North to Hamburg

On the day we arrived in Hamburg we felt both very much in Germany, and very much at home. We were overwhelmed with sudden change in weather and environment, we were now suddenly in the midst of autumn and we couldn’t help feel somehow like we were home.

Our trip through the remainder of Italy had been quick and noisy. Once we were in Hamburg the pace slowed down immensely and our time there felt like a vacation from what our trip had been so far.

Hamburg is a port city, and has more bridges per square kilometer than Venice, but its greatest achievement in our eyes was how peaceful the city seemed to be. We stayed north of the downtown area, in a smallish flat with our friend we met in the summer and her husband. They were busy during the week and we were left to our own devices during the week, but they took us to the harbor on the weekend which was one of the best parts of our time there.

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The harbor area is divided between two very different uses of the waterfront. A very industrial sector with hundreds of cranes and shipping tankers stands in stark contrast to the wealth of 300+ year old buildings. It could feel awkward, but instead feels normal, I think because the city has been able to build in a way that such a contrast between tradition and modern industry is complimentary. Which is almost how the German way of life is constructed: the new respects the old.

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Rome- From stick to stick, Romans in the valley, the Lizzie McGuire Story

Ahhhh Rome, the eternal city. What secrets do you hold? Rome was our last stop on the whirlwind journey through Italy, and even though we only had two days to explore, I would say it was worth it. On our first day we did what every good tourist does- go to the Colosseum, and proceed from there to the Pantheon, Trevi fountain, various parks and squares. Most of these are ancient sites were so crowded, it was hard to get a good shot. Rome is definitely had the most tourists we had seen. The second day we spent the morning and early afternoon in Vatican City before catching our flight (now there’s a story) in the evening. We saw St. Peter’s square and Basilica, because as my old Comparative Literature professor always said ‘when you go to Rome you have to see St. Peter’s square’. It really was amazing, Bernini, Michealangelo, and Maderno, you did well.

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On our last day in Naples we wandered the city in the morning, grabbed some pizza lunch, and headed to Herculean, the other city lost in the Vesuvius eruption. We had heard it was much easier to see everything, and much better preserved than Pompeii, and we only had time to go to one so we chose Herculean.

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Walking through an ancient city was quite amazing. Even though they were a wealthier city, their society was so advanced. There were bath houses, beautiful gardens, every wall was covered with colourful frescoes (but not a lot remain), and the aqueducts distributed water to all the houses. Things weren’t so different, it seems. It was a nice note to finish on before checking out what Rome had to offer.

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Naples- the nitty gritty

I Loved Naples. You don’t have to press me to tell you that, I will gladly divulge that information to anyone but it’s not for everyone. If you’re looking to have a nice vacation somewhere beautiful, stay in nearby Sorrento. It is quaint, charming and quiet. Take a day trip to Naples, eat some pizza, walk around, go back before dark. You’ll have a great day, I promise. We’ve heard the further south you go, the poorer it gets. Since we heard this from Italians and based on what I saw I’m assuming this is fairly true.

Naples was an experience. Imagine these massive beautiful buildings built 750-400 years ago. Now imagine them covered in graffiti, and lined with garbage on busy roads. This is Naples. It is beautiful, historical, and busy but also malcontent, boisterous and unkempt. Maybe it’s a sign of the times. Things are bad in Italy, probably worse for Naples. We were there less than a month after Berlusconi stepped down. There’s a lot of unrest and some of the population of Naples have taken it upon themselves to make that evident. I found this interesting, it was so unlike the pristine cities like Paris, Nice, Milan, Florence (pretty much everywhere we’d been so far). It has a lot of character and a lot of history.

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Our pictures from Naples are mostly of historic buildings from one morning walking around. I wish we’d taken the camera more around town but there was so much to do that most of the time we went for convenience. Hopefully you can see some of what I’m talking about. There’s also 2 very famous pizzerias in this set- Gino Sorbillo and Di Michele. Spot them if you can through all the people.

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Capri, chasing down summer

It took all day to get from Florence to Naples so our first night was spent figuring out what we would do, and eating pizza at Gino Sorbillo, one of the best pizzeria’s in Italy, and quite probably the world. We ate here almost everyday because at 3.50 a pizza, you can’t really say no. We decided to go on a sailing trip to nearby Capri, because we had wanted to go sailing in Nice but not enough people registered. The weather was supposed to be great the next day so we decided why not!

We were woken at 7:00 by the receptionist saying ‘the guy who runs the sailing trip is in naples, if you want a ride you have to be outside in 10 minutes, otherwise you’ll have to take the train to Sorrento’ (the trip leaves from Sorrento because it is a port town). So we threw our stuff in a bag, got dressed and ran out the door.
The drive to Sorrento took about an hour and, after grabbing some much needed breakfast and espresso, we got to explore this quaint sea side town for about an hour before we had to go to the boat. There was another young man from our hostel on the trip, he was from Brazil and it was great talking with him and the man leading the trip (Sebatiano).
The boat trip set from Sorrento to Capri, along the way we saw caves, old ruins, and to top it off we went snorkeling in the Grotta Azzurra. In Capri we were left to explore and lounge on the beach. Capri is a beautiful island with turquoise water and picturesque surroundings. It was a beautiful October day and we’re glad it stayed so warm for us so that we were able to have an incredible day.

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Florence Maybe?

We went to Florence at the wrong time. For the birthplace of the Renaissance, with museums containing works by the like of Michelangelo, Donatello, Da Vinci, and Botticelli, Brunelleschi (and more), we certainly picked the worst part of the week to show up.

Our train from Venice put us into Florence on a Sunday afternoon, and even before we knew what that meant we were doomed. Our top floor apartment did look out at the famous Duomo (seen below), which dwarfs all other buildings in Florence, but on the resulting walk we took to relax after hauling our suitcases up eight flights of stairs, we realized that all of the musems in the city were closed the following day, and that if we were going to see anything noteworthy while we were there, we had the next three hours to do so.

We ended up getting pizza.

The trouble with museums in Florence is that they are the reason to visit, so every tourist in the city is there for the same reason making lineĀ  ups to get into museums if you don’t have advanced tickets a nightmare. So, we decided against waiting in line, grabbed our camera, and walked the old part of the city, trying to see what we could see.

That night we walked to the Piazzale Michelangelo, which is at the top of a hill on the south bank of Florence. There you could see the whole city light up in the sunset. Our next day was spent looking in all of the places that somehow remained open, which included the Duomo and the Medici family apartments, which were decorated endlessly with fresco of Greek/Roman mythologies. From there we snuck into the Boboli Gardens, which were “closed” however we decided that they didn’t look very closed.

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Our time in Florence was surprisingly nice, and we didn’t miss out on any of the city’s flavor, but it was just one of those places we need to go back to in order see everything the birthplace of the Renaissance has to offer.

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Venice- the big guns

Our second day in Venice (technically Mirano) started with grey skies and rain. Since we had been traveling three weeks at this point we took a day off. We were going to trip to nearby Padova, but decided to spend a lazy day reading at our hotel. In the afternoon it cleared up nicely so we ventured out into Mirano which is a beautiful small town with lots of rivers and old buildings. Even though we didn’t do too much we had a great time taking a bit of a break on a crisp fall day.

The following day it was beautiful again and we left for Venice first thing. When we got there Chris realized he had forgot the map in his other pants so we were left to navigate ourselves. Knowing how confusing the streets were we kept one single goal in mind for the day- Make it to Piazza San Marco. Luckily, there were signs pointing lost tourists in the right direction all over. It took about an hour to walk there taking our time. As I mentioned before the streets are so narrow so you have no clue the scale of the thing you’re about to see so imagine my surprise when we squeezed through an alley where the sun doesn’t shine and there is only room for two people side by side and emerged to see the Piazza. It was stunning to say the least. St. Mark’s Basilica, San Basso Church, Clock tower, Procuratie and various other equally impressive buildings cover all sides of the Piazza. We went into St. Mark’s and managed to snap a few shots of the interior, and walked around but there were so many people that we didn’t spend too much time in the square.

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After the piazza we wandered the streets some more looking at handmade Venetian masks and Murano glass both of which Venice is famous for and lazily making our way back to our starting point stopping on the way for hazelnut gelato and 1.50 pizza slices. I never thought I would make it to Venice and I’m so glad I did, though if you are planning a trip to Italy I would suggest a day trip to Venice, unless you want to go to all of the museums and churches. You can see everything in a day and it is quite expensive there.

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