My adventures in Europe (Week 3 – Italy)

Day 15 – Padova/Padua

Following a brief conversation with Laura about where would be good places to visit whilst staying with her, I found myself heading off to the city of Padua this morning which is about to minutes South West of where I am staying by train. It was another warm and sunny day, with a definite aura of spring in the air… I even took my jumper off for the second time this week! (The first being yesterday) It isn’ta massive city, but large enough for a decent shop and day trip. It is quite a pretty place in parts, not as beautiful as Venice, but then I think that would be hard to beat! It is certainly easier to navigate t though and there are far less tourists in the way here! I arrived about 11.15 and with no set plan of where I wanted to go or what I wanted to do, so ambled down into what I presumed was the direction of the city as that’s where most people seemed to be going.

As I wandered around Padua, I discovered that it has some very pretty parks in which to sit and watch the world go by, as well as a lovely walk following a path along the banks of the river. I spent a fair amount of time in the parked today as there was a market in the city centre which meant there were a lot of people around all bustling about and jostling into each other which didn’t really appeal to me. Plus the parks were so pretty, it would be rude of me to ignore the obvious effort that has gone into maintaining them. Another place I visited in Padua today was the basillica (cathedral). It is an absolutely enormous building and the artwork inside was something to behold… How they got such detailed and intricate paintings into every crevice of the building is quite astounding!

The rest of the afternoon passed by in a bit of a blur as I ambled round the city streets as the market was quieter down and people went home for the day. The sun was still blazing down though, casting beautiful lighting over the city. As my phone was flat and it seemed too nice still to call it a day, I went and say in the community gardens about 15 minutes walk from the train station and updated my blog whilst soaking up the last days of sunshine. My host family are very kind and have said I can come and go any time and they will be happy to pick me up/take me home from their local station which makes life easier for me as there is limited public transport where they live. On the plus side it does mean that it is very quiet and has a rural feel about it, which adds to the authenticity of my Italian experience I feel. Their lifestyle is simplistic, but lovely… Everyone seems happy and there is a real sense of community. I guess it goes to show when it comes down to it, good friends and a loving family are all you really need in life!

Day 16 – Workaway

It started off as another bright and sunny day here in Italy, although I was a bit slow to get going as my duvet seemed to want to keep me firmly wrapped up this morning! I eventually managed to drag myself out of bed at around 8:45 to join the family for a quick breakfast of toast and jam (homemade with fruit that they had grown themselves of course.) After this, I decided to take Samba out for a leisurely stroll into the village as it was still warm and bright and I needed to stretch my legs a little after yesterday’s exertions. It was a pleasant outing, but we passed very few people as I think most locals were probably at the 10am mass in the village church. On returning, I helped Laura in the garden for a while raking, shovelling and disposing of dead leaves until Walter and the children came back .

We had a delicious lunch of gnocchi and ragu, although the children didn’t seem overly impressed, after which I spent a peaceful afternoon relaxing and skyping my family, whilst also contemplating what to do when I get back to the UK in terms of work and domestic arrangements. Things are starting to become a bit clearer, but there is still a little way to go yet before I decide which direction I would like to take… I am not the most decisive person in the world! I am feeling a lot calmer and more relaxed about life though and I am determined to not let little things cause me to stress and wobble! I like the word wobble, so think I shall end this entry here. Ciao!

Day 17 – Workaway

Today was probably one of the least eventful days of my travels so far. The weather was grim and I woke up feeling as though someone had been hacking at my throat with sandpaper during the night.. A sure sign that I have a cold developing. I spent the morning doing a few odd jobs around the house, mostly cleaning and attempting to prepare lunch for my hosts Laura and Walter as they both come home during their hour long break. I had planned a simple meal of rice, veg and beans as that was all that seemed to be available in the cupboard so should have been fairly straightforward… Should being the ultimate word there! First of all, I overcooked the rice so it turned into a bit of a gloopy stodgy mess, so I decided to salvage it by turning the dish into egg fried rice and mixing everything in together. It was all going fine until I places the hot frying pan down on the plastic chopping board, then without realising it had stuck to the bottom of the pan, put it back on the stove to cook a bit more!

I don’t think I have ever felt so panicked by something non-medical related as I did today. Taking the pan off the heat to find flames blazing up and a puddle of plastic oozing over the cooker was quite a scary moment for me! Without thinking, I grabbed my glass of water and chucked it over the fire to stop it spreading any further… Fortunately my hosts are the most laid back people I’m think I have a ever met and didn’t mind one bit that I almost wrecked their kitchen! The rest of the day, needless to say,was spent scraping plastic off the stove and trying to tidy up the mess that I had made. That’s something new to add to my list of special moments I think and certainly something which I shall never forget!

Day 18 – Treviso

Well it was another beautiful sunny day here in the Italian alps so I decided to make the most of it, despite feeling a little under the weather still and visit another beautiful city. Treviso sits a short distance North East of Pessagio and takes about 15 minutes to reach by train. It is almost like a smaller version of Venice, except far less tourist filled and a few less canals and winding streets to get lost in! It’s not quite as stunning as Venice either, but it does have some beautiful spots in which to sit and watch the world go by.

In my usual way, I picked up a map of the town and then completely ignored it because my navigational skills are so poor, so ended u casually wandering around, venturing off the path when something caught my eye. Fortunately the city is surrounded by a fairly busy ring road so I was always able to make sure that I didn’t go too far off course, knowing that each time I reached it, it would be time to head back towards the town again. Eventually, having explored all corners of the city and eaten lunch. I made my way to the train station and headed back to my home for the week.

This evening has been spent child-minding which is not easy when the children don’t understand or speak much English and I am clueless when it comes to italian! To be honest I think they understand more than they let on, but choose conveniently not to. I suppose I have to give them credit for their intelligence!

Day 19 -Murano, Burano and Venice

I can’t believe that today was my final full day with Laura and her family… It’s gone so quickly! As it was once again warm and sunny, I decided to make the most of it by heading into Venice for a second time, although this time with more idea of where I was going and what I was doing! I decided to go to the islands of Murano and Burano, which lie about 30-45 minutes away from the main city by waterbus and are both absolutely stunning!

Unfortunately this does also make them tourist honeypot spots, so they were pretty crowded and on the boat journeys to and from the islands we were crammed like sardines which wasn’t the most pleasant experience, but I survived and was extremely grateful to manage to get a space fairly near the edge of the standing deck so at least I could look out across the water. On arrival in Murano, I was immediately taken aback by how quaint it was… It’s basically like a miniature version of Venice, with less tiny streets to get lost in which is always going to be a bonus for me! There were gift shops galore selling the famous mutant glassware in the form of jewellery, vases, plates and ornaments which if you have a fair amount of money to spend would be a lovely reminder of your visit. I did see some beautiful necklaces which I nearly bought, until I looked at the price! Perhaps there will be some available on eBay in the future…

Wandering done, I bought myself a lovely lunch of focaccia and salad from the local supermarket and headed over to Burano as I’d read that there were some beautiful picnic spots and I was most certainly not disappointed! The brightly coloured chocolate box houses were absolutely gorgeous and instantly brought a smile to my face as well as all the other tourists who had ventured across the Venetian lagoon for the day. Being my typical independent self, I veered off on the path in the opposite direction to where the majority were heading, in order to find a nice quiet patch of grass on which to sit and eat my lunch. I found a perfect spot and had a delightful picnic, almost to the point where I didn’t want to get up again! Eventually I summoned up the energy to go exploring and was blown away by the beauty of the place with its bright colours and quaint canals once more. The reviews in which I had heard it was a photographers paradise were definitely true… Everywhere I turned a new delightful view presented itself for snapping. I will certainly have a lot of sorting to do on my memory card when I get back!

Gawping done, I headed back home to Laura’s, taking a few detours in Venice first to browse in some of the shops on the way. On collection from the train station I was informed that we would be having takeaway pizza for tea as a farewell featured the family to me which was lovely. I finally got my first taste of a truly authentic Italian pizza, (minus the cheese, of course). I just hope that in Milan I will be able to find a vegan or lactose free Italian gelato. Fingers crossed!

Day 20 – Milan

Today was another travel day. I was sad to say goodbye to Laura and the children this morning, but we both want to keep in touch so I’m sure we will. After triple checking that I was all packed and not left anything behind (apart from a bit of mud from my walking boots -oops!) it was time to leave. I have the family parting gifts of a new chopping board and some chocolate eggs for the children which they seemed very appreciative of as they scoffed them for breakfast! I was dropped off at the nearest train station to catch the train to Venice so that I could then board my bus that would take me to Milan.

It was all going swimmingly until I realised that the person who had decided to sit behind me was a real fidget and kept knocking the back of my chair with his knees. To make matters worse, every time we stopped, he would get off for a cigarette and come stinking of smoke! Eventually he stopped moving after I gave several subtle hints in the form of thumping back against my chair and turning round to glare at him. After that the journey was pretty non eventful. The man behind me fell asleep and started snoring which was irritating but I soon drowned it out with some music from my ipod. I spent most of the journey catching up with my blog entries and communicating with people back home, updating them on my progress.

When we finally arrived in Milan, about 30 minutes later than scheduled, finding the apartment was fairly straightforward…I even surprised myself with how uncomplicated I managed to make it seem! The metro in Milan seems a lot more straightforward than the underground in London and I managed to change lines and go in the right direction without any problems which for me, is a real achievement! On entering my home for the next few days, I was pleasantly surprised with how big it is and how close to the metro station it was – less than a 10 minute walk and accessible in a couple of ways, so hopefully even I won’t get lost! The only issue was that my travel adapter plug didn’t fit the socket as they seemed to have slimmed down the prongs since my parents bought theirs in the 1980s! Fortunately, I managed to find a little hardware shop just round the corner where the owner spoke a bit of English and was very helpful.

The rest of the evening was spent cooking dinner, relaxing in front of the TV (I managed to find some American films and dramas which was quite nice) and generally sorting out the logistics for my Day trips over the next couple of days. It’s going to be quite full on, but I am looking forward to both days greatly as I am sure the scenery will be spectacular.

Day 21 – Lake Como

It was an early start to the day as I wanted to ensure that I had plenty of time to see all the places that I had planned to visit around Lake Comp which included Varenna, Bellagio and Menaggio. It was a bit of a nightmare trying to fit everything around the logistics of the ferry, but I managed to work out a route of sorts to follow. After taking the metro to Milan Centrale and marvelling at the frankness of the station, I boarded the train and made the hour long journey to Varenna on the Eastern side of Lake Como. It’s a small but very colourful town and absolutely beautiful to look at from the water. I took a lot of photos as we pulled away from the shore and headed over to Menaggio.

Menaggio isn’t massive and there is not a lot to see or do there, but the views as you walk along the lido/ promenade are absolutely stunning. It is fair to say that I have had a tear or two in my eyes today as I have just been blown away by the sheer beauty of the lake and its surrounding villages. After a little explore of the town and a stroll along the lakeside, I hopped back on the ferry and headed over to Bellagio which is one of the most popular spots with day trippers on the lake as it sits right in the centre of the fork and is very quaint with cobbled streets and plenty of eateries! I spent about an hour or so here wandering around taking random photos of views which caught my eye and then headed back towards Varenna for the final part of the day. By this point the town was fairly quiet as most of the tourists had headed over to Bellagio so it was quite pleasant strolling around in the sunshine. Again, there wasn’t a lot to see or do here, except the castle and it’s funicular, but it was nice to just relax in the sunshine. An ice cream would have been perfect but as yet, I have been unable to find any lactose free gelatos, so don’t really want to risk it, especially as there seems to be a distinct lack of public toilets in Italy!

It was a long day, but in the late afternoon, I caught the train back to Milan and made it back to my flat about. . After an easy dinner of soup and foccacia, I collapsed in a heap on the sofa and decided to have a bit of relaxation time involving a facemask, colouring and soothing music in the background. It’s fair to say that I am pretty tired, but I’m sure after an early night, I’ll be ready to wake up and do it all again tomorrow, as I plan to visit Lake Maggiore. I managed to find out online that they have a toboggan style rollercoaster thing that whooshes you down the mountains towards the lake (though fortunately not into it) which I hope to have a go on… Looks like it could be a lot of fun… It will certainly help keep me awake if nothing else!

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