Europe/ Italy

Italy was not on my bucket list

Italy was not on my bucket list

I haven’t watched it in many years, but my earliest childhood recollections of a place called Rome was from the 1960’s movie, Spartacus. However, growing up, Italy was not on my bucket list of places to see before I die.

When I first learned about the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto that was to be held in Turin, I immediately started planning my trip. My cousins were shocked when I said that I had no plans to visit the other cities, and invited me to dinner with their friend from Verona (the setting of Romeo and Juliet). She insisted that I could not visit Italy without visiting the major cities at least and I started revising my travel plans.

With her advice in mind, I started planning my itinerary in reverse. I plotted the dates of the conference in Turin on my calendar, then worked back three nights in every city between Rome and Turin. The timing appeared fortuitous as the departure coincided with a 3 day holiday in Dubai.

I was not even particularly fond of Italian food, and days before my trip I was still contemplating how on earth I could spend nearly three weeks in a place where they ate copious amounts of pasta, rice and pizza… all foods that I am unable to enjoy very often knowing that it will make me lethargic and aggravate the inflammatory response of my Rheumatoid Arthritis.

I embarked on my longest solo vacation, to Italy, and it turned out to be a voyage of discovery and it was a turning point in more ways than one…


  • Day 1: Fly from Dubai to Roma Fiumicino Airport
  • Day 2: Taste of Testaccio food tour
  • Day 3: Exploring Rome – Read about how to make the most of a short stay.
  • Day 4: Rome to Florence by high speed train
  • Day 5: The Other side of Florence (Oltarno) food tour
  • Day 6: Uffizi Gallery and exploring Florence. Read about my quest to survive the beige.
  • Day 7: Florence to Venice by high speed train
  • Day 8: The Sweets of Venice food tour
  • Day 9: Murano and Burano tour
  • Day 10: Venice to Milan by high speed train
  • Day 11: Explore Brera market and find halal food
  • Day 12: Visit Sforza castle and explore Navigli district
  • Day 13: Milan to Turin by high speed train
  • Day 14: Explore Turin and find halal food
  • Day 15 – 18: Slow Food Salone del Gusto
  • Day 19: High speed train back to Milan and flight to Dubai

After nearly a year of planning and anticipation, I finally arrived in Rome on a beautiful sunny day, and ended up spending two hours waiting in line like cattle to get through immigration.

I realized soon after being told to collect my Omnia and Roma pass from the Vatican office of a travel company, that I had bought the wrong pass! Again! So off I went on a quick tour of the Vatican’s cobble streets and another hour long queue for a pass that I underutilized in the extreme. I was so exhausted by the time I arrived at my apartment near the Spanish steps that I fell asleep after a hot shower, and missed my Friday night Vatican tour.

Don’t forget to check out my Top Travel Tips for any traveller, so that you do not make the same mistakes I made.

It turns out that 3 nights is not nearly enough to enjoy the essence of the most culturally and historically rich and visually appealing cities I have had the privilege to visit. Every city that I explored was unique in it’s own way and stole my heart with it’s quirks.

In addition to falling in love with tall doors, high ceilings and narrow alleys, I rediscovered the joy of eating. Not only eating, but savouring the taste and flavour of sun ripened fruit and vegetables and freshly caught seafood.

Stay tuned for posts of the Food tours in Rome, Florence, and Venice. Until then I leave you with a glimpse into my days in each city.


In Rome I fell in love with the doors…. yes doors and their jambs! Tall and commanding, they catch your eye as you walk past and pull you closer for a second look or maybe a third.

Sunday at leisure in #Rome #Italy with no cares in the world. After breakfast I strolled down to the Trevi Fountain where the beauty has been restored by a Fendi funded restoration project. Next was a visit to the Pantheon, the best preserved of ancient Roman buildings and continually in use throughout it's history. Of course there was breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea to keep me going throughout my wandering a 😉 Do you like visiting ancient and historical sites, museums ruins? Let me know what you enjoy seeing in the comments. __________________________________________________ . . . #instapassport #fromwhereyoudratherbe #stayandwander #traveldeeper #thefeedfeed #welltravelled #LoveTheWorld #tasteintravel #igtravel #wanderlust #thatsdarling #travelandlife #welltravelled #nothingisordinary #foodwalks #luxurytravel #natgeoafrica #lonelyplanet #bbctravel #cntraveler #instarome #vscorome #bbcfood #feedfeed #passionpassport #solotraveller #trevifountain #pantheon @cntraveler @lonelyplanet @bbctravel @natgeopeopleasia @huffposttravel #adoremycupoftea

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In Florence, I was at first aghast at the beigeness of the city, where every building appeared to be a variation of the same earthy yellowy beige color. By the time I left, I had navigated it’s narrow streets on both sides of the Arno and fallen in love with the relaxed pace of life and the passion with which they produced the best of everything.

Wednesday in #Florence #Italy on a bright and early tour of Galleria Degli Uffizi. The renovations and closure of some areas did not present a major obstacle. Thereafter a little morning coffee before passing by Il Duomo and Galleria dell' Accademia. The queues were 1-2 hours or more waiting time for entry to either, so I decided to continue to the Mercato Centrale. The street market is lined with shops and stalls selling leather handbags, clothing, shawls and curios. Inside the Central market is a mecca of fresh produce, artisanal pastas and cured meats and cheeses. Lunch was a delicious plate of mixed seafood. What is your favorite street market purchase? Let me know what you enjoy the most in the comments. _______________________________________________ #instapassport #fromwhereyoudratherbe #stayandwander #traveldeeper #thefeedfeed #welltravelled #LoveTheWorld #tasteintravel #igtravel #wanderlust #thatsdarling #travelandlife #welltravelled #nothingisordinary #travelpics #foodwalks #luxurytravel #natgeoafrica #lonelyplanet #bbctravel #cntraveler #instaflorence #vscoflorence #bbcfood #feedfeed #passionpassport #solotraveller #flyingsolo #coffeelover @cntraveler @lonelyplanet @bbctravel @natgeopeopleasia @huffposttravel

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In Venice, the moody skies and beautiful islands of Murano and Burano had me wishing I could stay longer to explore and get to know the nooks and crannies of this complicated city; reliant on tourism yet hating what it had done to the soul of La Serenissima.

Thursday night in #Venice #Italy after having late lunch / dinner at Trattoria Povoledo. The Cicchetti Misti was a very generous starter and the Raviolini Gorgonzola was deliciously creamy with a light crunch of chopped walnuts. Dessert was a pastry from pasticeria that I picked up on my walk back. Have you been to Venice? Let me know what you enjoyed the most in the comments. __________________________________________________ #instapassport #fromwhereyoudratherbe #stayandwander #traveldeeper #thefeedfeed #welltravelled #LoveTheWorld #tasteintravel #igtravel #wanderlust #thatsdarling #travelandlife #welltravelled #nothingisordinary #travelpics #foodwalks #luxurytravel #natgeoafrica #lonelyplanet #bbctravel #cntraveler #instavenice #vscovenice #bbcfood #feedfeed #passionpassport #solotraveller #flyingsolo #coffeelover @cntraveler @lonelyplanet @bbctravel @natgeopeopleasia @huffposttravel

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In Milan I fell in love with the beauty and elegance of the city and it’s people. In Venice and Florence I had been warned that I would hate Milan because it was fast paced, industrial and full of concrete. And yet, if I could live anywhere else in the world, it would be in Brera neighbourhood of Milan with it’s elegant apartment buildings and chic cafes.

Monday in #Milan #Italy on a beautiful day started with a leisurely walk to the Brera neighborhood…. where unexpectedly, I fell in love with Milan and it's beautiful architecture. I visited the street market in Via San Marco that is held on Mondays and Thursdays only, from 8am-2pm. The market has stalls selling well priced shoes and clothing (including cashmere bargains), accessories, fresh produce, meat and seafood, household items, flowers etc. After the market I strolled to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, where I stopped at the new branch of Pasticceria Marchesi for a quick mid-morning tea break. As I walked around the city streets I realised how much it reminds me of Cape Town and how much less tourist centric it is than the other Italian cities I have visited on this trip. Finally I stopped for lunch at a Halaal cafe that I found via the @zabihah app. My first chicken meal in more than a week was delicious, Alhamdulillah 👌 What is your favorite street market purchase? Let me know what you enjoy the comments. ______________________________________________ __________________________________________________ #instapassport #fromwhereyoudratherbe #stayandwander #traveldeeper #thefeedfeed #welltravelled #LoveTheWorld #tasteintravel #igtravel #wanderlust #thatsdarling #travelandlife #welltravelled #nothingisordinary #travelpics #foodwalks #luxurytravel #natgeoafrica #lonelyplanet #bbctravel #cntraveler #instaMilan #vscoMilan #bbcfood #feedfeed #passionpassport #solotraveller #flyingsolo #coffeelover @cntraveler @lonelyplanet @bbctravel @natgeopeopleasia @huffposttravel

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My least favourite city was Turin. It was noisy and for the first time I smelled petrol fumes when I walked in the streets. It has a beautiful wide boulevards and parks, is the centre of the Slow Food movement, and they make the most delicious chocolate drinks… but that is not enough for me to want to go back there.

I arrived in #Turin #Italy today for the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto, with rain clouds hovering ominously over the city. In my mind's eye I imagined wide boulevards, elegant piazzas and stately buildings. What I found was a very modern train station that was immaculately clean, sitting in what appears to be a very rough neighborhood. There were groups of men loitering on practically every street corner and most places in between on the three block walk to my hotel apartment. I must confess it's the first time I've felt unsafe since arriving in Italy 12 days ago. The apartment thankfully is like a little oasis in this graffiti scarred area. I went out for a stroll after settling in and it confirmed my initial thoughts. The city is loud, noisy, busy and very rough around the edges. It's as if someone is trying to hide the beauty under grime and graffiti. On a happier note, I found a few Halaal eating places close by with the @zabihah app. I tried out the one and was very happy to be eating fresh fried chicken. For all of 20 mins, until the fast food headache kicked in! Alhamdulillah it was a satisfying meal 😍 Have you ever travelled to a place where you felt unsafe? If you have any special precautions or advice please let me know in the comments, thank you🙂 ______________________________________________ __________________________________________________ #instapassport #fromwhereyoudratherbe #stayandwander #traveldeeper #thefeedfeed #welltravelled #LoveTheWorld #tasteintravel #igtravel #wanderlust #thatsdarling #travelandlife #welltravelled #nothingisordinary #travelpics #foodwalks #luxurytravel #natgeoafrica #lonelyplanet #bbctravel #cntraveler #instaTurin #vscoTurin #bbcfood #feedfeed #passionpassport #solotraveller #flyingsolo #coffeelover @cntraveler @lonelyplanet @bbctravel @natgeopeopleasia @huffposttravel

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  • Reply
    March 29, 2017 at 5:24 am

    You just made me want to go to Italy. It is for sure on my husband’s bucket list. But I’ve never given it much thought. I think it is great that you saw so much in so little time.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 29, 2017 at 11:22 pm

      I think of it as a sampler platter… a taste of everything so that I can pick the place I really love… except in this case I loved nearly every place so I have an excuse to go back often 🙂

  • Reply
    March 29, 2017 at 5:09 am

    Razena, this post reminds me of my trip to Rome. I didn’t plan on staying there but due to a long layover on my way to Turkey, I extended my stay. I was extremely unimpressed with the food in the touristy places. I had to go into the back alleys of the city to find good seafood restaurants to eat at. Going back, I wish I could have extended my stay longer to visit other areas of Italy. I found great gems in Rome, but they definitely weren’t in the main tourist areas. I hope to one day go to Florence, Venice and definitely the Southern parts of Italy.

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 29, 2017 at 11:27 pm

      I must confess that Rome was a bit too touristy for my liking even at the end of Summer. When I heard the itinerary of some of the participants on the food tour I took, it was absolutely manic… back to back tours to see as much as possible in the shortest time possible, before they moved on to the next city. I wish I had more time to explore the area of Trastevere which also is more local than the areas around the museums and monuments. Testaccio was a lovely area, completely local with very few tourists hanging about and the bonus, authentic Italian food.

  • Reply
    Kayla King
    March 29, 2017 at 3:20 am

    I’m so jealous! I was studying abroad in Paris last semester & I so, SO wanted to visit Italy ( but didn’t have the time ). Thanks for sharing, love!

    xx, Kayla //

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 29, 2017 at 11:31 pm

      Hopefully you will have some luck and get a cheap fare to go back for a visit… If I had to choose one place to go to it would be Venice. Venice is breathtakingly beautiful when the tourists don’t block the view, and it’s the best place to eat cake for breakfast 🙂

  • Reply
    March 29, 2017 at 12:08 am

    Hi Razena! Come to think of it, Italy is not REALLY on our bucket list either but wow I didn’t realize just how many cities you can visit. And the food! Of course we’re going for the food 🙂 Now I want to go to Italy too haha!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 29, 2017 at 12:11 am

      Hi Jolina… The food in touristy places is mostly overpriced and yuck… but on the food tours I went to the residential neighbourhoods with locals who took pride in everything they grew or made from scratch. When you come back from Italy you will see food and fresh produce with new eyes. My food tour posts are coming soon.

  • Reply
    March 28, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Sounds like a great trip

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 28, 2017 at 9:47 pm

      It turned out so much better than I could have hoped for and I regret not going there sooner.

  • Reply
    Karen M Peterson
    March 28, 2017 at 9:02 pm

    I just know I would eat my way through Italy. What an awesome trip!

    Also, I have never been on a high speed train and I really want to!

    • Reply
      Razena Schroeder
      March 28, 2017 at 9:46 pm

      Despite my misgivings I enjoyed the fresh produce and seafood and really had a wonderful time doing so. Those high speed trains come with standard, premium, business and executive class. In business they served refreshments on each journey 🙂

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