La Dolce Vita II

At long last I am able to bring you the second half of the tale of my trip to Italy, because the illustrating photos finally managed to upload after a few weeks, so better get it down before it gets any more patchy in my memory… After a day in Venice (really needed more time there), I caught a train to Florence, propelled along by a highly efficient Italian rail service and some good tunes from Spotify – my Kindle was broken, most likely from over-use ­čśŽ

When I got to Florence, two things immediately struck me. Firstly, it was WAY more tourist-dense than I was expecting. I thought I had come during the “off-season”, my primary reason for coming at the time, but apparently I was wrong. This would cast a bit of a shadow over the trip for me, but I was determined to take full advantage of being in such a stunning place.

And the second thing… it was stunning. Coming out of every narrow alleyway (not quite as narrow as Venice) you would happen upon some amazing standing testament to the Renaissance – Florence being the cradle of the Renaissance, it was quite fitting. I didn’t even try to capture how impressive the architecture was there, because I couldn’t do it justice, plus everything was surrounded by hawkers of cheap tourist memorabilia…

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Besides taking it all in, on the first full day, in a bid to break the solitude I went on a bike ride with the Tuscany Bike Tours company for the best part of a Sunday. We got a ride from the guys running the tour to the “typical Tuscan countryside”, where we were shown a pre-medieval castle where the regional wine is made. We got to sample said wine in the courtyard before the ride…

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After some briefing, we got going, and what a welcome contrast to the throngs of the city it turned out to be. Good company, but just the right amount of it, and the sun came out to say hello, which lent an idyllic touch to the day.

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After that, I was on my own again… having seriously underestimated how expensive Italy alone would be, this would rule out further travel for the time being, so I just decided to soak in this quintessentially Italian place.

 

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I’ll include this photo just to prove that it was actually Florence I was in

For a lone vegan, there was a double challenge to finding an eating solution which didn’t just involve snaffling fruit in my hostel room like a squirrel after hibernation, but I was lucky to find a couple of vegan-friendly joints just round the corner from where I was staying. They were VERY busy but if I hung around long enough at least I didn’t starve…

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Brac Libreria di Arte Contemporanea

(I don’t do food selfies, sorry. But I’m sure you can imagine what vegan Italian cuisine looks like. So above, here’s the place setting for a cool wee cafe I chanced upon…)

But the thing about Florence, and probably all of Italy, is that its essence is found in being in company. Couples, friends, groups, were everywhere. ┬áThere were probably the odd lone stragglers but they did a good job blending in. Essentially, the place was made for “amici” and “amore”.

I picked up upon a curious aspect of the city. Not only is it famous for Renaissance art and architecture, but it has something of a modern art scene, in the form of street ornaments and graffiti. There were mosaics dotted around the place like this one,

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and something of a guerrilla feel-good campaign going on,

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The graffiti was far more prolific in Venice, but that alone would take up a whole essay-size article. The time I spent in Florence was both too much and too little. But I wanted to see Italy (and very clumsily practice the language) and Italy I got to see, and Italy I will definitely be returning to in the future.

I would return Venice for one final evening before flying home, almost broke and still travel-hungry, and make one last bid to fit in with the locals before making a firm point to take up Italian lessons again. I hung my socks out to dry on the balcony,

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as the example was perfectly set for me from the beginning:

IMAG0368 ┬á Now to start saving and planning all over again…

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La Dolce Vita (I)

For the last while, my mind has been in a bit of a muddle (for reasons and stuff) I’ve had some time to kill and a modest amount of money to burn from an uncharacteristic self-discipline of late. Also, I had been wanting to re-acquaint myself with the Italian language. I was decently versed in it during high school, and having foolishly dropped the class, I thought it was time to pick it up again. And what better way than… to go there.

After much dithering about what to do and where to go (small jaunt or epic trek or random pootle), I decided to go explore Venice and Florence, booked into some budget accommodation and a couple of tours for good measure. Then a few days later (I move fast when I want to) it was “Andiamo!”

First, there was the photography tour of Venice. For those who know me (or read this blog occasionally), I’m quite partial both to travelling and to photography, so this seemed like the sensible thing to do in this place. So I ended up meeting a local professional photographer in St Marco’s Square and we zipped through the corners and recesses of the city, snapping all along the way. I won’t inundate this page with my photographic efforts (I’ll put together a more comprehensive collage later on) but here are a few samples for now:

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Gondolas temporarily out of action

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A typical street – clothing lines between the buildings really caught on here…

 

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Bridge in Venice – one of many I’m sure

Being of the opinion (shared by many I’m sure) that a lack of pollution and congestion can only improve a place, I had to see a city where this was not the case. Simply, it was like how I imagined the roads and cars being replaced by canals and boats as a young ‘un, because it just looked like FUN. How getting around every day should be, before it became a chore.

Also, a vital interjection – I love the indie Italian bookstore.

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This probably should have been my first clue that there were good reads to be found in the place

(As my camera decided it’d had enough for one day, I had to use the camera on my phone, and it turned itself onto black-and-white mode, so it wasn’t a deliberate choice here.)

With the help of the photographer guy, I got to have a snoop around Libreria Acqua Alta┬áhttps://www.facebook.com/pages/libreria-Acqua-Alta-a-Venezia/51303900515, and although I didn’t actually get to read or buy anything, the place in itself was a bookish revelation…

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Pretty inconspicuous from the outside…

 

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Yes-it’s-a-gondola-in-a-book-store

A book staircase

A book staircase

However, in seriously overestimating my remaining skill at Italian, it was more of a museum than a library experience, as I wasn’t so much reading as looking and admiring. So it strengthened my resolve to better learn the language (voucher for online lesson already bought and ready to use), if only so I can return one day and actually buy a book from the place…

I guess writing a university essay on Death in Venice failed to fully prepare me for what to expect in this particular city. There was no immediate danger on account of the threat of a plague, or an unhealthy obsession with a young foreign person (that would be a whole other story), but in getting far enough away from the “throng”, there would be waiting glimpse upon glimpse of a compact and traditional lifestyle at every turn.

By the end of the tour I had walked non-stop for four hours without a coffee or a sit-down and I was ready to collapse. But I had acquired a killer montage, much of which is locked within my phone, bursting to be free.

That's an idea...

That’s an idea…

┬á (La Dolce Vita II coming soon…)