Tag Archives: Tuscany

It’s a European Thing

A trip around Europe is a backpacker right of passage, especially if you’re an Aussie. Staying in hostels, bumping into the same people on same route and exploring the other side of the world.

Most enter through the gateway of Amsterdam, a city whose liberal attitude may appear shocking to most, intriguing to some and even normal to others.

I remember the flatness of Holland and the smallness of Belgium where you could pass through it and be in 3 countries in one day. There is the beauty of the canals of Bruges and the discovery of Italy, where every city is different.

There is the history of Rome and Pompeii, the craziness of Venice and the little gems you find along the way, like Verona. And then there are more ruins in Athens.

It’s the Asian culture of Istanbul that leaves you wanting more and the bleakness of Eastern Europe on the cusp of Russia. Closely followed by the opulence of Vienna.

Then there is the gothic wonderland of Prague, before finishing off with party time in Berlin.

My first trip to Europe still lives brightly in my memory, even though it was taken a lifetime ago. Each country had a different culture, language and even a different currency.

No matter how many times I go to Europe, there always seems to be more to see.

I have never been to Scandinavia, Liechtenstein or Poland. I missed Ghent in Belgium and countless other places in Italy.

Like Cinque Terre, Siena and the Amalfi coast. I never got to properly taste wine in Tuscany, see the fountains at Tivoli or go to the island of Sicily.

I missed out on visiting an island in Greece, I’m sure Eastern Europe is quite different now to what it was then; and the Cesky Kromlov seems to be the place to go now instead of Prague.

I know there is more to Germany than just Berlin, like Dresden, seeing Sleeping Beauty’s castle and shopping at a Christmas market.

I can’t wait for my next magical European experience even if it is not in the near future, because a continent this diverse is definitely worth waiting for.

Related posts: It’s an English Thing, It’s a Spanish Thing, It’s a water thing, It’s a French Thing, Europe, 2006, Europe, 2003, England, 2002, Berlin, 1997, Part 2: To the East

Italy, 1997, Part 1: From Rome to Florence

In Rome, Sarah and I stayed with Seneka, a Sri Lankan relation of sorts. He drove us to modern Rome and the beautifully floodlit Ancient Rome by night where we saw the statue of Romulus and Remus and threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure our return to the city. The fountain itself seemed too big to fit in the narrow square and was quite overwhelming.

On our first day, we went to the Colosseum which was in the process of being rebuilt, so it was easy to see through the non-existent floor to the underground tunnels that led to entrances to the ring and imagine what it looked like when it was still in use. We climbed to the top for a fantastic daytime view of Ancient Rome and its ruins.

Back on the ground, we went to the Roman Forum where we saw the third triumphal arch Septimius Severus next to the Rostrum Forum and the House of the Vestal Virgins. We walked through Caesar’s Forum, the Imperial Forum, past Trajan’s column and the market.

I liked the Pantheon with its hole in the roof for light and the cute elephant statue by Bernini in the nearby Piazza Minerva; but was a little disappointed with Circus Maximus which just looked like an ordinary park overlooked by the ruined Palace of Augustus.

We visited a few Piazza’s and saw lots of fountains: the Piazza del Campidoglio with long wide steps designed for horses; the Piazza Venezia with the new style Monument to Victor Emmanuel 2 also known at the wedding cake- so big it can be seen from miles away; the Piazza di Spagna which had amusing statues posed on park benches and the Piazza Navona which I loved even though the Fountain of Four Rivers was covered by scaffolding.

My favourite place was the Spanish steps. I had a gelato, soaked up the atmosphere and watched the locals pass by.

The Vatican museum was closed when we went to The Vatican City, but we went into St Peter’s church and the square. I still remember the huge angels on the bowl of holy water and the Pope appearing in the window- so small that it could have been anyone.

We met up with my friend Kim- an Australian born model who now lived in one of the three hills overlooking the Vatican City and had a job translating Italian books. She took us to Castel Sant Angelo where the view of the River Tiber and to Rome beyond was a sight to see.

Kim drove us out of the city down Via Appia and took us to a restaurant in the olive groved countryside where I had pasta with truffles for the first time. We drank too much wine that day and never made it to see the Catacombs. On a more sober day, she took us to Hadrian’s Villa who added a wing to his house after each of his travels- my kind of guy! Real swans were in the Poikile water lily lake and the Canopus pond was lined with alligator statues.

On his day off, Seneka drove us to Florence where we saw the strange multi coloured Duomo of Santa Maria patterned green, red and white and the imitation statue of David in the square outside Palazzo Vecchio.

We visited San Marco monastery for some peace and quiet and had a gelato in Piazza San Marco from the biggest gelato bar I had ever seen. I had to go back for seconds.

Crossing the interesting Ponte Vecchio over the River Arno, we wandered through the lovely Giardino di Boboli. On a hill behind Palazzo Pitti we took in the views of Florence and the hills of Tuscany with their freshly harvested vineyards.

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Related posts: Spain, 1997, Part 2: Beyond BarcelonaSpain, 1997, Part 1: BarcelonaFrance, 1997, Part 2: The South of France, France, 1997, Part 1: Paris, Belgium, 1997, Holland, 1997, England, 1997, I first started travelling, By special request, Home is where you make it, I first started writing