Life in Italy: the month of May

Quote of the week:

A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost.

-Marion C. Garretty

My schedule with these blogs is a bit up in the air at the minute as I’ve just been so so busy for the last month or so! So this blog is basically weeks 11, 12, 13 and 14 all put together. When I originally started writing these it was just for me so I could (one day) look back at what I’ve done whilst here and reminisce. But seeing as though I’m coming back for the next academic year, I won’t have to gaze fondly at the computer screen to remember my time in Italy – I will be here!! Loving life, enjoying this amazing country, its people, its food and finally being stable in a job that I’ve been searching for for what seems like forever.

I found the above quote whilst flicking through Instagram and knew that it would be great for this blog. I’m not ashamed to say my sister is my best friend and her visit here was filled with lots of laughter, fun and exploring. It really was like we were teenagers again, we cried with laughter about things that I’m sure other people wouldn’t even find funny. No matter how old we are, where we are or how often we see each other we always remain very, very close. I can’t wait to have more adventures and trips in the future!

Seeing as this blog encompasses 4 weeks there’s tonnes to write about – especially the places we visited some of which include Brescia, Milano, Verona and Lago di GardaThere is a lot of text to go with the (what seems like) hundreds of pictures so don’t feel like you have to read everything – just look at the beautiful pictures! Here we go…

Week 11

I didn’t really do all that much the beginning of the week as I knew my sister was coming to visit on the Friday (13th May). I spent time planning conversation classes for school and had a walk to Villa Mazzotti (as usual). I was also ill for a few days with a cold so I just rested and got better in preparation for Jasmine arriving. I went to the airport to collect her with Antonio and we came back to Chiari to have pizza…

On Saturday we walked around Chiari so Jasmine could get to know my town. Then we went to Villa Mazzotti as there was a healthy lifestyle festival on in the grounds. There were lots of stalls selling vegan, organic and fair trade items along with tai chi shows, free yoga classes and live music. The weather was really nice so after having some lunch and a beer on the grass and we actually got to go inside the villa. It’s absolutely beautiful and it was great to finally see it.

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On Saturday evening we went to Marconi for some pastries and a coffee. It’s honestly the best place I’ve been to for pastries in my whole time here – I don’t know if its a good thing or a bad thing that its just at the end of my street! After that we watched Eurovision…I know some people think its completely ridiculous but I SERIOUSLY LOVE IT! I think its ridiculousness, the glitter, the wind machines, the weird outfits and the (sometimes) awful singers make it amazing! I love everything to do with Europe; its languages, its food, its history and I especially love travelling around it. So for me the Eurovision is one night of just sheer fun and laughter whilst celebrating everything good about Europe.13393247_1381121035236451_411000732_n.jpg

On Sunday we took the train to Brescia (only 15 minutes!) and explored the city centre including the two domes, Piazza Vittoria, Piazza della Loggia and all of the shops. We stopped for lunch at an amazing Japanese restaurant (Tokyo Ristorante Giapponese) in Piazza Paolo VI and had some sushi with a view of the domes…

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Piazza della Loggia

Week 12

On Monday I worked in the morning and we stayed in Chiari in the afternoon and relaxed after our busy weekend. We went for a bike ride around the town in the evening and found some areas I’d never even been to. We got pizza again (its too good not to eat at least twice a week) and here’s some photos of Jasmine on her bike as they’re the only photos I seemed to take that day…

On Tuesday I finished work at 1pm and we took the train to Milano (only 50 minutes!). We arrived to very hot weather – about 30 degrees – and took a 40 minute walk to Piazza del Duomo to see Duomo di Milano and Galeria Vittorio Emanuele II. We were going to go up to the rooftop terraces on the dome but it was very busy with long queues and it was too hot to wait for an hour or so. Jasmine loved Galeria with all the designer shops and very wealthy people milling around.

After grabbing an ice cream and a cappuccino we decided to walk to Castello Sforzesco, somewhere even I hadn’t visited before! It was very impressive and we didn’t feel like we were in a massive city at all, it was very peaceful with grassy areas inside where we relaxed for an hour. It dates back to the 14th century and today is one of the largest fortifications in Europe…

After the castle we walked to the Garibaldi area of the city which was more residential and less touristy. We went to Piazza Gae Aulenti which has the highest building in the Italy – the UniCredit skyscraper standing at 231m! It was a very business orientated area so had lots of high-end wine bars and restaurants full of businessmen and women enjoying drinks after work. A definite area to visit if you’re in Milano, we were for sure the only tourists in the whole area!

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On Wednesday and Thursday we stayed in Chiari as it was raining and overcast so we couldn’t really go anywhere far from home. We watched a film, went to the supermarket and just generally relaxed.

On Friday we took the train to Desenzano del Garda (35 minutes) which Jasmine LOVED! It was a really hot day and we had to keep applying sun cream every hour. We only stayed in Desenzano long enough for a quick wander around and an ice cream then we took the ferry to Sirmione…

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View of Sirmone from the ferry

The day was perfect for exploring – warm and very sunny with a breeze. We only had about an hour and a half in Sirmione with the way the ferry and train timetables worked out but it was enough time as its not really that big. We walked along the panoramic lakeside path on the eastern side of the spit and the views were just incredible. It was one of those surreal moments when we couldn’t quite believe where we were and how beautiful it was 🙂 🙂 🙂

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After finishing the panoramic walk and looking around the few streets we were so hot so decided to find a bar or cafe for a drink to cool down – and did we find one!! We found a bar (which doesn’t seem to exist now as I can’t find a website or anything at all about it!) literally on the lake edge with panoramic views and very reasonable drinks – 5€ for a spritz! Jasmine said she felt like a VIP or a celebrity on holiday in Bali! It was another surreal moment and I think we just sat in silence for about 10 minutes just soaking up the views and sheer amazingness of where we were…

We reluctantly took the ferry back to Desenzano and the caught the train back to Chiari, arriving at about 9pm where it was as if we’d come back to a ghost town. From the crowds of people in Sirmione and Desenzano coming back here is like stepping into another world… a very peaceful, quiet and tranquil one.

If you want more information on ferry times or prices then click here.

On Saturday we took the train to Verona (just over 1 hour and only 10€ return) and spent the full day there exploring. The city itself is a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to the abundance of roman and medieval structures which you can find examples of everywhere you look. It was a very hot day (around 35 degrees!) so it was a bit difficult to walk for a long time without needing a cold drink or a sit down. We spent about half of our time there just chilling in cafes people watching. Anyway, once we arrived we walked through the city to the Arena di Verona and Piazza Bra’ where the highlights of the city really start…

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Arena di Verona

We then walked down the main shopping street, Via Mazzini, to visit Casa di Giulietta which was very, very busy. Every time I have been there it has somehow gotten even busier than the last time, I imagine in the height of summer you can’t even get near!

We then walked to Piazza Erbe and looked in a few shops and at the market but it was too hot so we stopped to get an ice cream and a spritz . If you don’t know, a spritz is a delicious aperitif consisting of prosecco, soda water and aperol (an Italian liquor made from bitter orange and rhubarb among other things). If you’re ever in Northern Italy you must try one!

We then walked to the river Adige and across Ponte di Pietra, a bridge dating from 100 BC. I always love going to the river in Verona as even though its only a 15 minute walk from Piazza Erbe its like being in a completely different place. Its very peaceful away from the hustle and bustle of the city centre and offers amazing views of the city if you climb the 150-or-so steps upto Castello san Pietro (St Peters Castle).

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View of Castello San Pietro from Ponte di Pietro

 

After having another drink/rest break in Piazza Bra’ we had to say goodbye to Verona and come back to Chiari. However, due to a strike with the train operators almost  every train from Verona to Milano was cancelled !! It meant we ended up waiting at the train station for a while when we could have still been exploring but at least we got a train (we found out later it was the last train running on that line until the next day!).

On Sunday we were really lucky in the fact the Mille Miglia car race came through Chiari specifically through the grounds of Villa Mazzotti! If you don’t know what it is then here’s some information:

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The first race took place in 1927, with 77 cars starting the 1000 mile Brescia-Rome round trip. Over the years more cars participated until 1957 when the race was banned after there were 2 fatal crashes. In 1977 the race was revived as a road rally event with drivers from all over the world participating. However, participation is limited to cars produced before 1957 (those which had attended the first races). This year over 400 cars from more than 20 countries worldwide!

The race lasted about 3 hours and the weather was really, really hot so we ended up a little sunburnt (whoops). In the afternoon we went for a bike ride around Chiari and ended up lost in the Italian countryside surrounded by cows at one point! We found a cute little bar in Chiari to have cocktails 🙂 Also, here’s another pic of Jas with pizza seeing as though we LOVE it!

Week 13

*technically Jasmine should have left on this Monday but she didn’t have to be back at work for another week so decided to book another flight and stay until the Saturday – an extra 5 days!*

We didn’t really do all that much on Monday as I was working and we were pretty tired after the last few days of trips. However on Tuesday we took another trip to Lago di Garda but this time we took the train to Peschiera del Garda (45 minutes) so we could explore there. What we found was a nice surprise, it was very different from what we had expected with fortifications dating from the Roman times. We spent about 2 hours there and got lunch in an amazing restaurant (Pizzeria al Canal) right by the lake…

We then took a 30-minute ferry to Lazise which was absolutely amazing! The weather was glorious so we could see for miles whilst on the ferry and really enjoyed just sitting down in the shade. It was sooo unbearably hot when we got off the ferry – about 35 degrees and 60% humidity – that we literally dived into the closest cafe and sat in silence for a good 30 minutes as were were just too hot to speak!

After our cocktails and lots of water we finally had the energy to explore the town. Lazise itself isn’t that big but its very pretty with an old harbour (still used by fisherman today) and a castle which has actually has a pretty renowned restaurant in its grounds. There is also a really nice promenade (pictured above) which has incredible views of the lake…

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Porto Vecchio

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We didn’t venture out of Chiari until Thursday when we went back to Lago di Garda (there’s lots of places to visit you know!). This time we took the train to Desenzano del Garda and then a bus to Salò. FYI its much easier, cheaper and quicker to get to Salò by bus than ferry, the bus takes about 40 minutes and costs only 5€pp (one way) compared with approx. 2 hours and 10€pp (one way) on the ferry. Yes I know the ferry is a lot nicer and the view is better but when you only have limited time I would really recommend the bus.

If you want more info on the bus then click here.

Salò is considered as one of the gems of Lago di Garda, probably as its not as easily accessible from Desenzano or Peschiera which means its not as busy as the other towns and still feels authentically Italian. It’s a town that is molded to the mountainside so its very long and very narrow with only about 4 or 5 roads running parallel to the lakeside and its promenade…

It’s one of the only towns on the lake with a beach, albeit a rock one, but we still took advantage and had a paddle and relaxed for an hour in the glorious sunshine. It was so peaceful and honestly unbelievable to think its somewhere you can find in Europe and just an hour from my house!!

We then took the bus to the next village along the lake called Gardone Rivieria which I think might be the smallest village on the lake with a ferry port. It’s really only one street and a promenade surrounding the Grand Hotel but nevertheless still really pretty…

We didn’t do anything again until Saturday when we went to Villa Mazzotti as there was a dog show in the grounds – I’ve never seen so many Great Danes in one place! In the afternoon Jasmine and I went for a last spritz as she flew back in London at 6.30pm. It was sad to see her go but we’d done so so much together and had such a good time together so it wasn’t too bad. Anyway I’m flying back to London to stay with her for a few weeks in early July!

13318862_1381912098490678_1363542118_nOn Sunday I had the laziest day imaginable – I think I needed it after the two weeks of excitement and activities. I stayed in the house all day as it rained all day, Jasmine certainly chose the best two weeks to visit!

Week 14

Monday to Thursday I came down with some strange illness where I completely lost my voice!! It was honestly so bizzare as I felt fine, I didn’t have a sore throat or feel ill at all – just my voice had completely gone! I only had 3 hours at school on Monday thankfully but I stayed off on Tuesday as if I couldn’t talk how could I do 4 hours of conversation classes?! Wednesday I had to go to the Primary School to help them prepare for some plays they will perform this week. It was difficult with hardly any voice but I got through it and my voice came back on Friday when I woke up!

The weather last week was pretty horrible, you wouldn’t believe you were in the same country as the week before. It rained, stormed and rained some more every single day of the week. Even on Saturday we went to Brescia and there it rained so bad we ended up in the shopping centre as the rain was just too heavy to walk around outside in. In the evening we made pasta which was a new experience for me. It’s surprisingly simple, pretty quick and makes delicious pasta for a lasagna which we ate for lunch on Sunday

Last week was a pretty normal week here, nothing too exciting to report besides that it was the last full week of school! I still can’t believe how quickly my time here has gone! When this will be published there’ll only be 2 more days of school left…I still feel like I’ve only just arrived. My time here has gone so so quickly but it’s probably because I’ve been busy, done so much and visited so many places.

May was a great month for me, filled with travelling, discovering new places and experiencing new things. I imagine June will be similarly as busy as I’m completely free until I travel to the south of Italy at the end of June/beginning of July. I don’t know how I’m going to survive the higher temperatures but I’m sure the tan will make up for it.

IF YOU HAVE MADE IT THIS FAR THEN WELL DONE AND THANK YOU!! 🙂

This blog is my longest to date at approx 3,100 words – the sort of which I haven’t written since I was at university (which I left a year ago today!!!). It’s been tiring but worth it to have documented all the amazing things I’ve done here.

Until next week , ciao for now!:)

 

Follow my life in Italy from the beginning:

first weekend

week 1

week 2

week 3

week 4

week 5

week 6

week 7

weeks 8, 9, 10

Le Cinque Terre

 

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