Friday, 21 March: I arrived at my hostel in Venice in the early afternoon. For those who don’t know, the only way around Venice is either by foot or water bus; there are absolutely no place for vehicles bar the bus and car park immediately after the bridge. My hostel was on a island called Giudecca separate from the main cluster islands, so that left my options limited to the water bus. Although it’s slow and a bit pricey, riding the water bus is defiantly a neat experience. Once I got back to the main islands, I visited some main tourist locations like Piazza San Marco, bits of the Grand Canal and the Rialto Bridge, although it was disguised by scaffolding.
Saturday, 22 March: I took a walking tour in the morning. It was an interesting tour in that we didn’t hit the main attractions, but rather less known places with some history such as the smallest street, oldest bridge and several churches. After that, I took one final walk around the Grand Canal before heading out. That evening, I rented a car (thank goodness I know how to drive a manual transmission) and dove about forty minutes northwest to a venue in the middle of nowhere (hence the car rental) to see Enter Shikari. I saw them about a month ago in London with a crowd of about 10,000 people, but this venue had no more than 500 people. During the opening band, Modestep, the guitarist for Enter Shikari, Rory, was standing right behind me! A little later, the singer, Rou, and drummer, Rob, were hanging out at the merchandise booth. I got a few pictures and the two of them signed my ticket. Their set was amazing. Although it was the same songs they played last month, it was a totally different experience in a small venue. At one point, Rou brought an amplifier in the crowd and stood on it for a song while the crowd made a circle pit around him and during the last song, Rory came into the crowd and played and the crowd promptly lifted him up. Not to mention, they both were climbing on things throughout the set. After the set, I waited by the merchandise table, hoping to get the other two members to sign my ticket. The crowd was dying down and I assumed they went to bed, which I understand, it was a late show (it ended at about 12:30AM). On social media, Enter Shikari was running a contest: for everyday of the tour, they autographed a group photo (Polaroid) taken in front of the venue they were playing that night. Although I didn’t win, the winner didn’t show, so the merchandise manager gave me the Polaroid before I left. It was an amazing night, I’m thankful I got several signed items and got a chance to talk to Rou and Rob. After returning my car in the wee hours of the morning and waiting for the hourly night water bus, I was finally back at my hostel, at least for a few hours before I had to catch my train that morning.
Sunday, 23 March: I caught a train to Florence and arrived at my hostel in the early afternoon. When I arrived, I looked into what I wanted to do and needed up booking a day trip for the next morning, taking up my only full day. That evening, I got the power tour of Florence. I walked to the Duomo and although it was beautiful from the outside, it was hard to admire it fully because I was too close. With that, I took a bus to Piazza Michelangelo, a park on top of a hill with incredible views of the city. I returned to the city to go the the Academia Gallery, but the queue for non-reservation holders was massive, and I wasn’t bothered to wait when I only had a few more hours left to explore. Finally, I went to Ponte Vecchio, where I watched the sun set.
Thursday, 24 March: I took a day trip hike to Cinque Terre, five scenic villages along the sea. This tour company hit all of them with a hike between two of the villages in the middle of the day. First, we went to Manarola, where we walked through the vineyards and got some free time in the town. Then, we went to Corniglia, the smallest village, by train. There, we had a delicious lunch of seafood salad and homemade pesto pasta. After a carb-filled lunch, we hiked to the next village, Vernazza. The hike was beautiful few miles through the hills with gorgeous views of several villages. We had free time in Vernazza, where I walked around and enjoyed the most scenic of the five villages (at least, in my humble opinion) over some gelato. We went to Monterosso by train, where again, we had some free time in the town. This village’s beaches and old town were especially beautiful. Finally, we took the train to Riomaggiore to watch the sun set, which was breathtaking, especially from my prime real estate by the water. This town also had great street food; I got mixed calamari!
Friday, 25 March: I caught an early train to Rome, where the first thing I did was take a walking tour. I’ve never been on a more crowded walking tour, there must have been about fifty of us to one guide. Anyway, I listened to what I could about our stops: the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Altar of the Fatherland, some ruins and the outside of the Colosseum, which was breathtaking with the sunset.
Saturday, 26 March: Early that morning, in order to avoid the crowds (this time of the year is usually off-season, but I was among the Easter weekend crowds), I visited St. Peter’s Basilica, including a trip up into the dome and on top of it. After that, I went to the Vatican Museum, where the line was massively long, the person at reception who advised me to go so early wasn’t exaggerating when he told me the wait would be at least three hours if I didn’t get there when I did. I was really only there to see the Sistine Chapel, but as it was a (more or less) one way museum and I was stuck behind many large tour groups, I got to see a lot of the museum, as well. That evening, I got a guided tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, a large area of ancient ruins.
Sunday, 27 March: I took another walking tour, this time hitting different attractions like Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Vatican. As it turns out, the Pope was going to speak in St. Peter’s Square shortly after our tour ended. Although I couldn’t see him that well or understand a word he was saying, it was a really cool experience to (kind of) see him on Easter Sunday. To end my day, I took a train about an hour north to Lake Bracciano to enjoy some quiet time away from the city.
Monday, 28 March: After an exhausting few days in Rome, I didn’t get up to much after my arrival in Naples. I did, however, visit a somewhat famous pizzeria, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele, best known for its appearance in Eat, Pray, Love.
Tuesday, 29 March: That afternoon, I went to the Mt. Vesuvius crater. The views from the top of the mountain were incredible and it was especially cool to see the crater smoking (it’s still active!). That evening, I did a little bit of Naples exploring, but in my opinion, there wasn’t a whole lot to do or see in the city itself.
Wednesday, 30 March: I went to Pompeii today. The area itself is massive with so much history around every corner, I’m glad I didn’t skip it like I thought I would. After that, I went to Positano, a small village on the Amalfi coast, where I lied on the beach and soaked up as much of the sun as possible before heading back to dreary England.
Thursday, 31 March: Before my flight, I took a quick tour of the Herculaneum, another archaeological site near the base of Mt. Vesuvius, but far smaller and more manageable. Although, I must say I did prefer Pompeii.
I had a great time in Italy, where my personal favorite parts were the Enter Shikari show, Cinque Terre, Colosseum and just taking time to enjoy nature in this beautiful, sunny country!
Photo by Braden Collum.