13 cities in 3 weeks with a 13 kg backpack on my shoulders. I did a great trip from the North of Italy down to Sicily. This was the first time I traveled alone for a longer period of time and it has been one of the craziest things that I have ever done in my life. It started with a spontaneous idea while sitting in the office in Barcelona. I got inspired by my Italian friends who were swooning over the best pasta from their home country and I felt a certain desire to find out exactly why. So I started to explore it on my own.
First stop: My trip started in Milan. I took a flight from Stuttgart and got into a little bit of trouble right from the start. Instead of departing at 7.30 pm, my flight was 1 hour early than I expected. I wrote down some false information on my phone and missed my first flight. With my huge backpack I ran back and forth through the airport. The staff wasn't immediately that supportive and they tried to send me to many different terminals. Being disappointed and stressed at the same time, I tried very hard to convince the woman at the check point. She wasn't sure if I could take another flight to Milan, which was the last one for that day and she called a colleague from the luggage department. I was lucky. She agreed, and hastily asked for my ID. I only had five minutes left and handed my credit card to her without knowing how much I actually paid for the flight with German Wings. I just did it and I was more than happy to finally depart.
When I arrived at the Malpensa airport, I took the shuttle bus to the city centre. It cost around 8 Euros and the first thing I noticed when I got there: Public transportation is very cheap. Welcome to Italy!
I only stayed in Milan for 1 night, at the Zebra Hostel. Seeing as I only had a little bit of time, I decided to discover the place at night and my friend Giuseppe, whom I met in Barcelona a year ago, recommended me some places in advance. One of them was the district of Navigly. Along the river many people hang around to have a drink. Being as enthusiastic as I am, I felt like Indiana Jones on a special mission.
An hour away from Milan, I visited Arthur's place in Lago D'Iseo. This beautiful area is famous for "the rabbit island". I haven't actually visited it yet but those hundred small islands on the lake side were just breathtaking. A pity I didn't have a wide angle lense on my trip. My friend Arthur was such a great host for the couple of days I stayed. He picked me up from the train station by car and I accompanied him to the weekly market. It was a hot summer day and I changed from my Converse to sandals. I was astonished about almost everything I saw there. You can make me happy with such little things. When we stopped at his favorite pizzeria, I ordered something extraordinary and it was a good start having my first Italian pizza. At Arthur's home three barking dogs were welcoming me, but they were actually very lovely as Arthur had told me before. After having a great meal in his mom's nicely decorated kitchen, I took a siesta nap for a few hours. I had no idea how far my conditions would get along with my three weeks travel schedule. In the afternoon Arthur woke me up and he showed me around his place. We went skating along the lake Iseo and for the first time I got an "Aperitivo". At night we took a walk along the harbor. During my stay at Arthur's place I also drank some excellent short coffees with a tiny hint of Grapa. Ever since that day I love Italian coffee.
The next day we went together to a lake called Lago Moro. It's located on the top of the mountains. The water itself seemed very dark. The sky looked a bit heavy, but I wanted to go swimming. Unfortunately, it began to rain and then hail came from above. All our clothes got wet and we escaped into a tiny wooden house. There we meet a collective of bicyclists who were protecting themselves from the rain too, but somehow we all managed to be very patient and waited until the rain stopped. Afterwards the sun came back again and I took another swimming round in the lake. It felt hotter and I enjoyed the view on the mountains to its fullest.
"Un ticket per Verona, per favore", I said to the lady when I bought a train ticket to the city of "love". I headed towards Venice, because Francesca lived there. For a few hours I stopped by in Verona and finally got to see the famous statue of Juliet. In advance I did some research about the location where Romeo and Juliet took place in. But all in all it is just fiction and Shakespear's story never existed there. The balcony was constructed after the story was written and when I arrived at the tiny yard, many tourists were grabbing Juliet's breast - in the hopes to get lucky. Beside those inappropriate facts, I enjoyed the atmosphere of that location and could imagine how the story could have taken place there.
From the central station in Verona I took the next train to Venice. I was a bit stressed out while trying to get a ticket from the automat, because each one was throwing a fit. But I figured out that I could pay inside the train and to my surprise it was the Deutsche Bahn. While traveling I read Erichs Fromm's "Die Kunst des Liebens" (engl.= The Art Of Loving). It was a present from Javi and I was really glad he sent me this copy from Barcelona to Germany.
When I arrived in Venice, I was really excited to get to see the city. Right outside in front of the Railway station I was surrounded by loud music and Francesca told me afterwards that the people were celebrating an important event in Venice on that day. Masses of people were standing on the bridges and I was really impressed by those colorful houses, interesting architecture and twisted alleys.
I met Francesca through Giuseppe and I couldn't have had a better female host than her. She was very supportive and an excellent cook. Her flat was located in the district of San Marco and the one thing she said to me right at the beginning about this place: Venice consists of either tourists or students. It is especially hard for students to live here since the prices are very tourist-oriented.
However, I explored the city on my own once Francesca needed to go back home to prepare for her exams. She sent me to a photo exhibition from Sebastian Salgado whom I had heard a lot of before. It was for free and his works dealt with people who worked on a coffee plantation.
The next day I woke up with curly hair. I noticed it since I was in Italy. During September it was still hot in terms of the temperatures and the air very sticky. But it was fun when I saw myself in the mirror. I looked like a live version of Medusa. Francesca made some breakfast and she offered me many sweet things. I would say I also experienced the "dolce vita" in the mornings. After getting done for another day walk through Venice, I went to many churches and was keen to know more about the historical parts. I carried a guide book with me, was interested in paintings and somehow I felt connected to Luchino Visconti's movie "Morte a Venezia" that was swirling through my mind. I tried to figure out a particular location from a scene in that movie, but finally came to the conclusion that Venice has many of those "Campos". So I kept walking through the small alleys and easily got lost. But it was fascinating just to see how big the variety of this place was. It's hard to describe the essential characteristic of this city, what gives you this certain feeling of joy. But I think the colors really can influence someone's mood and I liked the boats everywhere. Around happy hour time, I went with Francesca toward Cana Reggio. We both had an Aperol on a big wooden boat, ate some tapas and I was surrounded by a calm and relaxed atmosphere.
During September Italy is still quite warm. The closer I had gotten to the South the worse my condition became, with regards to the heat. At first I needed to go to Bologna and then I reached Rimini. But on that day when I arrived in Rimini, I walked into the false direction and ended up in a district where I felt very uncomfortable. But nevertheless my mood got better after I went to the beach. A man who worked there gave me a deck chair right in front of the ocean and curiously I asked him how long the coastal side of Rimini is. He answered there were over hundred of those beaches. Then I started to read my book and after many hours in the sun, I got slightly bored. But there was still something important to do. The main reason why I was drawn to Rimini was my father. In 2009 he passed away and the only thing he left me was an old photo album that contains many beautiful analogue photographs. I guess they were partly taken by him and my aunt. Surprisingly I saw many pictures from Italy and the most impressing photo has been one that showed him with his family, sitting happily at the beach in Rimini. It inspired me because it made me smile seeing him at a younger age filled with energy in his facial expression. But I also felt sadness all the time whenever I think of him. So I wrote a message to him on a tiny little piece of paper and walked toward the waves to release it into the water. This was the most important moment on my trip. I was leaving something behind.
When I arrived back to the hostel, I met two travelers who were part of the staff. One guy was from Madrid and the other one from Brasil. He did a trip for seven months and finally stayed in that hostel before he went back to his country. They both were fun and we spent the hostel hours by playing soccer through the entire rooms. I missed being crazy due to soccer and even better to play barefoot in the house. One of the boys managed to hang down an framed Austin Powers movie poster from the wall and his boss took it for granted somehow. I loved how silly they were.
Magic is all over this city. I almost had a heart attack when I arrived in Florence. It's true, it's beautiful!
But my trip on the train took me a lot effort. I needed to go to Bologna, then over Prato to get to Florence. But even there, I almost missed my train, ran fast as hell to catch it in the very last minute. Oh how terrible it was to carry a heavy thing behind my back. Whenever I went to a new place, I used my time on the train to read my fat guide. But in that moment, I was too exhausted and fell deeply asleep on my book and woke up again at the terminal station, which was luckily Prato.
Then I went to Florence for around 3 Euros and my drowsiness went away as soon as I saw the stunning architecture. A very close friend of mine whom I knew since elementary school asked me to take many pictures of the buildings. She's a fan of the game "Assassins Creed" and told me about many historical parts of Florence. So I kept my eyes wide open for her and discovered many interesting symbols, initials and icons. It was that exciting that I slightly felt more connected to the city. My accommodation was located on the opposite side of the river and I really liked the view at "Ponte Vecchio". By day the city appears in it's beautiful colors and at night lights are flashing through the streets. For someone who had never been there before, it felt like a fictional world but it wasn't, it was a real place and I was happy to absorb many aesthetic impressions. Painters, musicians, lazy tourists sitting in cafés and tiny shops with interesting products. On the next day I went to the "Galerie di Uffizi". There was a huge queue which took me two hours to get through. But I was impressed about a discount for young people till 25 years old. Good for someone like me who was trying to save up money while traveling. The museum was very huge. But I wasn't able to see all of the pieces. Most of my time I spent on visiting museums. At Da Vinci's I found some interesting inventions but it was not as impressive as I had been to the old children museum which is called "Museo Innocenti". It's only a tiny room where they exhibited some old documents and things which these abandoned children had left behind. This was touching because I saw some personal folded letters with a special amulet. I assume this was important for the nannies to identify a child. I cannot completely emphasize how it is to live without parents, because I have never been in that situation but I could imagine how they lived.During my Italy trip I got the opportunity to write some post cards. Especially when I sat at a café, right in front of the Duomo with a short Espresso next to me. Inspired by the whole atmospheric place I wrote in tiny letters and extremely curved font a big text on each post card. I remember how fun the situation was as I sat there and saw a white dressed pope coming out from the church's back door to go into a sandwich bar.
The train station itself is tiny and you first need to pass a long blue tunnel, painted with sea motives and covered tiles, until you get into the inner part of Riomaggiore.
Riomaggiore is one of the five parts of Cinque Terre.
As I searched for my room in the hostel, I went up a thousand stairs until I found number 75. Very exhausting and hot indeed. The only thing I always disliked when booking a hostel: paying extra tourism taxes for an accommodation. That was kind of annoying sometimes.
In fact Riomaggiore has many colorful houses and they are located on different levels of heights. I hiked up the hill to get a view from the top and it looked amazing. Afterwards I went down to the harbor and it was just as picturestique as on a post card. My curiosity about things increased when I discovered some rocks beyond the water. A lot of them were covered in white paint and as enthusiastic as I was, I jumped from one rock to another, camera in hand. I easily made these jumps and was very impressed by the entire scenery, the rocks, cliffs and wonderful looking houses. Boats were right in front of me and I felt the adrenaline. I mean, I have never seen such a place before and didn't expect it something like it to exist on earth. It was a calm paradise.
But stupidly I skidded over algae and hit my knee quite fiercely. That was too painful. Only because I wanted to ask a snorkel diver why he was collecting sea snails. I thought he wanted to eat them but he had explained he needed it for fishing which made more sense afterwards.
After having a tiny accident, I decided to lie on a big rock and began to write a log in my travel diary. At the same time I saw young men jumping from the top of a cliff, shouting out something before they dove into the sea. Until the evening, I observed the sunset and the atmosphere changed into something much deeper and more intense.
Rome is a city with a very rich history. It's huge and has many touristic attractions. But the most important experience I made there was meeting Damaly and Daniele. I was hosted by Daniele via Couchsurfing and Damaly from New York who was traveling around Europe. On the first day when I arrived at the meeting point Daniele drove us to an old park where we made a walk with other Couchsurfers. I was very surprised about the peaceful surrounding as we spent some time together exploring the park. Daniele was a motivated and very friendly host. He shared many stories about his life in Rome and was keen to get to know us closer.
On my second day, Damaly and I explored the heart of the city and we went to see some historical sites, as many as we could cover within the day. I noticed we share many things in common and it was a great pleasure to laugh with her while we were sitting outside at a restaurant and treated ourselves with a delicious salad. But at some point when we wanted to have a coffee afterwards, the waitress didn't understand us. A normal coffee is not exactly a normal coffee. You need to know what sort of coffee you exactly want and it was fun how we got confused with each other. Italians can be charmingly enthusiastic and even if the situation will turn into a huge misunderstanding, by the end they will laugh about it.
I was very happy to have Damaly on my side and we were fascinated whenever we stood in front of big buildings. But then it started to rain for a bit and we found shelter in a church by complete accident. Before that, when we waited under a random house, I saw the intensely falling raindrops and this was sort of a short meditating moment for me where I felt surprisingly at peace with myself.
The inside of the church had a very positive atmosphere. I was sure to have seen the most beautiful church interior in all of Rome. I am a very faithful person just as Damaly is and we were wondering whether this place was meant to be for us and we both were joyfully touched.
NAPLES | POMPEII
Cars may hit you, if you don't cross the street as fast as you can and you will discover a lot of trash on the street. That was my first impression about Naples. My hostel was located next to a parking lot, close to the train station and I saw a big mirror inside of the building. Seeing myself in the mirror surprised me somehow and I realized I finally made it to the middle of Italy. Honestly, I didn't except myself staying mentally strong and constantly motivated on my trip. Looking back I was afraid to go alone often thought about the worst case scenario. But I felt a lot more focused and in balance when travelling and, stubbornly, I really wanted to make the trip anyway.
I came too early for my check-in. The housemaid seemed very annoyed, she wanted to finish her cigarette rather than make my bed for the night. An old man who sat at the reception gave me a piece of candy as a welcoming gift. He was careful and warned me many times to lock the door behind me when changing the rooms. He also showed me to carry my bag in front of my body .
But when I arrived there, the first thing I wanted to do was wash all my clothes. For the washing I had Dr. Bronner's magic soap with me which can be used for t hair, the body and dishes as well.
After I finished, I set out to go to Pompeii. Actually I planned to go to the Capri Island, but somehow I wanted to deal more with history and I was keen to know everything about Pompeii. It's interesting and a privilege at the same time to see what humans have built in the past and now are trying to maintain over decades. I love the contrast between past and present. It refreshed me and I enjoyed my time to learn from it, as well as to make clear what I really want in my life.
I spent the entire afternoon in Pompeii, adoring the beauty of volcano Vesuviu, did a walking tour guide and went by the tram back to Naples. At night I didn't miss my chance to go into a restaurant and order a pizza. It was the best and most delicious pizza I have ever had in my life! I don't regret paying five Euros for that and getting a huge warm-hearted smile from the staff, because I sat smiling and excited at the table.
This is a view from the room I used to stay at for one night. It was a wonderful view with playful lighting moments and I felt like Juliet as I stepped out to the balcony and saw a swimming pool in a nicely Mediterranean garden.
My journey had brought me to Lamezia where I made an unexpected stop as I was on my way to Calabria. But as fate took its course, I experienced a highlight of my journey in this village. I met the Sinopolis sisters who were hosting a beautiful cottage and got an entire floor for myself. They were surprised when I arrived solo without a partner at my side. I assume that families or couples are the usual guests. The whole family lives in the same house and on that day, I just hanged around at the pool and was reading "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed. The sisters and a man were relaxing at their garden atelier at the same time. Then Teresa walked up to me and started a conversation. She spoke good English and seemed to be very interested in me. Actually I was more than happy to be able to speak with somebody.
In the afternoon I took a nap and woke up in the evening with a growling stomach. Teresa called me from the garden to come down for dinner. Honestly, I never expected to receive such good hospitality. We sat together outside and the sisters were holding a big bbq. The food was good and I ate a lot of meat. Suddenly I felt really comfortable with these people and later on the parents came too. Their mother was very nice and had a kind-hearted aura. I kind of appreciated our back and forth translated conversation, even if I didn't completely understand Italian. The father showed me how he made his own wine and the sisters were working on some decorations. They showed me images of interesting Italian art. Especially a motive of the two Riace bronzes gained my curiosity.
To me it's way more important which people you meet on your journey and this family definitely gave me something that made my time so precious. At the end we ate until almost midnight and I was so happy when the three women accompanied me to my bedroom and were wishing me all the best for my journey. This experience was priceless!
After leaving Tropea I headed straight to Reggio di Calabria on the same day. As I had been inspired from the two sisters from Lamezia to go see the Riace statues and got curious about the story, I jumped into action and went to visit the Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia. It was a great experience to see those two warrior bronzes which had been discovered under the sea. That was very mysterious. Then I went by ferry from Calabria to Sicily. The travel time by sea was about thirty minutes and I couldn't believe that I finally made it to Sicily. Before I went on my journey the route looked so complicated on the map, but once again I convinced myself to turn the impossible into something possible. Then I boarded in Messina. The landscape changed into something different, Sicily has its great dry looking mountains. As I achieved my Airbnb place, I had a wonderful view of the harbor. That night I met an Australian women who seemed to be in her 30's and was doing a trip through Europe. While drinking red wine she told me everything about her background. Next to her there was a book written by the Dalai Lama and was titled with "The Art Of Happiness". Actually somehow strange, because I read "The Art Of Loving" at the same time. On the next day, I decided to take the bus to Taormina. I was attracted to the old Greek theatre in my guide book.
After Messina my route headed over to Catania. My arrival had been a surprising situation. I arrived when the city celebrated a huge street event at night. Young and old people were strolling through the streets. At many corners I discovered artists and bands doing a performance. At midnight they set up fireworks. I felt like Julia Roberts in her movie Eat, Pray and Love.
It ended at a youth hostel at the Vucciria market. The last station of my trip was Sicily's capital city. Most of my time I walked through many tiny alleys, strolling through the street markets and paying attention to tourists such as locals what they were doing on one of these sunny days. I noticed a lot of patient faces. To mention a few, a man leaning against a door, looking for some clients who could buy one of his paintings that had been displayed outside or a fancy looking old man on his vespa trying to turn on his moped while he held his dog on the leash. There were more interesting motives. It seemed peaceful and calm in broad daylight while at night the scenery had changed. I went to the market place to eat some specialities. Suddenly I found an outdoor restaurant where I got into a conversation with the friendly staff. They were very talkative and by the end they gave me some cake and espresso for free. That was such a warm-hearted gesture. It couldn't have been better before heading back home!
To sum up everything, I had three weeks of traveling that was filled with huge impressions and gave me a further insight into the Italian and Sicilian culture. The journey has been a long travel inside of trains but it was worth it to experience the path to my destination. I really liked the warm-heartedness of people the most. In fact I felt like a free person who was on an adventurous trip. Getting back home I needed to cook a big pasta for my beloved friends and family.