Venice in two days

Venice is by far one of my favourite places in Italy so far. We spent two days there and by the end I was sure I would have to return!

The interesting thing about Venice is that contrary to popular belief there’s not a lot to do there. Yes, there are museums and galleries but for real how much renaissance art can one person see? Venice for me was about the picturesque moments, the beauty, the narrow streets and being constantly surrounded by water.

We arrived in on Friday afternoon at around 16:00, the train from Milan takes 2h 40m so it can even make a day trip if you fancy saving those coins and skipping out on accommodation.

I had heard of a gorgeous sandwich place where we could get a bite to eat and a spritz to quench our Italian thirst, this was where we first learnt that navigating around Venice is a nightmare! For some reason, google maps places you in random locations and also tells you about streets which don’t exist. So, if you’re navigating around Venice with GPS, prepare to get lost!

After a great deal of walking, we found the place and it was closed. Most Italian restaurants close around 3pm and open again at 7pm which meant we were compelled to eat at one of touristy establishments with sub-par pasta 😦 (this was not the boujee life I chose to lead).

Once we were done, we just took the evening to walk around the city, get a feel of what it was like and have a pretty relaxed night. I would definitely recommend an evening stroll through Piazza San Marco if you can, the square looks completely different at night when it’s all lit up and there’s this romantic feel in the air which makes everything look special.

Our hostel was on the island of Giudecca so we had to catch a boat from San Marco over to the island. I’m so glad we stayed here because it meant we could see a part of Venice which we ordinarily would not have and were able to make use of the transport system! Although you can walk around the whole of main island of Venice, if you want to see other islands you’ll need to get a ticket. They cost €7 one way and €18 for 24 hours (as far as I can remember).

We had an early start the next morning because now we only had a day to see the rest of Venice. Our first port of call was to head to Burano, the home of the colourful houses. There are three islands surrounding mainland Venice and they all offer different experiences. If you want to feel happiness in one place then head to Burano because it emits it from every painted wall around you, it’s a real life Balamory. We used our 24 hour boat ticket to get back to San Marco and then hop on a boat from there which would take around 40 mins to get to Burano. When you’re travelling on the water, the boat goes pretty fast so it tends to get quite cold; we started by sitting along the top to experience the views but once the breeze got to us, we moved to the lower cabin which is closed so it’s slightly warmer!

In Burano we took as many pictures as we could in front of every different colour combination of houses and then grabbed a pizza for brunch which yes, we used as a prop to take more pictures.

When we got back to San Marco, our next priority was to do a gondola ride! We walked around for quite a while trying to find a gondolier with a good price, eventually we realised that the gondolas are a nationalised service and so are the same price everywhere! I’d say to try and get a gondola from Rialto Bridge, this way you get to see the main sights of Venice and also explore some narrow streets. If you get your canal from a random location, it’s likely you’ll just go down streets with houses and won’t get the full experience!

Fun fact: all the gondoliers in Venice must have their gondolas painted black outside to avoid unfair competition, however inside they can decorate it in whatever way they please!

The gondola will definitely be the most expensive thing you do on this trip, it costs €80 for 20 mins and €120 at night! If you have a group of friends it’s worth splitting the cost because it really is a unique experience!

We then headed back over to Rialto Bridge to grab a few more pictures before heading over to the highlight of the trip: the Suso gelato.

I am not kidding when I say this is best gelato I’ve ever had in my life, they have the most unique flavours and there’s always a line out the door! We were just about to turn away when two local ladies told us that it would be worth our wait! They always have different flavours so I can’t recommend one but I had the caramel and caffé and it was absolutely divine!

Finally we stopped by Scala Contarini del Bovolo, this lies in the smallest palazzo of Venice and the tower gives a very different perspective of the city than you would get from Piazza San Marco. It’s really peaceful and because not many people know about it, there’s no big lines or crowding so you can climb the stairs as slowly as you need to!

In my opinion, I think Venice is like marmite; you either love it or hate it. It’s a tourist hub and if you hate that then don’t go to Venice. For the same reason, if you’re looking for typical Italian food I would avoid Venice, wood-fire ovens are outlawed so you won’t find good pizza and pasta is not really a Venetian dish, there’s more focus on risotto and seafood!

That being said, it definitely has that Italian feel that you may be seeking and is overall a gorgeous place! It’s not the last that it’s seen of me!

Thank you for reading!

x

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Turin… is it really worth it?

Whilst I’m studying in Milan, my objective is to travel to as many Italian cities possible. Turin is not one of the major cities that you hear about people visiting but it is known for its refined architecture and rich culture.

Turin is the fourth largest city in Italy; behind Milan, Rome and Naples and was the host to the Winter Olympics in 2006. I wasn’t 100% sure about visiting Turin, after all I had never seen it on my Instagram feed and never heard of it as a major tourist attraction. But after reading several blogs and articles online I decided it was worth the visit.

This time, we opted to take the trip which was organised by the university’s student network and unbeknownst to us, we were taking the coach there. *insert groan here*. If you’re going to Turin, I would definitely recommend taking a train as it’s only an hours journey from Milan and you get to skip out all the traffic and annoyance that comes from being on the road.

Upon arrival in Turin, I noticed it was a beautiful city and its key feature was indeed the architecture. The city is surrounded by beautiful buildings which do not look like ordinary shops and houses, it’s extremely clean and contemporary which was a refreshing change from Milan. Our first stop to see was Monte dei Cappucchini; this is a little church at the top of the hill which overlooks beautiful views of Turin. This is a great place to go for a viewpoint because it’s completely free and you can see everything you need to without being surrounded by huge crowds and tourists (unless you go with a group of 50 other students).

Thinking we were too good for the group, we decided to ditch the group and see the sights of Turin of our own accord. Unfortunately, we had been too lazy to plan what we would be doing from before we left which left us stuck in the middle of Torino wondering what to do and where to go. So, we headed back down the hill and hoped to find somewhere tasty for a spot of lunch!

The issue with travelling in Italy on a Sunday is that EVERYTHING seems to be closed, even restaurants, so finding somewhere to eat isn’t as easy as just googling it and walking to the closest place that looks good. We eventually came across a pizza place called Papo which had a super cute interior (what more could I want?) and a menu filled with Italian delights. However, it was completely in Italian which meant spending 15 minutes on Google Translate looking up everything on the menu.

I ended up ordering a classic Margherita with tomatoes because I’m so adventurous and like to broaden my palette whilst travelling *note the sarcasm*. But this meant I was not disappointed! It was one of the finest pizzas I’ve had in Italy but I couldn’t finish it! I’m still bewildered by the Italian ability to eat a whole pizza by yourself in less than half an hour.

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After lunch we headed out to explore the city, it was mostly walking around and seeing if we could find anything exciting to do whilst also keeping shade from the burning sun. Our first excursion was to an art gallery of paintings from Bangkok, this isn’t something that any of us were interested in but being desperate for any kind of culture we paid €6 for this exhibition. Unfortunately, it didn’t live up to our expectations and we were able to complete the whole show within 20 minutes. Also, photos and videos were banned so I have nothing to show from this experience.

As with any city in Italy, it’s imperative that you try the gelato there so we found a cute little café which served smoothies, coffees and gelato and we stopped off there for a quick bite before continuing on.

Opposite the gelato place was one of the biggest attractions of Turin, the museum of cinema. The Mole Antonelliana is a magnificent building with a huge structure that you can see from anywhere in Turin, the museum allows visitors to explore the magic behind the film industry from the days of shadow puppets all the way up to the Battle of Hogwarts and Star Trek movies. We queued up for the “museum only” ticket whereas on the other side of the fence there was a 45 minute line for access to the museum and the lift for the panoramic view. Considering we had already seen the views from the church, we thought we’d save some time and coin by taking the less popular option.

Soon after we headed to the Palazzo Reale di Torino. This was a beautiful building with astounding architecture and a huge palace garden which I would recommend visiting if you like to sit in parks and enjoy the weather. As we were running short on time, we only had a stroll around and then headed back towards the Piazza to find our tour bus, seeing some stunning architecture along the way!

In comparison to Como, we didn’t achieve as much as we hoped for but this was down to poor planning and laziness on my part. When travelling, I think it’s highly important to have a planned itinerary of the places that have been most recommended and the times you’d like to visit them. It doesn’t have to be followed regimentally but this gives a vague game plan and prevents you from aimlessly walking around and hoping to find something interesting.

Turin has so much to offer; it’s the Italian capital of chocolate and birthplace of aperitivo! There’s so much good food to offer and beautiful buildings to see. So, if you’re going to visit you must do so during the week when everyone is open and ready for business! So keep all this in mind, start planning your itinerary and enjoy Turin in all its beauty!

Last but not least, Turin hosts some of the world’s most historic pieces, for instance,  the famous shroud of Turin which is a linen cloth bearing the image of a man whom people believe to be Jesus Christ! Turin is definitely a place which is worth the visit, it’s breathtaking and especially great if you’re looking for a cultural trip without large groups of tourists swarming like bees.

Thank you for reading!

x

A Day around Lake Como

Como, one of the majestic lakes of Italy and the first trip taken during my time in Italy. The decision to go to Como was spontaneous to say the least, the idea was proposed at around 3pm and by 9pm we had our laptops ready to make an itinerary for the next day.

One of the great things about Como was that the tickets to get there were super affordable! When you’re travelling on a student budget this is all you can ask for. After watching countless videos and reading tonnes of blog posts we learnt that Varenna was a ”must see” in the lake of Como. So we booked a one way train to Varenna ready to set off the next morning.

If you want to see the most of Lake Como then you’ve got to be prepared to wake up early. The initial plan to get a 10am train would have eliminated half of the day and we wanted to see as much as we could. So we decided on the train at 8, meaning an early morning start at 6am! I’m surprised we all made it tbh.

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Our train for Varenna was at 8:20am and only cost us €6.20 and when we got there, the sights are completely worth the early start. The skies were completely blue and the whole village was calm and serene.

Although we spent approx. 2 hrs planning an itinerary the night before, our plan when we got there was “walk around” and in doing this we managed to see some hidden gems on a time restriction.

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At this point, it was brunch time but the struggle to find a café which would give us a takeaway croissant and coffee was REAL! I’m so glad I brought mine at the Milano Centrale station because that kept me going for the majority of the day + it only cost me €3.

Leona and Abby however, were dying of hunger. I decided to queue up for the ferry tickets whilst they went on a hunt to find some kind of breakfast food. They eventually returned with a baguette for €1 and this became the highlight of the trip (mainly bc Leona didn’t know what a baguette was).

Time for the ferry to Bellagio, home to George Clooney! This time the itinerary was slightly more structured, we had planned to visit gardens of Villa Melzi. There are tonnes of Villa gardens around the lake of Como but we heard Bellagio had some of the greatest and grandest. Slightly more pricey, costing us €6 each to enter (even after trying to negotiate a student discount) but we spent a good amount of time there and it was truly beautiful…

The baguette had finished and now we were all dying of hunger, but the next ferry to Como was in 30 mins and this left us with no time to get food! This was a bad idea considering we brought the tickets for the “scenic route” meaning a 2.5 hour journey to Como. If anyone reading this is considering doing this journey PAY THE EXTRA €4 AND GET THERE IN 45 MINUTES!!

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By the time we were off the boat, there were a mixture of emotions in the air; we were hangry, delirious, delusional and utterly exhausted. We decided to go to the first place we saw food, abandoning the original plan to have dinner at the top of Brunate. Although the girls didn’t get their mushroom risotto, we all finished our plates so quickly and were ready to continue our journey…

There’s a mode of transportation from Como to Brunate called the furnicolare, it’s essentially an uphill cable car which takes you to the town. It’s worth doing this early because Brunate is a beautiful little town and if you walk to the right places you can see an amazing views of the whole lake! By the time we got there, it had been a long day and there was a real lack of energy. So although we made it, it took us twice as long as it typically would.

When up in Brunate we visited a beautiful church which was at the top of the hill and from there we continued on to find the panoramic view point which everyone had been talking about. It was a long uphill walk with cars trying to run us over at every instance, there were at least 3 times when we thought we were about to die but once we had arrived, that all seemed minor compared to the view we saw. I’ve decided it’s one of my favourite viewpoints I’ve been to and the view definitely does not translate as well as it was seen irl.

Como is the perfect way to explore Italy, the sights are beyond beautiful and you really get a feel of Italian culture. Although the town of Como was lovely, it’s a very urban city filled with the tourists from all around the world. If you’re looking to see more alluring sights then head to the small towns and you will not be disappointed!

Thank you for reading!

x

Happiness.

Happy: Feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.

The dictionary definition of happiness. Seems simple enough right? But how does one know that they are truly happy?

I saw something on twitter (which was apparently a love island reference ew) which said that it’s unhealthy to want to be happier than you are. Like everything in life however, we are always striving for more and it’s a great thing! We’re constantly on the hunt for promotions, better places to live, better clothes to wear, better food to eat and why? Because improvement upon these things makes us a happier person. So what’s wrong with saying “I could be happier”, there is always room for improvement. That being said, there needs to be a recognisable boundary between knowing you’re happy and trying to improve that so that you’re living your best life possible!

It’s SO easy to say to someone that they should be happier with their life but the journey to discovering happiness is a long and bumpy road. I’ve had my fair share of insecurities and hard times but one day it clicked that if I looked back to where I used to be, I was in an awful place and there’s things that have happened which have put me in a much better position than I was in at that time.

However, this does not mean I’m in a permanent state of euphoria. Realistically speaking, I’m going to look back at my life a year from today and realise how much happier I was at this point than I will probably be in that future. My point being that happiness is the biggest rollercoaster ride of your life and speaking from the point of view of someone who absolutely hates rollercoasters, you’ve got to be on it to enjoy the ride!

Stop looking at people and measuring their life against yours, this is the worst thing to do because it will always make you feel a lesser person and that isn’t the ride we want to be on!

There is no manual of happiness that you should follow to get to living a better life. We get told to do things which sound really easy but obviously aren’t because if they were then everyone would read “the happiness manual” and no one would have any issues in the world. The main thing is to do whatever you need (provided it’s not criminal) in order to put yourself in a better place than you are in at the moment. It may seem like a slow burner but when you get to it, it’s a priceless feeling.

I am in no way, shape or form claiming to be an expert on happiness. I think it’s a rare feeling to be happy because the human brain is constantly in competition and that always makes us want more. However, I think it’s important to appreciate that there can be days where you feel content and equally there can be days where you feel completely unfulfilled. My key message to be happier is to LET GO…

  1. Let go of perfectionism
  2. Let go of control
  3. Let go of negativity
  4. Let go of pleasing people
  5. Let go of fear

Interpret these five points however you wish but as I said, there is no manual for happiness. Live in the present and be grateful for everything that you have.

Thank you for reading!

x

“Happiness is not a goal, it is a by-product of a life well lived.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

The issue with “treat yourself”…

More than once in a while, we use the excuse of “treat yourself” to justify spending money on an indulgent purchase for ourselves. Whilst this isn’t exclusively a bad thing, the culture of treating oneself has spiralled slightly out of control!

This is because the ‘treat yourself’ meme makes you buy into something as soon as you see it and have an attraction to it. Impulse buying is higher than ever and is filling our wardrobes with fashion fads and Instagram adverts. We’ve been blindsided by the idea of self-care, that we’re destroying any chance of being able to afford a happy lifestyle in the future.

Don’t get misconstrued by Negative Nancy up there. It is okay to use your savings to actually treat yourself once in a while but if your treat is happening on a weekly/daily basis, is it really a treat or are you just living a lifestyle that you cannot really afford? This is definitely what I do and I’ve come to the realisation that I don’t have the means to live as a fashion blogger shopping in Harrods for her new shoes (shout out to my gal @sophiagaede on Instagram)!

The proverb is being used way too much; to the extent that I’m now treating myself to an iced coffee instead of a new eye-shadow palette that I have been so desperately craving for the past three months! We will find any excuse to ‘treat’ ourselves; having a bad day? Treat yo self! Netflix series had a bad ending? Treat yo self! Society looks at us as ‘the entitled millennial’s’, we’ve been taught that if you want something then you should go ahead and get it, we feel like we’ve been so hard done by the world, that we deserve nice things to make us happier. In doing this, we’ve destroyed the definition of a treat and are perhaps more materialistic than any generation before us.

A study by GoldmanSachs found that 30% of millennials (this word makes me cringe), voted a luxury bag as an “important, but not a big priority purchase” contrasted to 30% who voted as not intending to purchase a car in the “near future”. Finding that we’d rather spend money in the short-term rather than saving up for long-term major purchases.

Ultimately, there are very few people who cannot cut back on their spending because in the long term it is us that will be sleeping with all our avocados instead of in a nice warm house that we have ownership over. I’m not telling you to stop spending nor am I your mother so you don’t have to listen to a word that I’ve been writing but I decided to write this because I overheard some people talking about this topic and it made me realise that I’m not a robot who has to buy every sponsored ad featured on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. All I want to achieve from this post is to provoke thought and open up discussion on a topic that we don’t think twice about!

That being said, let’s not ruin a perfectly good meme! Here are some of my favourite versions:

Thank you for reading!

x

What if’s and the coming year.

It’s not new information that people don’t like to see things which are out of the ordinary. As soon as anyone does something different to their normal practice of behaviour, the judgement train pulls into the station, filled with people from your past and present. It acts a confinement on people when exploring new options, the fear factor is huge and this applies to many things in life. What will people think of me? Will people start viewing me differently if I do this?

It’s completely understandable and we all go through this internal wrangle which inevitably delays everything. Putting yourself out there is scary, you’re at your most vulnerable and once something is online, it’s never going away, the whole world is able to see you and you cannot do anything to control their thoughts.

But what if no-one cares?

This whole uncertainty only comes from within yourself and if you stop thinking about what they (whoever ‘they’ are) think and start thinking about what you want to do and what makes you happy then this whole process becomes just a little bit easier. Overthinking is everyone’s worst enemy and when you spend too much time thinking about doing something, you worry, you procrastinate and you doubt yourself.

So, I’ve decided to start writing because I don’t give a monkeys what anyone thinks of me and neither should you! Life is too short to worry about making others feel at ease before you’re happy. (ew cringe, someone punch me)

Getting to the point, I’ll address the other half of this self-obsessed title and tell you about my plans for the rest of the year…

I’m moving! Not just moving house, but moving countries! Okay, I’m only going to study abroad for a year (calm down kaj) but this is big step for me. For the past 20 years, I’ve been living in my parents house surrounded by people I love, pretty much all of the time. I didn’t move out for uni so I never got that independence that some people coming out of school so desperately crave. But I’ve decided to finally take that step, I’m packing up and taking myself to the land of pizza, pasta and super Mario!

I’ve had an obsession with Italy for as long as I can remember, with ASK being my favourite restaurant (if you like Zizi then you can leave now) and taking Italian GCSE and now choosing to study in Milan! Basically; my whole life has been leading up to this moment.

I’ve decided to start this now because I know you’ll all want to see the fabulous time I’m having whilst I’m out there and I promise to deliver! So, here I am with word vomit scattered all over this page. I hope I wasn’t too cliché for any of you coming from the judgement train, if there’s anything you’d like me to write about then leave me a message and hopefully I can help!

Thank you for reading!

x