August 1, 2009

Summer in the City

I'm over 7 weeks into my Summer and with less than that again remaining, I find myself wondering where this year has gone.

The late snow of January melted quickly, the Winter rain lasted a little longer and then it was Spring. The sun came out, blossoms quickly followed and the little winks of Summer brought an end to the semester, not least with a beautiful sunny day for our last hurrah, the Gala Soirée.

Myself, Amanda, Sofia and Rebecca - Team Swedalia

Monday 1 June, what would usually mark the coming of Winter at home, was actually warm and sticky. A day of gathering belongings, locking doors and boarding the train for Paris, where I would say goodbye to my new best friends and begin a season for travel and adventure. 4 Swedish partners-in-crime, who'd I seen more than my own family, shared my ups and downs with over the last 4 months, were going home. It was not a goodbye though, more a 'see you soon' as I was already looking into flights to Stockholm for July.

I spent a few nights in Paris, the first with Grant and then a couple alone - the first real bit of alone I'd had in a while. I quite enjoy some reflection time... time for solitude and playing your choice of daggy music in your pyjamas. But alone in a hostel is different. There is no privacy, no fridge to yourself and they never have Lady Grey. It's a lonelier kind of alone, and it came as a surprise.

Gate 20 was full of stylish Italians, crowding the lounge without so much as an airplane to board. The internet kiosk wouldn't let me type 7, 8, 9 or 0 so was essentially useless and I cursed the wasted euros. The boarding announcements were in French and everyone was speaking Italian and my Australian brain was worn out and confused... I didn't even have a plan for Italy - I was just flying to Milan and leaving 10 days later from Bari. My years of Italian lessons were long gone and, quite frankly, I was just keen to go somewhere. Anywhere.

I woke up as we jetted over the still snow-capped Alps, some of which rose above the clouds, floating on puffs of white and grey. Dropping down, olive groves and terracotta roofs came into view and I looked at my passport - it said I was from here, that my roots were here just like those olive trees. Finding my hostel in Milan was a drama, but then my father had found long lost family here, so nothing was impossible. Under the guise of a misspelled surname, I was a local, the authorities spoke to me as though I would understand and I headed straight for the gelati stand outside the station, just like a local.

Milan, my first Italian city, paled in significance when compared to Venice, which was then challenged by the Cinque Terre as a favourite. Pisa and Florence were rushed, and spending just one night in Rome meant an express tour through the postcard sites. As with all incredibly photogenic locations, they are best portrayed with images - my words at least could not do them justice.

La Galleria, Florence
There are 4 stores at this central dome, one on each corner.
3 are designer boutiques, 1 is McDonalds.

Carnevale Mask, Venice

View from Ponte Rialto, Venice

Grand Canal, Venice

Vernazza, Cinque Terre

The Leaning Tower, Pisa (pictured straight)

Highly illegal and unauthorised image of a pretty good statue, Florence

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Real, holy sunbeams at 7.30am in St Peters Basilica, Rome

St Peters Basilica, Rome

Sistine Chapel, Vatican City (also unauthorised)

Vatican Museum, Rome

10 days flew past, and my feelings of being lost, destitute and friendless grew smaller and smaller as each city came and went. New friends were made, new flavours of gelati were sampled (for breakfast, lunch and dinner), and even a little Italian wriggled out of the cobwebs of my high school education and back into use.

I have stories to tell my grandchildren, like the Venetian calligraphy store owner who offered to close his shop and paint my naked body, but they are better told over time, scattered throughout like anecdotes once I've had a chance to laugh about them to myself first...


This post is dedicated to Grant, who, on the banks of the Seine in Paris, convinced me that solo travel was not something to be scared of and would be more rewarding than frightening. I was nervous but he was right.

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1 comment:

  1. Wow, I did a really similar trip last year... these places (and your photos) are just breath taking, aren't they! What was your stand out city? Venice blew me away.

    I hope you remembered to throw a coin over your shoulder into the Trevi Fountain... totally gaudy touristic stuff, but sweet to do :-) Oh, and were there millions of nuns in Rome when you were there? They were just everywhere!