Ciao a italia

Trip Start Feb 18, 2004
Trip End Dec 05, 2005

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Friday, June 11, 2004

Maybe I should just start this one with a couple pictures...

view from Sopra Bolzano

view from mountain I hiked up

These are pictures from the Dolomites (Italy's Alps). On the way up from Verona, I had to catch a bus from the town of Bolzano, but it was going to be a while so I went wandering. I found a gondola so took a ride. Ended up in Sopra Bolzano with great views (see above pic). As I was riding the bus to Selva, each town we'd pass through I'd think "this is a cute town. I hope Selva is just as good." It was better. It had the best views of any of the other towns I passed through. Most everything in the town had a Bavarian look and everyone spoke German (??? I guess since it's so close to the Austrian border). It's a stunningly beautiful location. I kept taking pictures of the same scenery over and over 'cuz I would just look and go "oh wow, gotta get pic". I arrived in the late afternoon and hiked around a bit and saw the town (not big, but cute). The next day I checked on the gondola in town and it was closed, so I hiked up a really big hill almost straight up (and I thought the hikes in the Canadian Rockies were tough!) for awesome 360 views. Quite incredible. I hung out there for a while then hiked down and kept walking (my feet hate me) to the towns of St Christina and Ortisei. I just poked around there to see what there was to see.

I was a little disappointed to leave Selva, but I knew I should be seeing more pretty mountains in the Swiss Alps soon. Wednesday I went to Milan. Went and saw the Duomo, castle and wandered around (entry to see the "Last Supper" was sold was expensive anyways). Nothing too much exciting in Milan. It was really hot and humid there. Subways were nasty 'cuz everyone was sweaty and gross.

From there I went up to Varenna on Lake Como. It's a cute little town and has a couple villas with gardens I toured for nice pics over the lake. Accomodation was too expensive so I ended up back in Milan at the youth hostel and went and saw "Troy" that evening (in English!). And now I'm in Stesa on Lake Maggiore. It's a little bit bigger town and I found a place that's not a crazy price. I spent most the afternoon just laying in the sun. There were some sights to make your eyes burn - old, overweight men in speedos. Ugh, don't look, don't look! I don't expect there'll be much to do here in the evening...I'll just find a place for food and maybe get a beer.

Italy has a lot of cool stuff to see - highlights would be Cinque Terre, Amalfi Coast and the Dolomites. The cities had some great sites to see too - Florence's art, Rome's history and Venice is just cool. The people in the far north and south seemed more friendly than other regions. It seems once you become a friend, Italians are very welcoming and affectionate but, of course, as a tourist you never get into that social circle. I can see where people who do package deals or tours would have a different impression of Italians since they would be interacting less with local bus drivers, calling hotels and such. But I guess they miss out on a bit of real Italy. Their driving really is crazy here too - cars swerve to get off at an exit, stop and backup to get to an exit, scooters on the sidewalk or pedestrian only areas, etc...

It was clear to me quite a while ago that I'm not going to be able to go all the places I had originally intended. I had thought to go to various small villages but there are a few reasons why that didn't work out: 1) my maps don't show many of the places I wrote down! 2) I found traveling to/from small towns to be a major hassle 3) it tends to be expensive to stay in small towns. My finances are being drained fast here so I'll probably start looking at cutting out cities that don't have much to offer also. It'll probably turn into more of a "highlights of Europe" tour. Though Eastern Europe isn't supposed to be too bad for prices, so I may be able to see and do more there.

Tomorrow I'm off to Zermatt, Switzerland.

"Life springs eternal
On a touristy cobblestone street
Not that my monkey cares at all
I spent the best part of my traveling streak
In a train car
Going where I can't recall
Oh I'm hunched over with my bag
And I check the train schedule
And I buy my ticket
I pour a drink
And I hop on board
And I wonder where I'll be
Spanky's leaving Italy
Sun so bright
Monkey shriek, gelati
On a Saturday night
Leaving Italy
Leaving for good, for good
Spanky's leaving for good"
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