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Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 5: Verona and Venice

Showers, rain and liquid meals

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While this pic looks like we were arguing, we were actually trying to get the gondola in the shot!

Aug 27

Bought cheap fruit and bread on our way out of the hostel, which came in handy on the four-hour train to Bologna, for which we had to sit in the gangway, between carriages, and even then the inspector charged us a supplement, though he pretended we got on at Arrezzo, which made it a bit less severe. After seven minutes in Bologna we got on the short hop to Verona (1.5 hours), for which we did get a seat, and bussed and walked to the hostel up the hill where we were told there was beds free at the other hostel at the bottom of the hill - d'oh! It was brand new though, and the dorms were nice (and three-quarters empty!), the only problem was the showers, which consisted of a single pole with four shower heads pointing out - I'm no shrinking violet or whatever the phrase is but let's just say for two nights and two days myself and Ollie showered at different times!

We settled outside at a picnic table, where a Cork girl who just finished a degree in Italian and Latin guessed Julie was Irish without speaking because she was making a crisp sandwich! I had four more Splugen (u umlaut) 66CL bottles, and then myself and Ollie tucked into a IR6 700ml bottle of vodka, having grown our drinking group into us three, Irish girl, two New Zealanders, two Australians and two Germans. Though the curfew was 11.30pm, weren't kicked inside until 12.30am, where we drank until 2am even though the night guard turned the lights out at 1am! At least the bed was comfortable, though too hot as ever.

Aug 28

What a day - booted out of the hostel at 9am, and it was closed until 5pm then - so we went for a stroll around Verona, and decided to look for a tent shop, as three into a two-man tent doesn't go (!), and we planned to camp in Venice. The idiot bitch in the Tourist office gave us the wrong directions to the camping store twice in one sitting - we got a bus to the south of the city where a woman told us there was no via Antonio da Legado, so we got a bus to the train station, where they told us that street was on a different route. We ended up outside the city altogether to the west, where a kind hotel porter told us that we were on the right street, but that the camp store was on Via Legado, an entirely different road way, way to the southeast!

Got back to the hostel, had a quick cattle wash (shower), and headed out to dinner before the opera Nabucco at the Arena, which I finally persuaded the other two to go to - tickets only 28,000 (a tenner), and we had a great view of an open-air, Babylonian, fully-orchestrated performance of Verdi's Nabucco that we didn't understand a word of, but it was brilliant! Divided into acts of 50-sih minutes, which made it handy for getting more beer. The highlight was the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (Va Pensiero), which was encored even though it was only three quarters through the show!)

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Photo Credit: Camping-fusina.com

Aug 29

After some bother getting to the train station, we now have to wait until 1.10pm (it's 10am) for a slow train that doesn't incur a supplement (personally, I'd just get the Intercity train and pay the £4, but democracy rules on this trip!)

We arrive in Venice anyway, and after a trip to the tourist office we get a bus to Camping Fusina, out right by the sea in Mestre, the industrial mainland area of Venice (I discover that Venice is 117 small islands, connected by 400 bridges - the map resembles one of those puzzles where you draw a line through the maze to the other side!)

We set up the tent, have supermarcato grub, and take a ferry to Venice. 30 mins later, having seen the Basilica di San Marco by accident [Aside: we're now collecting apostles, now having been at the tombs of St Peter and St Mark], we're hopelessly lost! Without anything other than our noses we miraculously return to our little dock bang on time for the next boat, and get back to our tent, which is pitched 15 feet from the water's edge (several gigantic freight ships passed right by us) with 2 bottles of chianti and a double bottle of rose. Got mildly drunk, yet still manage to talk so much shit so loudly, arguing for two hours after Ollie said 'exhaustive' instead of 'exhausting', so much so that a German girl gets out of her tent and asks us to be quiet! Me and Julie sleep in relative comfort in the tent (amazingly, it's too cold) while Ollie sleeps in the open air, whch turned out to be a bad decision.

Aug 30

Awoken at 9am by the freezing cold inside the tent, I get up in search of breakfast. I get ripped off in the campsite breakfast bar (8000 lira, £3.20, for a bowl of cornflakes and coffee) and return to the tent. And then it rained - aargh! Three people and every possession we had inside the tent waiting for it to stop raining for an hour.

Amazed at the bad weather we lounge around the campsite, eventually deciding to return to Venice proper on the ferry to find out details of how to get a train to Slovenia. In true professional style, we get off the boat at 4pm, make our way through the labyrinth city to the Stazionne FS, get the info and make it back the way we came for the 6.10pm boat back (there's only one per hour).

Stuck to a minimal residue of lira, our only nightcap is a bottle of wine between three, my part of which is drank through the sawn-off bottom of a plastic water bottle! We go to bed early, partly in anticipation of getting up early and partly through lack of drink, and the tight squeeze in the tent, even with the rucksacks outside, becomes a nightmare when it starts to rain and doesn't stop all night. Unable to move to one side as Julie is there, and the drenched wall of the tent to my left, I lie perfectly still waiting for the morning.

As it turns out, I wake with a headache from using my towel as a pillow, and clamber out of a soaked sleeping bag to a miserable Venetian dawn, though we can't help gawking at the amazing sunrise.

Posted by BillLehane 09:19 Archived in Italy Tagged churches trains food venice religion verona italy wine holidays europe rail blog interrail Comments (0)

Bill's European Adventure, 2001. Part 4: Florence and Rome

Our plunky drunkards get culture-jammed and find religion

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Bill and Julie at the Duomo, Florence

Aug 23

Florence Day 1 - hellish! Got a double-decker (yes!) train to Firenze and trotted around the place in the scorching heat frantically looking for accommodation, eventually getting booked into what turned out to be a military boot camp style thing in the sticks with rigid breakfast, dinner and lights out times. OK though, given we almost stayed in a brothel that was advertised as a hostel and then we saw the brothel's owner's apartment, which looked like drug money had purchased the white leather sofa and other lavish fittings.

Met two Californians at the hostel - their Republican background and views were hilarious to us once we got merry on a 5l mini-keg of Firstenburg, which they greeted with dismay! One of them actually thought George W was a good President!

Had great fun dodging the curfew - a staff member allowed me to finish my cup of beer and cigarette out the front of the building as a special favour at 12.10am!! Sleep was hot, but comfortable enough. Getting up early to go sightseeing isn't too difficult because one can't sleep late in this fuckin' heat!

Aug 24

Breakfast of coffee and rock of bread with butter was more of a tease than a meal. Packed a lunch from stuff in the supermarket, and set off on the bus for a hectic day of sightseeing, involving queues, lots of paintings and lots of tourists, finishing up back in the hotel bang on time for our boarding school dinner at 6.30. Drank 66CLs with funny Australians and an Irish thirty-something, mid-life crisis couple; it all came to an abrupt end at midnight - lights out. Smoking outside after curfew made me feel like a bold schoolboy!

Beginning to get culture-jammed - saw so much in the last two weeks that cathedrals and paintings no longer have a fixed location in my head. Very impressed by Michelangelo's David though.

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Bill and Ollie at the Roman Forum

Aug 25

Rome! Got a train at 1044 (had to stand/sit in the gangway for the whole 2.5 hours, but at least we weren't charged the IR£4 supplement that we should've been. We had a hostel booked, but we had to battle to get there by 2pm deadline. It turned out to be this cool, small, 22-bed place in an apartment block ten minutes from Cipro metro station.

We left for an afternoon of historical sightseeing - the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps (John Keats museum beside it turned out much more interesting), Trevi Fountain, Monumento a Vittorio Emmanuelle II (huge monument that looks like a building, but it's just a statue!) and the Colosseum (found also a huge bronze statue of Marcus Aurelius [old guy from Gladiator]), and then got a metro back to the hostel, where we cooked our own pasta in the kitchen, and settled into an evening of strange 66CL beers, chianti and multi-lingual conversations with Italians, an Australian, a Portuguese guy and a Brazilian who didn't look Brazilian.

The place was so homely that the co-owner was asking our opinion on what to wear out on the piss, and the other co-owner was drinking my beer!!

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Not entirely sure why I look so grumpy in this picture.
I think the sun was in my eyes. Or maybe I was just hung over.

Aug 26

Got up a bit groggy at 8.45, later than planned, and went for a Vatican trip with just Julie, as Ollie wouldn't get out of bed! A queue three streets long to get into the Musei Vaticani moved swiftly as entry was free on the last Sunday of each month. We passed countless priceless artefacts on our way to the Sistine Chapel, which was fucking amazing. Walked around to Piazza San Pietro and heard music over the tannoy as we entered - magical! The inside of St Peter's Basilica is ornate, devout and massive - 60,000 can fit in! We saw a bit of a multi-lingual Mass, St Peter's tomb - the underground grotto where Popes are buried, but didn't see the Dome as the queue was too long.

Spent a second night chilling with hostellers and hostel staff alike, though the fun ended early as I was the only one with the foresight to buy beer, so it had to be split into three (albeit a big 'third' for me!) and Ollie had a headache, the poor devil!

Slept in until 11, though the checkout time was 10am (nice staff, again), and then toddled off to the train station to move on to Verona, a hitherto-unenvisaged stop that was easier train-wise than the planned stop, Rimini.

Posted by BillLehane 07:27 Archived in Italy Tagged churches art trains drink italy trips florence rome photos holidays vatican blog interrail vaticancity Comments (0)

A Postcard from Milan

Two days of food and fun in the fashion capital

sunny 12 °C

A short trip with long-standing truths, you could say. Italian ice cream and tomatoes are the best in the world. Seeing a new place in the company of someone who knows the city, and beer in the sunshine are two things that are always good. Milan has a lot of clocks, and apertivo rocks.

Until next time, dear readers, enjoy these few pics and try out Milan whenever you get the chance. :-)

3018.jpgGreat spot for aforementioned beers in the sun. 009.jpgMilan's main Cathedral, il Duomo di Milano 3008.jpg Sun sets on the Duomo, as seen from a nearby rooftop cafe 7005.jpg One of the fashion capital's top shopping arcades, with all the famous labels inside (plus McDs, that is) 015.jpgMegan enjoying the sunny sit out 016.jpgTag Christof, our favorite New Mexican chalupa and local attache in Milan 7014.jpg

Posted by BillLehane 02:52 Archived in Italy Tagged food travel drink italy ice cream photos weekend wine photography milan break easyjet Comments (0)

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