Jo Turnbull dashes down some quick-fire notes as she hot-foots it through Italy
As the home of art, opera, and fashion and not forgetting ice cream and pasta, Italy is one of the most interesting countries in Europe. The shape of a boot with a football on the toe representing Sicily, it is a country of diverse scenery and landscapes. My recent trip over twelve days covered the cities of the north down to Rome and back, not enough time to do justice to the wonderful countryside and ancient towns, but enough to make me want to go back and explore other towns and villages further south.
The famous city on water with the canals is easily accessible by train from Verona or there is an airport just a short boat trip away. If you have an interail pass, you can travel to Venice from Verona without charge and it will take around 2 hours. However with a fast train, it takes just over an hour and costs 10 euros each way. It is about a 30 minute walk from the main train station in Venice to the Rialto Bridge, with a further 20 minute walk to get to St. Mark’s Square and the Basilica. The best way to see Venice is on foot, but if you can team up with a few friends (making there 6 of you in total) you can take a gondola through some of the canals in the city.
Verona is well known as the home of Romeo and Juliet and while it is not in the top 10 cities to visit in Italy, it is well worth a trip. I stayed in a friendly little guest house called Franciscus just on the outside of the city wall, but only 10 minute walk from the station.
There is a lot to see in Verona; some of the most well known attractions are: Juliette’s House and her Tomb, the Arena and Piazza Erbe. The Arena is in the middle of Piazza Bra in the centre of the city. The Arena was originally built in 30AD and people can still go and watch productions which take place there every summer. Piazza Bra itself is one of the most famous squares in Verona and is filled with cafes and restaurants.
It was my first time in Florence and I only wish I had stayed longer there to see everything. Florence is the capital of the Tuscany area. Piazza della Signoria is one of the most famous squares in Florence and was where the original Michelangelo’s David once stood. The famous statue is now in the Museum Accademia in central Florence. Entrance tickets can be bought in advance to avoid the queue which can sometimes be a 2 hour wait. David is the symbol of Florence as the Florentine people saw him as a hero, and symbol of strength.
The Duomo took my breath away, the first time I saw it. The dome was the biggest in the world when it was built, designed by architect Brunelleschi. The Baptistry a few metres away is the oldest building in Florence and it is made of green and white marble with impressive carved doors depicting the books of the bible.
Rome is only a one and a half hour train ride from Florence, but very different. The eternal city with its ancient monuments and ruins can easily be visited on foot. There is a metro, but the best way to see everything is to go on the hop-on, hop-off bus. It is however advisable to go in the morning before the heat and the traffic builds up. One of the best places to stay is the area between metro Cavour and the Termini station. It takes about 20 minutes to walk to the Colosseum and 20 minutes to get to Fountain of Trevi.
The Vatican is a separate city within Rome, just one kilometre square. The basilica of St Peter is where Michaelangelo’s well-known statue of La Pieta is found and St Peter’s Square is where the Pope addresses the crowds at special events such as Easter. The Vatican is also home to the Vatican Museum which has a wide range of art collections. The Sistine Chapel is in the Vatican and is where Michelangelo’s famous ceiling and Judgment is located. As to be expected the Vatican Museum is very popular which means visitors can be waiting up to 2 hours to enter. However, tourists can book their ticket on line to avoid the queue.
My whistle stop tour of Italy over twelve days was one of the most interesting trips I have made. The country is a fascinating mix of art and culture with beautiful towns and cities, scattered across a changing landscape of mountains and valleys in the north, to perched hill top villages in the south. I only hope that my next visit will be longer giving me time to really appreciate La Dolce Vita.