Italy: Non ci piove

Hello again guys! It’s been about a month since I last posted, and I think that may be the best way to handle handing these adventure stories out (that way you lovely people aren’t bothered with my nonsense too often)!

This edition: me, Chelsea, Italy and all our misadventures.

It was, admittedly, a smoother time than Paris, though.

In July 2017, Chels and I packed our backpacks again for another taste of European countryside and fine wine. ๐Ÿ˜‰

We intended to cover a few iconic places in Italy over just a few days (since that’s all the time we could allow, as we were both writing M.A. thesis’s at the time). Our itinerary featured Milan, Rome, and Pompeii.

Day One:

Our first flight was from Cork to Milan (and honestly we went to Milan mainly because it was the cheapest city to fly into at the time). We were only going to be there for the day and then would take a night bus, via Flixbus, to Rome for the next stop.

We left Cork early morning and got on a direct flight that put us in Milan about 9:00am. Once in the more “downtown” part of the city, the first thing we did was go to an espresso bar (for me this is kind of ironic since I’m allergic to coffee, but Chelsea loves coffee and I really love the smell of it… And the taste of it… And all things coffee in general… cruel, cruel irony).

[Let me say, that even though I can’t drink it, I think Italian’s do coffee right. They have a pretty great coffee culture and have different “rules” about what types of coffee they order at different times of the day.] 

While Chelsea enjoyed sipping her coffee, and I was having a tea instead, we asked for a table, ordered a couple of pastries, and enjoyed people watching for a while. After, we walked to the famous Duomo and spent the afternoon in that area looking around the Cathedral and the museums and gardens nearby (and, of course, taking way too many pictures).

Alsooo, I should mention that Chels and I went super “extra” that day and wore matching dresses around the city. Picture evidence:

Look at us, twinning and posing at the Duomo.

It was a good day. Pretty tame and nothing really went wrong. So, where’s the humour, you ask? Oh, just prepare yourself, because, that evening, things got interesting.

First off, we had to go to a different part of the city to catch the Flixbus and since we were budget-traveling again, we decided to walk from the center of Milan to the bus station.

[Not sure what it is with us and walking, but we’ve ended up regretting our life choices a lot of time when we do that…]

It was a pretty long walk, but we were fine as far as “feetsies” go. It’s just that we kept walking through huge groups of mosquitoes and (because of the dresses we were wearing) had little defence against them. ๐Ÿคฆ๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ

Sooo, we arrived to the bus station an hour and many bites later.

The station was less than what we’d hoped for, to put it in kind terms. It ended up that it wasn’t in the best part of the city, which we didn’t know beforehand…

[Just a side note, when travelling, please always check out where you’re going before you get there. Check out if a city has any “no go” places before you arrive, so that you don’t suddenly find yourself somewhere you don’t want to be. I’d advise at least checking your lodgings and surrounding out on Google Maps before hand, as well as browsing through TripAdvisor, too.]

The area we ended up in didn’t seem unsafe, really. It was just a less polished part of the city, we were unfamiliar with the area, and it was getting dark. However, since we were together, Chels and I felt safe to wait there.

We had kind of thought that we could wait inside the station, but that didn’t end up working out. Our bus was later in the evening and the interior of the bus station closed just after we got there. Also, to make everything better, apparently the bus yard where we needed to wait was home territory for the mosquitoes… 

Trying to avoid the little terrors. Picture Source.

We were slapping the stupid bugs away, very literally, constantly. No joke, I think we each still ended up with well over fifteen bites.

So, we were sitting at this bus station, not thrilled with the area, the bugs, or our dresses at this point. Finally, our bus came about 9:00pm.

So, we got in line, and we waited (Also, P.s. and PSA, in Italy, in our experiences, there are no lines for buses. It’s mass chaos. There’s just one huge wave of people jockeying for a place around the door. And, let me say, that was really great).

A few minutes later, we finally got to the bus door.

Annnd our tickets wouldn’t scan.

The guy tried again. Still no scan.

He put us off to the side.

Loaded up everyone else.

After what seemed like an entire herd of people disappeared onto the bus, he came back to us (the bus was very nearly full now, and they were about to start selling the last few seats).

He attempted to scan our ticket code again. No such luck.

Then, he realized… our tickets were for the following night…

[For this trip, Chelsea and I each had different responsibilities. She was supposed to book our flights, and my job was to book all of our bus routes…

I literally had one job. One job.

And I pretty well screwed us over.]

Since the tickets were for the next night, he wouldn’t let us on the bus with the tickets that we had.

At that point, Chelsea was in favor of getting a hostel and spending another day in Milan, but we had already reserved beds in a hostel in Rome for the next night. Sooo, I convinced (read: pushed) her to agree that we just needed to shell out the Euro to pay for the tickets for that night. The problem was, at that point, the tickets were triple the price we originally paid, and we were traveling on a really tight budget, but (in my mind) we had to get on the bus. So, we used about half our spending money paying for new bus tickets.

Suffice to say, Chels was well peeved at me.

But, we got on the bus. But, we did not sit together for about the first six hours of the bus ride. Anyway, we were off to Rome….

It was exciting. Really.

On a huge up note, after a while, the person who was in charge of selling tickets (not sure what to call him? The bus steward?) came by and, I’m pretty sure he felt bad for us, he ended up giving us (on the sly) part of cash payment back.

So, a solid thank you, Flixbus guy, wherever you are now. ๐Ÿ™๐Ÿผ

Day Two:

The next morning, we arrived in Rome. Rumpled, disgruntled, and less than well rested.

We were, thankfully, over the trauma of the previous night (thank you, Chelsea, for never staying mad at me!!).

We had already decided to check-in at our accommodations that evening and not bother going there until then. So, after disembarking the bus, we used facilities at the bus/train terminal in Rome to get ready for the day, decided where we would go first, and off we went again.

This day started a little less gracefully, which was mostly my fault… oops.

We needed to get the Metropolitana di Roma to the city centre, because we wanted to go the Colosseum first. We got the metro tickets and went down the platform and, because I may-or-may-not be a little directionally challenged, I got us on the wrong train…

It had only gone a couple of stops before we realised it, so no true harm done, and it was easy to correct.

[Moral of the story though, don’t trust me with directions unless I have a GPS telling me what to do. You do not want my help, I promise.]

So, after that little hiccup, we got on the correct train and went for a quick ride to one of the most iconic places in Italy, and probably in the world.

From our second day in Italy.

Coming up from the metro at the Colosseum was a little overwhelming. There’s loads and loads of street vendors selling tourist items and crafts, guides trying to sell people tickets for private tours, people hawking tickets, etc. It’s pretty wild.

However, once you’re past that, it’s pretty straight forward.

We stood in the line to get tickets for both the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, our next stop, and then joined the other hundreds of other people waiting to enter the historic amphitheatre.

Now, we went in July, so remember that Italy is super hot at this time of year. Super. Hot. And the entire country is close enough to the water/coastline (even when inland) to feel the humidity from the ocean.

Because of that, plus the fact that we’d been out in the sun the entirety of the previous day and had just ridden on a bus for about 10 hours, Chels and I may have been slightly (read: very) dehydrated. Standing in the hot sun did not help the issue at all, and we were dum-dums who did not buy water before hand, thinking we could just fill up our reusable bottles somewhere (which we had forgotten to do).

Add all of that together and you have a situation perfect for some good, old-fashioned, hand-to-forehead, Southern-style fainting. And guess who the lucky girl was?

Oh, yes. Indeed. Moi.

It was thrilling, truly.

One moment, Chels and I were picture taking (per usual); just enjoying the moment, walking around, having the craic. The next, I was a little wilting daisy on the Colosseum floor. It was definitely one of my finest moments.

[Second moral of the story, always have water. And maybe don’t go to Italy in its hottest part of the year when you’ve been living in one of the most mild climates on Earth.]

So, I sat in the shade inside the Colosseum for a good twenty-minutes, regaining my composure. Then, because I am stubborn and didn’t want to ruin the day, we went back to business as usual. We finished viewing the Colosseum and then, walked on to the Roman Forum.

The Forum is situated in what would have been Rome’s centre for business and government. It was also the centre for many religious sects, and some of the city’s other most iconic buildings or temples are preserved here.

Standing at one end of the Roman Forum.

Again, not a lot of shade there and still very hot, but Chelsea was gracious to take it a little slower and we made it through (after several stops for picture-perfect moments).

Afterward, we found a street full of cafes and restaurants and had an early dinner.

[Another fun little fact: Italian’s normally order at least two courses for a meal to be considered a “meal.” That didn’t hurt our feelings at all ๐Ÿ˜… we happily shared an antipasto, had delicious pizza, and some classic Italian desserts.]

Then, after more browsing around the area, we took the metro out to a stop close to our hostel.

After not having really slept the night before and spending two days out in the sun, both of us had no trouble falling asleep.

Day Three:

Day three was our Pompeii day! Both Chels and I, without contest, loved this day-trip the most out of the things we chose to do. AND NOTHING WENT AWRY WITH THE WHOLE DAY! 

One of the residential ruins in Pompeii

We woke up early, prepped with snacks and sunscreen (and water!), got on another Flixbus for the three-ish hour ride, and went off to the Campania region.

Pompeii is something of a special interest to Chels, as she studied for anthropology at her undergraduate University. This worked out pretty handy for me, since I ended up having a kind of “private” tour with her.

Some of the most amazing parts of this ruined city are the incredible and incredibly preserved frescos. The city is pretty well litered with them, but in a few buildings, they are escpecially impressive, like those in the House of the Tragic Poet or the Villa dei Misteri, while those in the Lupanare building are *ahm* insightful.

We spent most of the day there, seeking shade where we could (because, ya know, it was hot), and taking our time.

After leaving the Pompeii ruins, we stopped for gelato along the street, found some fabulous hats at a street stall, and then, got back on a bus toward Rome.

[Ideally, for both of us, we would have preferred to stay a day in each city and not have had to go back-and-forth to Rome. However, money speaks, and flying out of Rome was much cheaper than flying out anywhere near Pompeii.]

Day Four:

Our last day, still a great day.

We were flying out late in the afternoon, so we hadn’t planned on doing much, but we did want to go to the Trevi Fountain.

Totally. Worth. It.

The Trevi is a great spot for two of our favorite things: pictures ๐Ÿ™ˆ and people watching ๐Ÿ‘€

We stopped on the way to get gelato, which was amazing, and we finished before we arrived at the fountain, which was a handy coincedence because you were apparently not allowed to have food by the Trevi. The ban that enforced those rules may have ended by now, but they were definitely in place when we went. They had stewards (all of them were these cute little old men while we were there) that made sure all the tourists were behaving themselves properly and not eating by or trying to jump into the fountain.

They would stand by the fountain, too, and help people get good picture shots, or ask people to move if they had been hogging a spot for a long time. In my case, one of them provided entertainment while we were trying for a picture. He kept mimicking our posing and casually making us lose our composure. The two pictures here give a pretty good illustration of the hilarity he caused:

Me trying to pose and look cute and stuff. You can’t see him, but the little steward is to my left, and I’m looking at him, in this picture.
Donโ€™t mind my laughing face, please! This is after he struck a pose by me. The old man smirking over my right shoulder is the steward. He was pretty well pleased with himself.

We stayed at the fountain for probably a couple of hours, sitting and enjoying it all. I also had a pretty fantastic moment where I was sitting atop the corner of the fenced area and nearly fell off, in a dress…

It was interesting.

And then we went to eat. Because, what else do you do when in a country super, super famous for food?

I loved the food, soooo much!

After we finished, though, we still had a good amount of time before we needed to be at the airport. So, we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go to the Vatican City.

Again, great decision making skills.

I’m not sure why we hadn’t put it specifically on our list of things to do, but we’d each already picked our one “must do” thing, so it kind of just felt like an afterthought…

It was a great afterthought, though, and should definitely have been a forethought!

We only had time to go into St. Peter’s Basilica, but even seeing “only” that and the Vatican square were worth it (also, seeing the Swiss guards!).

One of the Swiss guards on duty while we were there.

On a super funny side note, and to mention dresses again, the Vatican has a dress code and my dress was just too short. I had a long skirt in my bag that I could change into before we went in the Basilica, so no worries there. However, we were already in line at this point and wouldn’t have had time to get out of line to go find somewhere for me to change and then come get back in line. So, I decided to just put it over the dress I already had on…

It should have been a simple thing, but I am a pretty good klutz sometimes.

I ended up getting my foot caught in the bottom of the skirt fabric somehow, and I kept tripping myself trying to get it untangled. It kind of twisted up on itself so that if I had fallen down, I would have ended up flashing everyone in the Vatican square, and if I had tried to fix it by letting the skirt down, I would still flash everyone… Good times.

And Chelsea was holding our bags as the line moved, so she couldn’t help me, and I kept trying to make things better, but I was nearly falling over and absolutely mortified, but also trying really hard not to laugh at the irony of the situation (because, I mean, if there’s ever someplace that it wouldn’t be a big deal if you accidentally exposed yourself, it’s definitely not at the epicentre, the beating heart, of Catholicism).

How I imagine all the grannies would have reacted if I had fallen. Picture Source.

Thank God, very literally, that someone behind me finally took pity on the situation and fixed my skirt.

…What can I say? It happens.

Apparently, it happens to me in the middle of the Vatican.

So, with my skirt in its proper place and the flash-crisis averted, we toured the Basilica.

There really aren’t words that completely explain or describe what it’s like.

It’s massive, almost overwhelming. I’d say you could definitely fly a kite, if not a small plane, under its dome and atrium.

The art is amazing, of course. You know, because, Michelangelo (especially his gorgeous Pieta sculpture) and several others of the Italian masters. This article is good to give an overview of the mass amount of art at St. Peter’s.

It’s wonderful, really. And the Vatican has much more that can be viewed outside of the Basilica. I can’t say how much I wish we had planned a day to visit more of the Vatican (next time, though!).

And after that, there wasn’t much excitement. We left the Vatican City, hopped on the metro and then a bus, and then, flew back to good old Ireland.

Another adventure-time done and dusted.

One of my favourites of the preserved frescos at Pompeii.

Thanks for taking a moment and sharing some time with me, you all! If you enjoyed this adventure story, hang out until next month’s blog and consider following the page, so that you can get alerts when a new post is out.

Sending hugs (if you like those, and high-fives if you don’t).

And if you’re traveling to Italy and have questions about stuff, I’m happy to give out some advice based on my experience!

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