In my last post, I said I had left Geneva 😞 and was on the way to Milano.
The bus ride was uneventful at first… meaning we drove through rain and sunshine. As I neared Milan, the rain started really pouring. And then it poured some more and even hailed too. When I arrived at the the bus station, the wind and rain had me shivering (yes, even Canadians can get cold…). After a quick ride in the metro, I arrived in downtown Milan, where it was still pouring. In the end, I put my rain jacket over my head and bag, leaving my shorts and most of my shirt drenched by the time I arrived at the hostel. By the way, thanks for waterproofing my shoes, mom ! The puddles were ankle-deep.
The next day, I walked around Milan for about 4 hours. During which I visited the cathedral, walked through the Galleria by the Duomo, entered a few churches and basilicas, walked around the Castello Sforzesco (Sforza’s castle) its gardens, and walked through the Brera district. During the lunch hour, I hopped on a train to Genova. In Genova I walked quite a lot through the old town, and headed to the cute little village of Boccadasse. That village was the redeeming part of my very short stay in Genova. I ended up also meeting two more Canadians at the hostel. Let’s see how long the streak continues… (spoiler: not long)
My next destination was the Cinq Terre region, which I had marked well in advance as a place to visit. Turns out the region is much smaller than I had thought. If I recall correctly, it’s unique in that the people of the region have modified their environment for well over several hundreds of years, resulting in villages perched on cliffs, with vines growing in terraces surrounding the villages all the way up to the top of some very steep hills. It’s really impressive and even more beautiful than the pictures suggest. There are a total of five villages, and while they are very similar, I very much preferred the views from Manarola. I also had the weirdest sleep of my life: my bed was at the foot of my AirBnB’s host’s bed. And the guy tossed and turned so much that he’d wake me up by touching me with a stray foot, hand or his actual head (?!) sticking out of his bed. The host was amazingly friendly and easy going though, and checked in during the day to see if everything was okay. He even invited me to come back for free another time 😁, and said to call him if I ever needed help while in Italy 👌
The next day, I took a train to visit the leaning tower of Pisa. Walked around for less than an hour, took some pictures and some 40 Lamborghinis in Pisa for an auto show, right before the tower. Unexpected but cool 😋 then I headed off to Firenze (Florence). My first impression of Florence was that of adulation. I loved the narrow, winding, walkable streets with so few cars in sight, the architecture, and of course la Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore, as well as il Ponte Vecchio, among others. Definite throwback to Assassin’s Creed with Ezio Auditore 🙈 However, after the sun set, and all the tourists came out, I came to the sudden realization that Firenze catered excessively to them. Hearing Italian was incredibly rare, to the point where almost everyone spoke English. Even the staff at stores or restaurants. And speaking of stores, I couldn’t really find anything that wasn’t a tourist trap. Firenze is definitely worth visiting, but I think a day trip covers most of what I wanted to experience there. I was told however, that most of the locals live and hangout just outside of the historic city centre, which is a damn shame, but is where one might experience a more authentic Firenze. That night, I lived my first genuine hostel experience, where I met plenty of people and ended up socializing for the first time with other travellers since I had left Canada. It helped immensely with my feelings of loneliness and missing Sandrine.
The following day, feeling reenergized, I booked a last minute hostel in Roma, and bought a train ticket at the station. In the train, I met a really chill fellow Canadian, from Toronto. Turns out he was also a solo traveller, and also booked the SAME hostel as I did for as many nights as me. After a chatty train ride that did NOT feel like it lasted 3 hours, I was in Roma. I’d made a new travel buddy: Elias. We saw il Colosseo, il Palatino, il altare della Patria, la piazza Navona, la città de Vaticano, and many others. We toured the Vatican museum, where we heard that spending a mere 20 seconds per work of art would result in staying there for about 5 years. Crazy stuff. Oh, and I was a rebel: I took pictures in the Sisteen Chapel even having seen the signs insisting not to. To visit the chapel, pants that cover the knees are required (which meant wearing jeans) even though it was stupid crazy hot in Rome.
Next day: Napoli… while it definitely felt like an authentic Italian town, with lots of locals speaking Italian and barely any English, the city felt a smidge underwhelming. I bought some fruit, and wow it was mind blowing 🤯. There were some great views of the sea and Mount Vesuvius in the distance. I had, at least for a little while, the feeling that I should have simply took a train that evening and slept in Pompei.
Pompei was my last day travelling with Elias. In the morning, we took the bus up to 1000 meters on Mount Vesuvius. When we reached the top, we were really in the clouds, to the point where we couldn’t see much more than 30 meters down the side of the volcano. I took advantage of the times the clouds cleared up enough to take pictures 😅 In the afternoon, which was surprisingly cool (as in it didn’t feel like it was over 35℃), we walked around the ruins of Pompei, and saw the house of mysteries, as well as some of the petrified bodies. There’s an interesting contrast between the impressive preservation of the city and the deplorable fashion the citizens of Pompei died, their final moments of agony forever imprinted as they were petrified.
I had hoped to visit the Amalfi coast next, as well as Positano, but it was way too expensive to get to, and to stay there. In the end, looking on Google Maps for a nice next stop, I stumbled on Tropea. I swam in the Tyrrhean sea for the first time, and enjoyed the sunset ah the beach. Amazing day trip, just much further down the coast than planned 😆 which I took the train down, stopping in Paola for under an hour to eat a very late lunch near the water.
The next day, I took the train, then after finding the ferry, I made it to Sicilia. I landed in Messina, to then take a tram and another train down to Taormina. I tried an Arancino in the ferry, which was a deep fried rice ball with a small filling of sauce and meat I think, it was incredibly filling. From the Taormina train station, I walked a little over 3km in the afternoon sun to get to my hostel, with some incredible views of the Sicilian coast. I may have accidentally taken a wrong staircase and walked up 500 too many steps on another, but I found my hostel. It had 5 star views from the balcony of Isola Bella (which I read online is called the Pearl of the Mediterranean). The island truly was stunning. The first thing I did after checking-in was spending a few hours down by the beach and going for a short dip. That evening I met some Americans, which I had dinner with. And the next day, I met another American, whom I travelled with for four days. That morning, I went back to the beach, and got the worst sun burn of my life (or recent memory) after not applying sunscreen very well. That afternoon I started road tripping with Joey, a fun Californian school teacher. We first headed to Siracusa, stopping by at a Fort we saw on the road. We arrived to the Airbnb with 20 minutes for me to get to the last pharmacy open for 2 days to buy sunscreen and lotion for my burns. Bastards charged me a whopping 32€. Lesson learned, don’t get sunburnt…
Siracusa was neat, but nothing extraordinary. One fun tidbit was that a company was sampling some peach and lemon drinks around town. We made sure to walk around town in such a way that we could come back to grab another at each stand we found. 😅 I think we had 5 samples of 100mL each. That afternoon we drove a long ways to Agrigente to see the really beautiful Scala Dei Turchi, which seemed to be the local beach in the area, where we didn’t really see any other tourists 😁 we then drove to the other side of the island… alllll the way over to Trapani, where we took some picture at dusk of the salt marshes (Saline de Trapani).
The following day, we couldn’t make it to the Egadi islands, so we went up to Erice for lunch and some great views, and north to San Vito Li Capo, which had the most beautiful sandy beach I’ve seen so far. Walking back to the car was very eventful in that the car was not where we’d parked it. Turns out we parked where we shouldn’t have, and the car was gone. Luckily we were right next to the police station, where we learned that they towed the car and we had to pay 65€ to get it back 🤦🏼♂️ oops
The following day, we finally made it to Levanzo, the smaller Egadi island, where we hiked in sandals and flip flops several kilometres under the sun to visit the prehistoric caves on the island, only to find out that the guy at the tourist office forgot to tell us that we needed to reserve ahead of time 🤦🏼♂️ it’s alright though, the hike was gorgeous and prehistoric Italians had basically no artistic skills. To finish our time on the island, we went for a dip in a amazing little cove. We drove to Palermo that night so that Joey could return the car on time the following day.
My last day in Sicily was spent in the Palermo airport waiting for a 26€ flight to Paris, which got delayed twice, totalling the actual flight time because the airplane was not up to the pilots’ standards. In Paris, I’ll be staying with my mom’s cousin and her family 😘
Thus ends my expensive Italian two week jaunt. It was hot, beautiful, and fun. I even picked up some Italian. Luckily for me, at the beginning, mixing French, Spanish and mumbling a bit typically was good enough to be understood.