Good ol' Italia

Trip Start Jun 02, 2010
Trip End Oct 03, 2010

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Flag of Italy  , Veneto,
Monday, August 16, 2010

Before I talk about Italy, which I visited over a week ago, I want to say sorry for being such a bad blogger.  I was so consistent and up-to-date when I started, however the further east I got and the more people I met, the less time I had.  In my defense I have been in quite a few places where the Internet connection was either expensive, bad, or non-existent.  If I had brought my computer with me it wouldn't have been a problem since almost everywhere has wifi (gotta love the modern era).  However, that is one more heavy thing to carry and one more thing to worry about.  So there.

Now that that's over with, let me talk about Italy.

You see, Italy is a very odd topic for me because, quite honestly, it is one of my least favorite countries I have visited.  I know, I can hear you gasping from shock all the way over here.  It is not that Italy isn't beautiful, because it is.  And it is not that Italy is lacking in culture, history, ruins, etc., because it has those by the buckets.  And it is not that the people are unfriendly, because they are just as friendly or unfriendly as most other countries.  No, Italy has a lot to offer and I can understand why so many people go crazy for it. I can't really explain why I'm not a huge fan of traveling in Italy.  Is it the trains? The street hawkers who get right up in your business?  I don't know, I just get anxious when I'm in Italy and I constantly feel uncomfortable.  Of course, the touchy, feely men don't do anything to help that, but what can you do?

At this point you may be wondering: if Italy makes you so uncomfortable then why the hell did you go there?  That is an excellent question, with a two part answer.  First: ever since I became involved in Opera I wanted to see the world renown La Scala Opera house.  Therefore I really wanted to try to fit Milan into my travels at some point.  Second:  remember Kielbasa and Lemon from Edinburgh and Munich?  Well, they were hitting up Verona after they went to Venice and I just couldn't pass up a chance to see the city of "Romeo and Juliet" while hanging out with the two of the coolest ladies ever.  So, using my expert scheduling skills I planned to visit Milan while they were in Venice and then I would travel to meet them in Verona (which is conveniently in-between Venice and Milan).  And this is what we did.

So, Milan.  There is no question that this city is beautiful.  Unfortunately I didn't enjoy it as much as I could have because it was raining the entire day.  Literally, the ENTIRE day.  I don't mind a drizzle here and there to cool things off, but the entire day just ain't okay.  Yay rhyme.  Anyway, I got into Milan around 10pm because we had missed all of the earlier trains out of Munich and it is already a 7 hour train ride from Munich to Verona and then another 2 hours to Milan where I had to make a transfer... Needless to say it was a long day.  Then when I got to Milan I realized that the directions my hotel gave me were all kinds of vague, so I had to ask the manager of the McDonalds by the train station where to go.  The only reason I went to McDonalds is because it is the only thing open at 10pm and I figured someone had to know English.  After I received semi-coherent directions I had to walk down a couple of dark streets and for the first time in all my travels I legitimately felt scared.  This just made me walk faster and adopt the "I will castrate you if you get any closer" face.  I did make it to my hotel where I pretty much passed out for a good 10 hours.

As I said, the next day was nothing but rain.  I got nice and wet because I still haven't bought an umbrella.  I know, call me crazy but I refuse to spend more than €10 on an umbrella that will probably break anyway.  So I got drenched, but at least I was able to see La Scala.  And this place is a sight to see.  The museum itself is only €5 to enter and not only do you get a wonderful view of the opera house from the box seats but there is also a wonderful exhibition of different theatre relics, portraits, etc.  They even had a special showcase dedicated to Mahler in celebration of his would be 150th birthday.  I spent a good two hours in the Museum.  A good 15 minutes of that time was dedicated to just looking at the Performance hall.  This place is beyond stunning.  It quite literally took my breath away.  From floor to ceiling, the walls were lined with stories of theatre boxes, all adorned in red fabric.  In the center of the ceiling hangs and eye-catching chandelier that casts a glow over the entire house.  It is no wonder that thousands have aspired to sing on this stage; it is absolutely glorious.

After taking the house in for quite some time, and trying to covertly get a few pictures (they are "not allowed") I headed to the Mahler exhibit.  I was quite delighted to see that they had a special video presentation showing.  It was the 1960 recording of the NY Philharmonic, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, performing numerous Mahler pieces.  So not only could I sit down, out of the rain, but I got to enjoy some Mahler for about an hour.  Happy day.  I actually might have spent the entire day here if the museum people hadn't kicked me out for their siesta time.  Darnit.  Oh well, there was lots more to see.

I pretty much spent the rest of the day walking around in the rain, taking gloomy pictures of some of the major sights.  The Dumo was very impressive.  I was not, however, impressed with the street hawkers who kept thrusting things in my face telling me to buy them or that they were free.  I'm sorry gentlemen, but this is not the way to sell your merchandise.  I saw one poor bloke who took a bracelet that one hawker said was "free".  They are NEVER free.  This guy was still arguing with the "salesman" when I finally left the Duomo Piazza.  The rest of the day was relatively uneventful.  Well, except for this one lovely man who decided it was okay to put his hand on my butt.  This is what happened:  I was in a park (the first bad sign), just looking out at this monument when a guy comes up beside me, not too close mind, and says "It is beautiful, no?"  Well, I have learned my lesson, so all I say is a simple yes.  No smile, not even in the tone of my voice.  I don't even look at the guy.  Next thing I know I feel his hand on my butt.  Well, that was a first for me.  I stand there, shocked for a second.  Then I take my fist and punch his chest.  I would have liked to punch lower, but it was the best I could do at the time.  Well, it had the desired affect because he staggered back and then called me a "Bitch".  I think he would have said more if a tour group hadn't been walking up at the time.  Well, you can imagine what kind of mood this put me in for the rest of the day.  I still walked around to a few more sights, but I was in such a rage that I don't even remember half of them.  When did it become okay to treat a total stranger like that?  I mean, it's one thing to touch me inappropriately.  But I think what really made me mad was that he called me a bitch because I didn't respond with a swoon to his dirty, un-invited groping.  Urgh.

So that was pretty much Milan in a nutshell.  I only went for a day really, but I got to see La Scala, which was my main mission.  The next day I met the two girls up in Verona.  I have to say that Verona is by far my favorite Italian city that I have been to.  It is small, but there is still lots to see and yet it doesn't have that over-crowded feel that other major Italian cities do.  Oh, there were crowds all right, but it all seemed very manageable.  Kielbasa, Lemon and I got to our B&B.  Well, their B&B, we ended up just sneaking me in and splitting the cost three ways.  We were actually very "covert spy" about it.  At least we thought we were until the woman who checked K and L in asked L if I was staying here too.  Woops.  Luckily Lemon was a quick thinker and said that I was just visiting, etc.  I don't think anything ended up happening.  Of course, the day I left I had to sneak out at first daylight like a two bit prostitute...Anyway, it was a bed so I can't complain.

Back to Verona.  We wandered the streets of Verona, which is something I seem to do in every small city.  We took in the sights and found ourselves completely charmed by this northern Italian town.  We, of course, had to stop by Juliet's House (which is much nicer than Romeo's house).  It is REALLY crowded, but still quite a sight.  The walls along the entry arch are covered in personal graffiti of people proclaiming their love for Roberto, or Emilia, or...The Jonas Brothers.  And then there is the balcony, so small, yet so important.  Perhaps the most interesting thing is the statue of Juliet.  Apparently it is "the thing" to take a picture while cupping her right breast (which is a lot shinier than the rest of the statue).  So there is a huge line of men, women, and children waiting to get a picture of them fondling Juliet. They do realize she was 14, right?  What pedophile thought this one up?  And while we're at it, is anyone else wondering why their school teachers seem to have left out an important bit about the story of Romeo and Juliet?  As in, it's based off of real people!  Kind of an important detail isn't it?  I personally don't believe it.  I think that the DaCapello family (the one's who are supposedly the Capulets) read the play by Shakespeare back in the day and realized that their names were similar and that they happened to have a relative named Julietta and wouldn't it be a fantastic idea if they capitalized off of this story...then wham bam, thank you mam you have a tourist attraction for the starry eyed traveler who believes in love at first sight and adolescent suicide.  Not that I have an opinion on this subject.  Moving on.

So I would definitely recommend a visit to Juliet's house, just be prepared to get shoved around by the crowds.  The rest of Verona you can mostly see in a day, but I would try to stretch it out a bit more so that you can really enjoy the city.  We certainly did.  It was a nice and laid back couple of days that consisted of ambling along small Italian streets, eating our weight in Pizza, and enjoying one another's company.  I'm glad I made the slight change to my schedule in order to meet up with these two again.  After all the craziness of Munich it was nice to have some calm.  And who would have thought it could be found in the tourist packed country of Italy?
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