as light as possible, although a normal backpack will weigh between 15-20 kg easily. Because it is Italy and not the Himalayas, clothes will have to be minimal. A pair of flip-flops and trainers will do just fine. 7, 8 pairs of T-shirts, 3 pairs of shorts will have to do as I will have the possibility to wash my clothes. Socks, underware as many as you want. Don’t forget a long sleeved jumper and some trousers, plus some shirts for the nights out. A cap is always advisable to protect your precious brain matter from the sun and of course what kind of guy goes to Italy without sun glasses :D. Tooth paste, personal hygiene products, personal medicine, beach ware and towels are also quint essential. Don’t forget to have a couple of memory sticks for your camera as Italy is filled with stuff to take photos of. An MP3 player and battery chargers can all be included if you might get bored on the train and necessarily a mobile phone. If you leave your country, be sure that the Roaming system is properly activated. Try sending text messages and only call someone if it is a must as international calls are ridiculously expensive (try seeing my last months 80 euro bill 😦 ). Plus in case of an eventual emergency you never know.
Always have your passport with you, credit card and health insurance. And be careful so you don’t lose them. Yes I know in the EU it is enough to have your ID, but out of my personal experience just have your passport with you.
What concerns food, have some sandwiches and stuff that don’t go bad, such as dry sausage/salami, dry cheese and cans. Just don’t forget that you will have to carry it so only put minimal amount of it. A knife and flashlight is always welcomed as you can find yourself in unusual situations. Also as a tip from me (many of my friends unfortunately did not apply it) never put your wallet, passport and valuables in your back-pack as subways and crowded places are always a heaven for pick-pockets. Another useful tip is to have some separate cash on you. Don’t be ashamed to put it in your undies or shoes or where ever. Even if you get robbed or mugged, at least you will have some cash hidden away. Always keep in mind that as a single back-packer you are likely to be targeted by pick-pockets.
The rest will come after I’ve already landed on Italian soil. I’ll spend my first two days in Milan and the vicinity of Milan. My plane lands in Bergamo (30 kms from Milan) just during noon and I’m lucky to be picked up by Ema. I’ll spend two nights at his place in Monza (just next to Milan). Milan is littered with stuff to see and I already have a list of all the sights. If time will allow me, I will probably visit lake Como which is about 60-70 km away from the city.
Wish me good luck and hopefully the plain doesn’t crash or something 😀 Just kidding
Kolozsvar (Cluj-Napoca), 6th of August 2008
So here I am…Sono qui…I’m on Italian soil for almost four days now, and untill now everything went as smooth as possible..
My plane landed at Bergamo and I was extremely lucky to be picked up by “mio amico” Ema, who once again just made my day with his unique style. A short drive from Bergamo and we were already somewhere in the outskirts of MIlan. And guess what. Another greate surprise. At Monza trainstation it once again felt like a Parnassos reunion. Julai, Alice, Valerrria and of course Mark came in a good half an hour. What can I say. It was amazing seeing them again. I said good-bye from Mark in Spain a couple of weeks ago, and once again so it happened that our paths crossed. And what a journey he’s gone into. From Spain he left to Croatia, crossed Montenegro and spent 6 days in Albania. Oh and by the way he hopped to Greece for a couple of days and was even pleasantly surprised in Mykonos. Why? You might ask. Because someone touched his ass? Well you might think that a couple of greek cheeks were just fooling around. Well let’s say that he accidentally had the fortune of entering a gay pub. I think he left as fast as he entered.
SO we spent the first night at Julai’s place in Seregno. A beautiful house decorated with the art work of her uncle, a good Italian dinner, but please do not ask me the name of the dishes. I know that one of the dishes consisted of pasta with some kind of little stomac pieces. It actualy tasted awesome. And the second one was some pasta with some sort of shrimps. Julai’s friends came over, a good party followed with pleanty of beer, vodka and rum. Maybe a little bit too much of the latter and so I woke up the other day almost at noon. What can I say about JUlai’s hosting abilities. SHe is an exceptional host and she truly out-done herself in every way. Guys if you ever wonder around Milan, you definitely have to have at least a coffe with Mrs. Boscolo. Thanks so much for everything Julai!!!
The second day should’ve been a quick visit to MIlan, but then again going to lake Como to have a picnic sounded a lot better. And so it was. “Mamma Julai” fed her “little babies” with pan-cakes and afterwards papa Mark prepared the best greek salad I’ve ever tasted. Just ask him for the recepy. And so we were off once again. Ema’s unique driving style made us more dizzy than hungry, but in no time we were somewhere next to George Clooney’s villa. It is truly a jaw-dropping site. Just at the bottom of the Alps, small one way streets litter the steep mountain edges and these Italians have found a way to build houses even in the smallest places. We stopped for a quick sandwich while local youngsters were doing crazy jumps from a cliff-side. After the picnic we said goodbye to Alice in Monza’s trainstation and we thought of sweet piccola Valeria who was already somewhere in Sofia (Bulgaria).
The last night in the vecinities of MIlan was a quiet one. We hanged out at Ema’s place and ate a true underground Italian pizza for almost no money and later on we visited some local pubs. All the locals hang out in the small market places, “piazzettas” and we were even fortunate to meet “Brian”. Well actually he was a drunk and stoned Italian guy called Fabio, but he just resembled Brian too much.
Yesterday morning the streets of MIlan followed. The Scala Theatre, the Galleries, a closed Botanical Garden, the Sforzesco castle and of course the Dome. My God. What can I say about the Dome. You should better see it, because I cannot truly put it into words. And if you go to MIlan you listen to “Mamma Julai” because she knows where to find the best “gellato” (ice-cream) in town. A huge ice-cream with mango, pistachio, chocolate, crunchy cream. Truly heaven on Earth.
6.20 p.m. and my train left the Milan train-station. Once again a good-bye, but as I told you I don’t believe in goodbyes anymore 🙂 Mark goes back to California, Julai prepares for a couple of parties and I’m of to Carpi.
ANd so here I am now in Carpi. An awesome little town next to Modena. And of course my journey had to have some excitement. A bunch of teenagers started smoking and rioting in the train so the police had to take them of before PIacenza. Well these 25 minutes just cost me my train connection to Carpi so Giorgia had to pick me up in Modena. Creepy blokes hang around Modena’s trainstation during the night, but luckily Giorgia came as fast as she could. ANd boy I missed the little Ghizzoni. We hugged each other for a couple of minutes and still we couldn’t believe that we once again saw each other. Her amazing family waited for me with a delicious Italian dinner and the well preserved city center offered a pleasurable evening walk.
I’ve already booked my next tickets to Pescara and Catania and even went to church today to ask for some good luck for the up-comming days. The next days will follow…
By the way. Some travelling tips.
If you don’t have a friend to pick you up, there are regular shuttle buses and trains from Bergamo to Milan. I didn’t check the prices, but I would doubt that it would cost you more than 5-7 euros. When you book a train try booking the regional ones if possible as it will save you a lot of money. Yes, they are dirtier and you have to be carefull where you put your wallet, but than again we are students.
If you are a back-packer most probably shady figures will approach you during the night in train-stations asking for cigarettes or some change. Just ignore them and most probably they won’t bug you anymore.
Okey, that’s enough. Ciao belli and the pictures will follow later on.
P.S. Sorry for the spelling mistakes as I don’t have my spelling checker with me….:P
It’s about 6 a.m. in the morning. With half shut eyes we sip our morning coffee. I look at Giorgia. She is still half a sleep. So am I…We finish breakfast, brush our teeth and get our bags. Her dad takes us to the train station and we are off…Pescara and the vicinities of Pescara lie on the Adriatic coast, somewhere in the middle of the Peninsula. So in order to get there by train you have to switch a couple of times and pass Modena, Bologna, Rimini and Ancona…
As a travelling tip, you can pre-book your train ticket on the national railway’s website (http://www.ferroviedellostato.it/) but in order to do so you have to create an own account. Now about pre-booking in Italy… As later on you will see, sometimes it is great not to buy your tickets on-line. First of all the confirmation can arrive only next day, your bank (especially if you are foreigner) will charge an extra commission and you might accidentally wake up that your ticket was switched automatically for the day after.
And so it happened with Giorgia and me, that on the Eurostar our sits were already taken because our confirmations were issued for the next day. So this meant constantly finding a new seat when others would get of… The train was fully packed, with everyone heading to the sunnier South. Bags of all color filled up the carriages and it was almost impossible to find a proper place for Giorgia’s chello (which, I remind you is almost the size of Gio). And who can forget poor little Lorenzo, a chess-nut haired toddler who unfortunately didn’t find the train ride the most pleasurable experience. Luckily a helpful nun managed to calm him down each half an hour or so.
So after this somewhat not so pleasurable train ride we reached Ortona. And what can I tell you. From Rimini onwards the train runs parallel with the Adriatic, a sea that reflects a jade like color in the passer-by’s eyes…A small violet car set in the parking lot. And…And Rossana ran towards us, with her arms wide open. Once again it felt like a small Utrecht reunion. We put our luggage in the car, which actually had the nick-name Aubergine. (Or for those not used to the British term, a great big violet egg plant). We crammed all our stuff in the small car and probably Gio’s cello took up the most space in it :D….
Ortona’s narrow streets wind on top of a cliff side…hundreds of Italians driving around hectically in their little cars while the thermometers push the temperature ever closer to 40 Celsius. This is where Southern Italy starts. The roads are messier, sometimes filled with wholes. People drive around like crazy and the heat is just unbearable…But still… You get a strange filling that now you’re in the Mediterranean world. Just lay back and start enjoying the Sun.
…The gates open, the car roles in the courtyard and from the upper floor someone greats us. Who can it be? Well Don Cauti of course, Rossana’s dad. The amount of books that Mr. Cauti has is astonishing and I can truly say that he is “the” funniest Italian I ever met, but the smartest to. This guy is just unbelievable. Wikipedia doesn’t even come close to him…So here we took of to the beach, had lunch and even took an inflatable green crocodile. Hmm…Actually as we soon found out, Crocky was bigger that Giorgia (Sorry Gio :P, I just had to say this)…The Adriatic coast… The greenish sea continued splashing its white foam into the wave barriers, while the girls tried to teach the Transylvanian how to swim. Well I don’t really know if my swimming skills improved or not, but I reinvented the so called “Frog” style and I looked more like a dead fish than a swimming frog 😀
And later on Marco joined us, whose surname if translated into English would mean “Dear Handle”. Of course you can imagine that from this moment onwards he was called Dear ‘Andle (as the Italians don’t pronounce the “H” 😀 ). So we visited the small medieval city, with its cliff-side castle, that had to be rebuilt as the Nazis “accidentally’ sent the bricks of the castle sky high. (basically they blew it up…boooom)….Dinner was at Don Cauti’s fast food and bowling alley and we prepared small Aubergine for the big ride the following day…
4.00 a.m. Who on Earth would even wake up at this hour? Well the three of us of course as we had to cross the Peninsula and get to Rome before 8 o’clock, as the girls had a flight to catch and I had to visit the Eternal City…And of we go. Small Aubergine flying on the Italian highways, across the Apennine Mountains with 140 km/h. Jesus it’s one hell of a little car!!! Our anxiety grew as the airport seamed like on the other side of the Globe and there were only 30 min. left to do the check-in. But then again this is the country of the Pope, so a lil’bit of Divine power helped us and we reached the airport on time. I said good bye to the girls, but of course in two days time we would meet in Sicily :D.
Rome → Napoli
… One thing before I write about Rome. Visiting Rome for only one day is a “sacrilege”, but then again I had no other option. I booked an extremely cheap hostel, for only 11 euros a night in a room with 3 beds, and I was the only one. The hostel is fairly new and close to Termini Train station. Basically it’s 3 minutes away from it. For hostels always check www.hostelworld.com. This had quite a cheesy name, “Beautiful Hostel” (Napoleon III Street, nr. 35, next to Stazzione Termini) and they even gave me a free map with all the important stuff :D. I slept for a couple of hours and began my marathon tour of the city. In a couple of words 9 hours on foot, in 37 degrees heat. It is crowded, smelly, and quite dirty, drivers will run you over at the traffic light but then again it is an awesome city. I’ll just put up a small list with all the places I took pictures of: Santa Maria Maggiore Cathedral, Coliseum, Justinian’s Arch, Palatines, August’s Forum, Traian’s Column, The memorial of Victor Emmanuelle, Campidoglio, The Venetian Palace, Fiume Tevere and the Island, The Synagogue, Farnese Palace, The Flower Square, Piazza Novana, Pantheon, Castle Saint Angelo, St. Peter’s Basilica, Piazza del Popolo, Spanish Square, Trevi Fountains, Medici’s Palace, Piazza Republica… It was an awesome but then again tiring day. But what the hack :P…
Just some tips while you are in Rome. The city can be quite dirty and be careful on the streets as they drive like crazy. To get on top of St. Peter’s basilica it will cost you 5 euros but come on guys. It’s the biggest Dome on the planet. You cannot miss it… Rome is full of fountains, so carry an empty bottle and drink from the small fountains on the side of the roads as a half a liter bottle of water will cost you 2 euros. If you can, then use the subway but you will miss the feeling of the streets… There are tens of thousands of tourists, so I would recommend choosing sometimes small allies that can offer you a pleasurable ambient, sometimes better then a really crowded and popular monument… There are so many monuments in Rome, that it can sometimes get tiring and you have a sense of you need something simpler and smaller…About the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica…It is an overwhelming work of art and architecture, but for me it didn’t seam as a Holly Place. A small road-side church will get those who are religious, closer to divinity. It is just too big, too lavish and it sometimes looks like a Communist Dictator’s megalomaniac dream that was built by the Catholic Church to show of its power…If you don’t agree with me its fine…
The 13th of August and boy I had the feeling that it is the 13th. Why? Because somehow Naples left a bitter sweet taste in my mouth… 7 a.m. and I check out of my hostel. Two and a half hours. Almost three hours on a regional train to Naples, the city in the shadow of the Vesuvius…I slept during most of the ride and had to wake up two Russian girls, as they almost missed their stop. I get off, and I was already expecting a dirty city as I knew about the trash problems Naples has been facing. It’s truly a pity guys. Such an amazing and once rich city now filled with trash, with filthy streets and old buildings lying in semi-ruin. The streets are really narrow and somehow you feel like 20 years ago, with mafia looking guys sitting in front of local bars and looking at you in a strange way. The city has over 400 churches and you will be amazed to find a church on every street corner. If there is something definitely worth visiting in Naples, it is the Castle. IT has been recently renovated and the view is just astonishing. Believe me it is breath taking. The whole bay of Naples is visible with this enormous city stretching from the coast onto the slopes of Mount Vesuvius. You just stay there for minutes with a stupid smile on your face and feel overwhelmingly free. The Piazza del Plebiscito is quite okay and clean and so is the Royal residence and Castle Nuovo.
Some further tips: Naples is dirty so try wearing a shoe and not flip-flops. If you want to buy something from a local fast food, the price labels are not shown and because you are a tourist they will cheat you over. It is a lot cheaper city than Rome, or the Northern cities and if you are lucky you can eat some great food for low prices. A lot of people will stop you on the streets selling phones, cameras etc. Just ignore them. Do not try making business with these guys… Oh!!!Gio recommended a book. I didn’t read it yet, but try reading Comorra and she said that after this book I will understand why Naples is like the way it is. From Naples to Catania (Sicily) you have direct ferry boats. The cheapest round way ticket will cost you 94 euros, which believe me is a bargain when it comes to ferry boats. Just visit www.tttlines.it and you can pre-book and buy your ticket with your credit card.
…21.30. My ferry slowly leaves the bay. The shadily grey Moon light slowly strokes the waves of the bay. A sleeping giant casts its shadow over a bright city. The dark figure of Mount Vesuvius guards the entrance to the city while the Moon guides the steps of a wondering traveller…
I slowly wake up…All around me blue chairs fill up the bar compartment of the ferry boat, while people still enjoy their sweet slumber. It wasn’t the most comfortable sleep but I’ve been through worse. With my toothbrush in my hand I head towards the bathroom and clean myself up a little bit. I look at my watch. It is almost 6 o’clock. The Sun should be rising any minute now.
Narrow stairs lead to the deck of the ship…A couple of people share my idea and come to watch the sunrise…We are just somewhere on the waves of the Straight of Messina. Between two worlds. The island and the continent. On my right lies Calabria, on my left Sicily. Two seemingly barren pieces of rock tossed in the middle of the Mediterranean by some ancient Greek god. A slowly rising orange velvet appears over Calabria. Taking its time, it lazily floats over the mountain top…Everything seems still for a moment. Young lovers stand next to me…a Sicilian man and a family. Silence…everyone waits for the miracle…A sudden burst of white light shatters part of the orange mantle. Dozen more light beams follow and the orange disk once feared and venerated by Egyptians appears over the dusty cliffs…A miracle that happens each morning but few of us ever take the effort to follow its splendour.
I start talking to the Sicilian looking guy next to me…Look over there young man! – he says while he points at a hazy figure in the morning mist. That is Mount Etna, and just underneath it Catania will appear soon enough. – he continues. What more could I ask for? Two volcanoes guarding two Italian cities in only one night and one morning. As I found out, the middle aged man who I was talking to left Sicily when he was only 20 years old. His studies and work brought him to Milan and finally he settled down somewhere in Abruzzia. But somehow Sicily never left him. HE took a part of it with him and now a part of him was once again coming back…
7.15 a.m. and I send a message to Giorgia to come and pick me up in half an hour. Well according to the schedule we should’ve reached the port by 7.30, but as I already expected nothing is really on time in Italy J. So by 9 o’clock I was of the ship…Only one and a half hours late. But who cares when you have Catania in front of you with the enormous volcano casting its shadow and smoke over the city… I get my backpack and get of the ship as fast as I can. And there they are once again in the parking lot. Gio, Rossana and Martina. Somehow it seems that everything stopped after I left Utrecht and this is just a nice weekend reunion.
We hugged each other for minutes, but I don’t recall saying anything important. There is not much to be said in these moments. I hope you slept enough – the girls tell me in the car – as tonight we will go to the beach to celebrate Ferragosto. What is Ferragosto? Catholics celebrate the Virgin Mary on the 15th of August and on the night of the 14th every Sicilian heads to the beach to celebrate. But before you start the celebrations you should eat something, so they took me to a nearby café where I had a taste of something magical…Hmm…An Arancino. It literally means a small orange, but it only looks like an orange. It is a ball of ragu, with mozzarella and prosciuto ham in the middle, dipped in eggs and fried in oil. Oh god!!! If Zeus could’ve tasted it, he would’ve switched his place in haven for this café in Sicily.
Martina drove us around the city and we picked up my amichetta Carla. So it looked like an awesome afternoon would follow, driving around in small Sicilian towns on the footsteps of the Etna and trying out the local dishes. And there is this one little place called Piedimonte Etneo, where some people still speak the old Sicilian dialect and you can find really cheap food. And why not just feast on all the specialities of tavola calda. A small roadside bufet poped up. Sapori di Sicilia (Vitt. Emanuele Street, 129), meaning Italian flavors where for 1 euro you can buy stuff like cartucciata, pizzeta and a lot of other specific food of which names I’ve already forgot.
The night slowly came on the Island and we packed up for the beach. ….5 liters of red wine in the trunk, some sleeping bags and of course us. Night came pretty fast over the hill sides of Taormina and a full moon lit up the chilly waves of the Mediterranean. Thousands of youngsters on the beach…Most of them already embraced by alcohol, covered with their sleeping bags…Luck so had it that we met up with to other Erasmus students, Giuseppe and Francesca. Somehow I didn’t notice them in Utrecht, but at least this was a good occasion to talk to them…And the wine started to diminish each minute, until slowly Ross went to sleep, then Giorgia followed and later on Carla. So it was only Martina, Francesca, Giuseppe, another guy and me left awake… I went and took a swim, but no one else followed. What to do in a situation like this? I had this amazing idea of throwing Martina in the water. And one, and two, and three… and a big splash followed by Gashhiii…I’m gonna kill you!!! – but in vain. A couple of minutes later another huge splash. Poor Francesca discovered the pleasure of the chilly water…
…SO here we are soaking wet on the beach of Taormina, half drunk and laughing like crazy…What else do you need? All my clothes were wet and I only had one T shirt left, which I rapped around my waste. I’m freezing and only a T shirt covers my naked ass. Damnnn I love Sicily!!!
By the time I was prepared to take a nice snooze I discovered that the Sun was already above the horizon and the girls started to wake up. Well that was the end of my planned slumber. But what the hack. Giuseppe was really kind and offered me a croissant, I drank some water and was good to go. We packed up, said farewell to Giuseppe and Francesca and left to Furci…
This day was basically for relaxing and lying on the beach all day. We met Carla’s parents, had lunch with them and spent most of the afternoon with Gio and Ross on the beach. But this was one hell of a tricky beach. No, it is not sand and neither mud. It is littered with small rocks and pebbles which under the midday Sun are scorching hot. But the water is amazing. It is the clearest water I’ve ever seen at the Sea Side. You can see your toes even when you are neck deep.
…Once again the Moon sang a peaceful luleby to the Sun, and he slowly disappeared over the mountains of Sicily…Il moro is the name and damn pizza is definitely there game. My life’s best pizza… It is….How should I even…Well I don’t know…Just go there and try it. It literally melts in you mouth while your senses go crazy.It is that good of a pizza. And they only serve pizza at that place…Here we sit around the table. The five of us munching on our pizzas and fooling around, laughing for whatever small reason…Later on Carla’s parents joined us and they treated us with some Gelato. It is impossible to live in Italy without gelato 😀
And oh, I almost forgot. Café de Paris a tiny shick café where we would always have our breakfast. It’s a tiny café, just next to the sea-side, elegantly and tastefully decorated with quite pleasant and hospitable waiters. All the different delicacies of Tavola Calda are displayed on the left side, while the sweets and cakes occupy the middle and the fruit salads the right side. You should’ve seen Gio and Ross bending down and staring at all the food…The waiter comes, we order. Just a small breakfast with a short list: 1 pizzeta, 2 brioche with ice-cream, 2 cartucciata, 1 chocolate ice-cream, 1 fruit salad, 2 arancinos, upsss…one more pizzeta please! And of course 5 coffees. The waiter looks at us. Are you sure this is breakfast and not lunch? – and he smiles. Well it definitely is lunch time but for us it was the first meal of the day and dang we finished each morsel of it J Yummm…
So as you can all imagine I was having a really “difficult period” in Sicily. Beach and local food, and local food and beach, and dinners and who can forget the dinner with Donna Rosa, a beautiful Sicilian girl (Carla’s friend by the way) who not just talks like a Sicilian, but her every move is like it was taken out of a movie. And at this place (Pizzeria Osteria) I was fortunate enough to meet the manager who actually new some Hungarian as he had a restaurant in Budapest for more than four years. Imagine the probability of that. Finding a Hungarian speaking Italian in a God forgotten little town in Sicily :D.
…And then the trip to Taormina. Riding on the highway with Mount Etna on our left and the Mediterranean on our right. The highway crawls and winds on the cliff side as it reaches for the ancient city on top of the cliff. The town is absolutely littered with tourists. It is a wonderfully well preserved medieval town, with an ancient Greek amphiteathre and of course the view. How do you even describe the view? I could start making up proper phrases but I’ll just insert a photo for you to see it 😀
Last day…the 19th of August. We say good-bye to Ross and Gio at the airport, and I hug Carla and Martina in the Port… The propellers start moving and the ferry slowly lives the bay. Under the bluish velvet the Sun still sends a couple of orange beams on the city. A grey mist like smoke surrounds the top of the Volcano, while a small lava flow lightens the top of Mount Etna…I sit down on my chair…I’m not there…I’m wiht them in the small red car…130 km/h on the highway with an open rooftop and singing…If I could, then I would/ I’ll go wherever you will go…(Because this is how Caloggero, Scaliggero, Lino, Lano e il Transilvano do it 🙂 )
No traveling tips guys. Sicily was just to beautiful to think about any good advices.
…The 20th of August…I knew well that this would be my toughest day in Italy, as I had to arrive in the port of Naples by ferry, catch a train to Rome. Afterwards switch and get another train to Florence, visit Florence in a couple of hours…catch another train to Bologna and from here pick the regional line to a small town next to Ravenna, to meet up with Valeria…This was the plan. Reality turned out to be slightly different…
The previous night I was able to book my ticket from Naples to Rome and check all the other connections. I had everything written down. It looked perfect. The ferry would arrive at 7.30 a.m. and I had three full hours to catch my train from Naples Central…But I didn’t… We are in Italy, remember?
It’s almost 10 a.m.…The Sun somehow managed to already heath up the air in the port and a strange mist began to rise over the horizon. Everything seems so quiet and tranquil for a couple of moments. But not for long…I hastily pick up my back-pack and with speedy steps I rush down the stairs…God dam it!!! God dam it!!! I’m just fed up with this fucking system! I keep repeating it in my head while I curse the Italian transportation system. Most probably all the saints of the Vatican got the hick-ups after I mentioned their names…God dam it. Two and a half hours late!! I’m gonna miss my train…I run towards the exit and ask the guard to tell me the nearest bus stop…
I find it…Five more minutes until the bus arrives…The doors open, but I didn’t by the ticket before and the driver let me get on the bus, only after I started explaining to him that I’m a tourist and because of their faulty system I’m losing my train…Oh…I almost didn’t mention the fact, that all night long Martina was sending me SMS that my confirmation of the pre-booked train ticket did not arrive yet. A confirmation that should’ve been sent to me in 5 minutes. Already 24 hours have past and I’m rushing to an Italian train-station without any confirmation what so ever…
10.15…15 more minutes to go, until the train departs. Quickly I rush to the ticket vender. Damn!!! – I shout. Five more people ahead of me! 10.22 and finally I get my chance to talk to the ticket vender. Sorry madam, but I have a pre-booked ticket, but the confirmation didn’t arrive yet and my train leaves in a couple of minutes. Could you please help me !? – I say to her. She looks up from the monitor with a stupid look on her face. Do you have the confirmation code? – Well no mam. I’ve been waiting for it all night. I’ve just told you that the confirmation didn’t arrive. – and I started losing my temper. Well in this case I cannot help you. You have to call this number. – But can’t you check it with my passport. I have an account at your railways. You have to find it. – I was already desperate. Sorry…and she smiles at me in the most disgusting way possible. You know what madam. You can go fuck yourself, your railways and your fucked up system. – and I slammed the door, while the rest of the people started to clap.
…I quickly run to buy another ticket, but it was not possible anymore…20 more euros, and the next train leaves in one and a half hours. So basically I will miss all my other trains. Well, so much for my plans…More than an hour in this city that I unfortunately began to hate as much as I could…Okey! Let’s do it the Neopolitan way. – I casually walked out of the train station, went to a road side fast food and bought myself a huge sandwich and a bottle of water. I started slowly munching on it…African traders are selling there illegal merchandise next to me. The pavement is filthy and the street corner reeks of urine. Two old fat guys sit in front of me with there sunglasses and talk in a rusty voice. Probably “business”… Two police officers pass and great the two fat guys. Enjoy your meal gentlemen! – and they smile. Don’t think that it is Neopolitan hospitality… I finish my sandwhich, but I am just disgusted of this street. I get my backpack and on my way to the station I was stopped three consecutive times by guys who tried to sell me stolen cameras…Nice!!! I just wanna get out of here as fast as I can – I mutter…I sit on my bag, get my new book which I bought for a euro in a roman flea market and continue with the next chapter…
SO this is how I eventually left Naples, and God thanks. By the way the train was almost an hour late. By three o’clock I was already in Rome waiting for my next train to Florence. Everything got messed up…Valeria helped me out a lot and started sending me messages with all the possible train routs. By 7 p.m. I reached Florence, but the three hours that I planned for visiting the city were “well spent” in the train stations of Naples and Rome. Yes. I had to quit Florence as I still had two hours to go to Bologna and catch another train to Lugo.
…Bologna train station. I have sufficient time to find my lane and switch the train. 15 minutes. Or maybe it was barely enough. Lane 17. Binario 17. I will never forget it. A separate lane in a separate part of the train station, that no one actually knew where it was and all the signs pointed in the wrong direction. Once again this system!!! I’m running around with a 20 kilo back-pack and a pair of flip-flops, not being able to find my lane…Finally. Thanks God that the train left with a five minute delay…By 10 p.m. I was in Lugo where Valeria picked me up….Oh, was I glad to see her. Finally some peace.
…A nice meal at her place with her family, a well deserved shower and in the morning we were already of to Bologna. Vale came to pick up the keys for her new room in the city and this meant that once again I had proper shelter…The day in Bologna was just awesome. Walking around the city and eating once again a nice gelato. Then at noon a surprise. We were fortunate enough that a group from Utrecht passed the city. Once again Erasmus students together for a couple of hours. Peter, Sarah, Alice, Lucas and later on Julai joined. My sweet little Julai who returned my mp3 player which I forgot at her place on the second day…
Oh yeah Peter. Push out your ass a little bit more! – I say to this loony Slovenian guy while we are on top of the highest tower in Bologna, taking an awesome picture of Peter’s “voluptuous forms”….O damn funny guy…Basically hanging around in the city for a couple of hours with these amazing folks. A small pizza here, some ice-cream there, a couple of pictures in front of the naked Neptune statue while we enjoyed this ancient University center… The hours passed, their parking ticket expired and once again a good-bye…But you know. I don’t believe in good-byes anymore. Next time guys. See you next time.
…By late afternoon we got hungry, so we decided with Julai and Vale to get some aperitifs. Basically you pay a 7 euro cock-tail and you can eat all the food you want. Good deal. Oh, and while we ate an “accident happened”. But I’m not gonna tell you what. Ask the girls ;)… After finishing our meal we started wondering on the streets. A Pakistani guys shop provided us with two cheap bottles of red wine and in the company of Four Rooms we pretty much drank it all… I’m in Bologna laughing with Julai and Valeria and all three of us are pretty much drunk. Well life’s life. What can we do about it?
I left Bologna early in the morning and headed out to Venice. I had absolutely no idea where I would spend my night, because the hostels were too expensive but frankly I didn’t really care. Guys, hostels are quite expensive in Venice and it’s hard to find something under 30 euros. Of course you can camp in Mestre and be eaten by bugs and only pay 15, but com’on.
Venice gave a much better impression than I expected. The narrow allies were quite clean and the canals were acceptable. Probably only the fish market stank, but than again fish do stink 😛 It is packed with tourists and unfortunately this ruins the feeling of the Rialto and St.Marc’s square. Gondolas are quite expensive and so is pretty much everything. If you want to feel Venice, just leave the main tourist attractions and get lost on one of the small alleys crossed by a canal with an old lady looking out of the window of a centuries old building with scruffy walls. That is Venice. I set down and started reading on one of these alleys, with a small bridge next to me. What more could I ask for. I left Venice by late afternoon and by 9 p.m. I was in Bergamo…SO what to do? Where to sleep? Hell knows. I’ll try the city, if not the airport.
And this small city was one of the big surprises of my trip. Only 15 minutes away from the airport lie the old quarters, the High Town, or Citta Alta. You have to take a funicular to reach this small medieval town on top of a cliff side and surrounded by walls. It is just a really pleasant place to stay, with narrow cobbled alleys that wind over the hills of the old town. I set down on the edge of a small wall and just looked at the Alps, while I enjoyed the taste of my peaches and croissants. What a way to end my trip!
12 more hours in the airport with my sleeping bag and toothbrush, but who really cared. I had over a thousand photos, an Italian book to read, my mp3 player and the memory of and amazing trip. Thank you all and thank you for all you’ve done for me (even the stupid ticket vender from Naples).
Grazzie mile ragazzi. Senza voi questo viaggio non era possible.