The first thing we did on Italian soil was visit a short stop in Fair Verona, where we lay our scene… Including visiting “Juliet’s Balcony”. Arriving at our campground just out of Venice was a relief after a hot day in the bus – 6+ hours. Not our longest, by any stretch, but long enough. Our cabin had its own bathroom, and for the first time in 10 days, only the two of us in it. Bliss – even if the beds were singles. The campground had a pool too, heaven.
The most tourist-obvious thing we did would have to be a toss-up between leaning “on” the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and going for a ride on a gondola in Venice. Its hard to know which would be considered more cheesy. The gondola ride was definitely our favourite of the two though.
We wish we had had more time on Venice proper. Our accommodation was off the island, so we only arrived at 10am, and had to be back at the bus by 5pm. Next time we get to Europe, we are definitely planning to stay on the island proper, whatever the cost. We felt like we hardly got the chance to explore.
The single best thing we did was “run away” from our tour party in Venice. When we went exploring with a group, we turned a corner and came across our tour leader, who was headed for the pub. Everyone decided to join her. We opted not to, and purposely went the other way, letting ourselves get “lost” in the alleyways away from the tourist hub. Sitting in a courtyard, in a patch of sunshine, watching local kids have a water fight was bliss.
A major tourist attraction we skipped was visiting Michaelangelo’s David in Florence. Tickets have to be booked months in advance, Mark had seen it before, I wasn’t that keen. In the end, this was a massive blessing, as I wound up having a health meltdown on our day in Florence, so we might have lost our spot anyway.
The most challenging part of our time in Italy was probably the visit to Orvieto. The usual cable car up to the town on the hill was broken, so we all squeezed into buses. I was still feeling way out of it from the spell in Florence the day before, and really just wanted to lie down and sleep so I could enjoy our arrival in Rome that night. Its sad, because when I look back, I see that Orvieto was probably one of the most picturesque places we visited, and I just did not have the energy to appreciate it.
An unplanned highlight was Becs organising a Vineyard tour and dinner on our first night in Florence. The food was scrummy – far more so than the pizza the next night. In fact, apart from being sick, Florence was a lot of fun, and a lot of drunkenness. Some of my most hilarious memories from the entire trip are from our evenings around the campground in Florence.
We definitely need to go back and do all of Italy again, taking more time about it, staying closer to (or actually in) the central parts of town.