Feeling the Italian sun on our faces came as a welcome relief after three months in Denmark. The sights, sounds and smells were overwhelming and typically Italian. We definitely had a feeling that we weren’t in Scandinavia anymore.
Emily, Caroline and I flew Ryanair to an airport outside Milan. It was under two hours, but felt like a flight longer than Melbourne to Copenhagen. Emily doesn’t take well to air travel at the best of times, least of all on a flight that sounded like its engine cut out over the top of the Swiss Alps. Her clammy hand clutched mine during take off and landing. Even Caroline was a little apprehensive flying in a plane that would lose a race to my 1989 Toyota Camery, Red Rocket.
As soon we left the airport, the jumper came off and the thongs (flip-flops) came on. The smell was a combination of sun, pizza, gelato and siestas. Straight away it reminded me of the last time I was in Italy 5 years ago on exchange in high school. The unexpected familiarity made me all the more excited for what became the best two weeks of my life.
Eurail = EurFail
From Milan, we trained to our first destination: Venice. Activated Eurail passes in hand, we thought that we had everything under control and were excited to get to the hostel and have a slice of pizza and a Moretti beer like the true backpackers we were.
Before this could happen, we had a slap in the face by Italian bureaucracy. We had not written the date on our Eurail passes.
No amount of us pleading ignorant could detract from the 25 Euro fine we each received. Initially it was going to be 50 euro, but I guess he had a tiny bit of compassion for the English-speaking tourists.
“I’m in Venice, Bitch”
Not to be disheartened by a mistake that almost sent us broke, we ventured on to Venice, one of the strangest places I’ve ever been to. The city is a confusing labyrinth filled with small side streets and identical bridges. 80% of the time we spent there we were lost. But if we had to be disorientated in any town, Venice is the one to choose.
One thing we learned from our struggle: all roads lead to Piazza San Marco, aka Tourist Central.
The three of us preferred to stick to the less touristy places to enjoy the sun and eat the best gelato of our lives. A few hours in and Emily and I were in dire need of sunscreen to shield our pasty skin from the suns rays we had not seen for months.
We tried on the Venetian Masks, haggled with Gondola drivers to give us a cheap deal, and found directions from an old couple that didn’t speak English. Fortunately, it didn’t take long until my ‘powers’ came through and I was able to speak and understand the locals. Not having spoken Italian since I dropped it at Uni, I was a little rusty to say the least. By the time we left two weeks later I surprised myself by speaking it like it was going out of fashion.
Back on the railway lines
We left Venice with very fond memories. Whether it was Caroline dragging us around the city in a very desperate hunt to find a bathroom or taking my first espresso shot, Venezia delivered. From here it was on to the beaches of Italy’s west coast: The Cinque Terre.
In the next edition: Follow Damien to small town Monterosso.