Articles tagged with "italy"

Flight home

Flight home

The next day we were late leaving the house for various reasons. We hurried through Florence, getting faster and faster as we went, as we slowly realised how late we were. I really didn’t want to miss the train because if I did, I would surely miss my flight home. In the end, we made it to the station with what I thought was seconds to spare. We jumped onto the train, enjoyed about two seconds of feeling massively relieved, then realised that there was no-one else on the train, and the lights were off.

I had a horrible sinking feeling. It looked like my journey home was not going to be straightforward. It turned out there was a train strike on, and there was no way I was getting to Pisa by rail. There was a bus leaving soon, but it was going via somewhere ridiculous and it would take three hours, which was definitely too long. Reluctantly we went to the taxi rank outside the station, and said “aeroporto” to the taxi man at the head of the queue. “Firenze?”, he asked. “Pisa”, we said sadly. His eyes lit up and off we drove.

It was an incredibly unpleasant journey, watching the numbers on the meter climb higher and higher. I made it to the check-in with barely a minute to spare, but I was a horribly large number of euros poorer.

The flight home was a slight consolation. A couple of times before when flying into and out of Pisa, I’d noticed a small island off the Tuscan coast. On this flight, I got a great view of it, basking in the orange evening light, with the hills of central Tuscany rising out of the mist in the background.


By the Arno

By the Arno

Heavy winter skies were breaking up at dusk, as we walked from the tower back to the station. When we got to the Arno, the skies were velvety blue and the town looked nice.


A day in Pisa

A day in Pisa

Another weekend, another trip to Italy. This time, we spent the day in Pisa. I had to borrow a euro off a fellow passenger to get the bus into Pisa from the airport, because none of the cashpoints were working, so I started the day feeling very cheap. We walked up to the Campo dei Miracoli and saw the tower that everyone has heard about since they were tiny. And it really does lean at an astonishing angle – a ridiculous, crazy angle that seems physically impossible.

This was my twelfth holiday of 2003. After three cheap weekends away early in the year, I’d had the crazy idea of just carrying on booking cheap holidays as often as possible, and to go on one trip a month. I hadn’t been abroad in June or September, but I’d made up for that with two trips in March and two in November. And I’d even missed out on one trip, a weekend in Sardinia, when my flight was delayed so much that it ended up not being worth going. I’d been to new and awesome parts of Europe and none of the flights had cost me more than 30 pounds.


Florence

Florence

My eighth holiday of 2003 was to Florence. We didn’t actually do a whole lot – it was raining most of the weekend so we barely left the flat. But we did manage to go up the Campanile, as night was falling and the rain clouds were finally breaking up. I hadn’t liked Florence very much at all when we’d been here in the blazing heat of July, but now there were not nearly so many tourists, and in the rain the town had a much nicer atmosphere.


Perugia

Perugia

We spent the weekend in Perugia. It was almost 40°C. The Perugia Jazz Festival was on, and bands were playing around the town. In the heat, it was difficult to do much except walk slowly from cafe to cafe, buying cold drinks, and stopping in shady squares to listen to music.


Florence

Florence

I met up with my girlfriend in Florence. She was in Perugia for a month but was soon going to be moving to Florence for nine months, so we went househunting there. It was phenomenally hot, and massively over-crowded, and I didn’t really like it that much. The best thing about the day was the views of the countryside as we passed through on the train.


Rome

Rome

Europe’s massive heatwave of 2003 was just beginning to kick off. I got a night train to Rome and slept badly in a stunningly hot and airless compartment.

I started the day tired, but I covered a lot of ground. I walked from the Coliseum, through the Forum, up to the top of the Capitoline Hill, past the absurdly huge memorial to Vittorio Emmanuele II, then down to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. It was a mistake to come to a very touristy capital city in the middle of summer, and the crowds were unpleasant. It really seemed a bit surreal at the Trevi Fountain. It’s a nice enough fountain but it seemed weird to me that hundreds of people were piling off tour buses to see it.


Como

Como

I went to Italy because my girlfriend was in Perugia for a month, and my cousin lived near Milan. I had a week to spare and decided to do a small tour of the mainland.

The tour started in Lombardia. I stayed with my cousin in Varese, and we visited Como. I’d flown over the lake on my way into Milan, and it had looked pretty amazing from the air. We got the funicular railway up to Brunate, and walked along a trail high over the lake.


Back to Trieste

Back to Trieste

In the morning I headed back to Trieste. I got a train to Opcina, and as we sped through the Slovenian countryside, the grey skies were gradually breaking up. As we descended there was less and less snow on the ground, and the air was getting warmer and warmer. At the Italian border it was a bright sunny day.

I got a bus from Opcina to Trieste, and then bought a ticket for the airport bus. I waited at the station for a long time, before someone came to tell us the bus had been cancelled. There were five other people waiting for the bus, and after we’d been refunded for our tickets, we headed for the station to get a train to Monfalcone. We were all on cheap Ryanair weekends, and we still had plenty of time before our flight. But at the station, confusion set in. We needed to get the train at 12.15pm, and by the time we’d all got our tickets it was 12.14pm. We rushed onto the platform, and there was a train there which half the group jumped on. But this train was on the platform next to where ours should have been, and I reckoned it was going to Udine. If it was the Udine train, it would not be stopping at Monfalcone and we’d miss our flight.

I told everyone what I thought, but no-one seemed convinced. I was sure enough to jump back off the train, though, and now that I had infected everyone with my paranoia, the group suddenly decided to follow. But disaster struck – the train doors closed before half the group could get off. A couple were divided – a girl got off the train but her boyfriend didn’t, and she was carrying all their money.

Luckily, the train driver noticed the panic, and opened the doors again. Our reunited group had now failed with the bus and the train, and our only option was a taxi. We got two taxis between us and made it to the airport with a few minutes to spare before check-in closed. We flew back to the London winter, relieved not to be stuck in Udine.


Trieste

Trieste

A week ago I’d missed out on a trip to Sardinia, when a couple of inches of snow had caused transport chaos and my flight had been so badly delayed that it just wasn’t worth going. So I was happy this week that the snow had long since melted, and when I bunked off the Friday afternoon at work it was not in vain. I was heading for the Balkans, and my route was via Trieste, because Ryanair was having another sale and the flights were very cheap. The last time I had been to Italy was five years earlier, when I went to Sicily.

My flight got to Trieste just after sunset, and as we descended over the Alps the snow was blazing red in the evening light. By the time I got to the centre of the city it was dark. Trieste seemed incredibly different to Sicily. It was part of Austria-Hungary for centuries, only becoming Italian in 1921. Then it was an independent state from 1947 to 1954. It definitely felt un-Italian to me. A wind was blowing in off the Adriatic but it was much warmer here than it had been in London.

I headed to the station at 11pm, and bought a ticket to Zagreb. The train pulled out of the station at 11.40pm, and I was on my way into Eastern Europe.


Another long walk

Another long walk

On our final night, the weather cleared, and from Zafferana we watched lava fountains spraying high over the summit. We stayed up all night watching the show, trying and failing to take good photos.
We saw the mountain from the plane window as we took off from Catania. We hadn’t made it to the top, but we’d seen it erupting, and we thought that was a pretty good result.


Cable car to Montagnola

Cable car to Montagnola

We got a cable car from the Rifugio Sapienza to Montagnola, not too far from the summit. It was a clear and beautiful day when we set out, but clouds were coming in and they arrived at Montagnola at the same time as we did. Reaching the craters was going to be impossible. We got the cable car back down and then got a bus back to Catania in an epic downpour.

Four years after we were there, both the Rifugio Sapienza and the Montagnola cable car station were destroyed by lava flows.


Long walk in filthy weather

Long walk in filthy weather

We randomly ended up in a town called Zafferana. It rained heavily most of the time we were there, but we hiked a long way up the volcano anyway. We walked to a place with a view over eastern Sicily. The weather cleared up briefly, but only towards the coast. The mountain was still totally hidden. We walked on, but the clouds came in again and it was getting dark. By torchlight, we headed back down to Zafferana.


Journey to Zafferana

Journey to Zafferana

A photo of Mt. Etna erupting on the front page of the paper was the cue for this trip. I saw the photo in the morning, and by the afternoon I’d booked my flight to Catania, at the foot of the mountain and persuaded two friends to come with me.  We were young and naive and it’s amazing we even got to the airport given our extreme lack of planning.  We didn’t even have a guidebook, but somehow this didn’t deter us at all. We started the trip with a flight to Catania via Milan which took us over the Alps.