Growing up, Italy was not on my bucket list of places to see before I die. 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.
When I first learned about the Slow Food Terra Madre Salone del Gusto that was to be held in Turin, Italy, I immediately started planning my trip. My cousins were shocked when I said that I had no plans to visit the other cities in Italy, 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 for my trip to Italy 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 Sweet Taste of Venice food tour
- Day 9: Venice travel guide incl. Murano and Burano
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 center of the Slow Food movement, and they make the most delicious chocolate drinks called Bicerin… but that is not enough for me to want to go back there.
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