Year Abroad Blog

Ciao a tutti!

Right so, since my last blog I’ve been enjoying post-exam freedom a bit, and it’s been great. The snow actually got pretty thick and settled in Bergamo, and it looked beyond beautiful.  I can’t say I am a fan of the snow though, as I fell over a grand total of three times in one night: you might think that gritting in England is bad, but Italy definitely has some catching up to do in that department.

(Snowy Bergamo from the top of Citta Alta)

I was lucky enough to go to Verona last week for the day with two of my friends, and I was pleasantly surprised having heard mixed reviews about it. Proving to be as fickle as England regarding weather, the day we visited Verona was one of the hottest days I’ve experienced in Italy recently. Anyway, so after a very early 7am train, we arrived in Verona and our first stop was the Verona Arena. Personally, I think this almost rivals the Colosseum in terms of size and grandeur, and I was particularly excited to go inside the Arena because I was unable to go inside the Colosseum when I visited Rome. I was impressed by the size and magnitude of the Arena, and the fact that it is still used today as a concert arena makes sense because it still looks great and hasn’t decayed/eroded much at all.

FUN FACT: None other than One Direction themselves actually performed at the Verona Arena back in 2013 on their tour! Shame Zayn didn’t fancy popping in for a visit last Tuesday, I would have gladly let him be my tour guide for the day!

(The Verona arena)

(Representing BG (Bergamo) 2015…)

(A view of Verona from the inside of the arena)

We also visited the house of Juliet (as in Romeo and Juliet) in Verona. Although it’s probably largely a con for tourists to get people to visit Verona (can’t say I blame them, it worked for me…) it was pretty cool to see. The balcony was slightly underwhelming and not as high as you would expect, and the house itself was largely empty, but the statue of Juliet and the wall outside were impressive. Next to ‘Juliet’s house’ there is a wall covered in post it notes and tissues and letters from people, all of which are talking about love or relationships. It’s a pretty extraordinary sight, and for me it was probably more impressive than both the house and the balcony.

(Love letters on the wall next to the Casa di Giulietta/Juliet’s House)

(A necessary selfie on Juliet’s balcony!)

I would definitely recommend Verona to anyone visiting Italy, but would say that you only need a day at the most to get round and see the main sights and attractions. The food is pretty expensive, but there are some beautiful piazzas for you to sit in, eat and enjoy the views and forget about it being slightly overpriced.

Okay, so moving on. Last Saturday morning, Valentines Day, I set off with about 40 other students on a trip to Venice for the day. It was a ridiculously early and painful start (5.30 wake up call, 6.15am leaving time) but the day was definitely worth it. I have never been to Venice before, but jumped at the chance to go, particularly because in Venice the whole month of February is ‘Carnevale’. Carnevale is basically the opportunity to dress up outrageously (with a lot of costumes not making any sense at all to me), drink lots, decorate the city and have a good time. Being Carnevale, Venice was even busier than it would be usually, but luckily we had a good tour guide who took us round the beautiful back streets of Venice before unleashing the madness on us a bit later on!

(Posing with my Valentine on one of the many bridges in Venice)

(Beautiful, despite the questionable green water…)

We were then allowed a few hours of free time to explore the famous Piazza San Marco where we encountered lots of amazing fancy dress costumes, as well as hundreds and hundreds of people huddled in to the square in order to watch the competition for who would win best costume. It was an incredible atmosphere, with lots of singing and music and, more randomly, some steel drum players.

(Just some of the madness of Carnevale)

Undoubtedly the highlight of my day came after we had lunch: myself and five others decided to go on a gondola ride! I honestly was probably more excited for that 30 minute gondola ride than I have been for a night out/day at a theme park, as a gondola ride is probably seen as one of Venice’s clichés and I never thought I would actually get the opportunity to live out the cliché, but I did! It was a beautiful way to see yet more backstreets and views of Venice, and the gondolier even sang to us a little bit, in between answering questions and telling us facts about Venice.  I am also relieved that none of us fell in, as we were constantly joking about the fact that one of us would! It was €13.30 each, and definitely well spent: I would honestly recommend a gondola ride to anyone and EVERYONE considering visiting Venice, because you will feel a bit like royalty for half an hour and get to see much more remote and beautiful parts of Venice you might not normally see.

(Loving life on a gondola)

(The Venetian flag)

(Getting in to the Carnevale spirit/looking slightly terrifying)

After the gondola ride, we had a few drinks by the canal, which was a really nice and chilled out way to end the day. We had a very early start and a long journey back, but the day trip to Venice was probably one of the best days out I’ve had so far on my year abroad, and also served as a lovely last day with one of my closest friends from Bergamo, who sadly returned to Australia a day later. I cannot recommend Venice enough, I had an incredible day there and would love to go back soon and explore there some more, particularly to see what it is like when it is less busy.

In the next few weeks, I am going on a trip to the mountains just outside of Bergamo, as well as going for a long weekend away in Naples, which I am getting SO excited for! Time is moving way too quickly at the moment, so I am trying to fit in as much as I can (despite becoming increasingly poor in the process).

Ciao for now!

Ella x

(All photos are my own! )