Venezia – Italia

In 2007, after spending new year’s in Galway with some friends, I ended returning with one of them to Italy… I travelled around the country on a very tight budget, often having to sleep in train station and the streets. It was a cool (literally) experience. While in Venice, it was the first time I experienced temperatures of below -5C and, believe me, I was not prepared for that. Me and a New Zealander friend slept outside Venezia Santa Lucia. The two of us and two other homeless people. The four of us ended up chatting for the entire night, barely understanding each other! It was a new experience! I really enjoyed it, I must say! Almost froze to death, but enjoyed it nonetheless.

This is a photo I took the morning after this ordeal… what a beautiful sight!

Firenze – Italia

I know I’ve posted something about Italy in an old 2008 publication, but that was edited etc… I could go on and on about Florence, probably my favourite destination in the world. A small, well kept place, with history screaming at you in every corner… giving you the opportunity of walk through the same places as the greatest artists to ever walk the face of the Earth!

I love the Uffizi Gallery… it is a museum unlike any other. If you are visiting London or Paris, you rarely get to see art from the local artists… you get to see the odd Monet, Degas, Turner… but the highlights of the Louvre and the National Gallery are painting from the Italian Masters. In the Uffizi Gallery, you get to see a museum of local artists… Michelangelo, Da Vinci, Ghirlandaio, Giotto, Raffaello, Botticelli, Filippino Lippi, Filippo Lippi……….. where else do you get to see such a concentration of brilliant art from local artists, in a museum that you can visit in a single day??? Nowhere! Except Florence!

Torino – Italia

View of Torino from Monte dei Cappuccini! What an amazing place! The largest building in the city, built to be Synagogue, the Mole Antonelliana, now hosts the Museo Nazionale del Cinema. It is the tallest museum in the world and definitely a must-see!

If you time your visit well, you may be one of the few (well, a few million is a few in my book!) people to ever catch a glimpse of the Shroud of Turin, on display once every 25 years.

This is a very brief description… reeeeeally brief, but Include Torino in your itinerary if visiting Italy! You won’t regret it!


Published at The University Observer

An artist’s haven and music lover’s treat, Tuscany is a region with culture to spare!

Tuscany is one of the few regions in Europe where one can see how the cities and towns have changed without losing touch with their roots. From picturesque villas to the modern construction, there is a careful balance between the ancient and modern.

The region’s focal point is the city of Florence. The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo) and the Baptistery are quite possibly the two most famous sites in the city. Those who are not faint-hearted should take a walk to the top of the Dome, where the whole city can be seen, as the mountains form a breathtaking backdrop.

Accademia di Belle Arti Firenze, an art academy which is home to Michaelanglo’s David, is conveniently close to the Duomo. A short walk towards the River Arno will take you to the main square, Piazza Della Signoria.

Within the square, visitors can find the Uffizi Gallery. If you are an art enthusiast, it is worth wandering around for a few hours to see the entire collection. Divided into two pavilions, a connecting hall offers sights of the world famous Ponte Vecchio which stretches across the Arno River and is host to a number of jewellery shops.

Outside the gallery, musicians and artists of all sorts provide high quality performances. On the other side of the river and a short walk from the bridge, the Palazzo Pitti, former residence to the Medici Family and Piazzale Michelangelo can be seen.

Despite the journey to reach them, visitors are rewarded with a panoramic view of Florence, with the Duomo and Palazzo Vecchio dominating the horizon.

The nightlife in Florence can be expensive, but a short detour from the touristy streets will save you money. There is a large variety of pubs and nightclubs but some of these close very early, giving visitors a great option to stay in and interact with travellers in the hostel.

But there is more to Tuscany than just Florence. About one hour away by bus is San Gimignano, a very well conserved, medieval town, surrounded by its original walls and located on a hilltop. It is known for its towers and good white wine and is a great place for a day trip.

Regular buses from San Gimignano can bring visitors to the nearby city of Siena. Siena’s central square, the Piazza del Campo, is great for interacting with locals and fellow travellers to exchange experience and travelling tips. A quick trip to the Cathedral is highly recommended to see the impressive art works and mosaic floor.

Two other towns that are worth visiting are Pisa, to see the Leaning Tower and Lucca, where the Lucca Summer Festival is held, for some great concerts. For the towns, food or just an ice cream, Tuscany has it all!