From Italy to England

Back in Ashleigh’s gorgeous Clifton Village apartment after an eight day holiday with my sister in Italy, and though I woke up missing what became my usual morning stroll to a pasticceria for cappuccinos and flaky Italian pastries, I like this being back in Bristol. No trains to catch, no maps to mull over, no sunscreen needed–it feels good to be in home. And so, for the moment, I’m trying to forget that I fly back to Minnesota in only eleven days.

Maria and I had a delicious time in Italy. When we initially began planning the trip I was certainly excited about this third opportunity to return to Italia, but with so many other European countries I’ve left to see (Portgual, Spain, Austria, Czech Republic, Greece…), I was  less eager than usual. But I’m so glad we went. It was a treat to watch Maria fall in love with this passionate country, and I found myself enjoying this trip to Italy more than any other time. We started our adventure in Roma with the usual visits to the Colosseum and Vatican: inspiring, yes, but I’d seen it before. What made us both fall head over heels for the city was taking ‘the road less traveled.’ We spent a sunny Saturday afternoon exploring the authentic Roman neighborhood of Trastevere, and though, as two blondes, we didn’t exactly fit in with the locals, Rome suddenly felt a different place altogether away from the throngs of tourists.

That evening we walked the city streets to Campo de’ Fiori, a bustling piazza in the heart of Rome, to begin a ghost tour of this city more than two thousand years old. I’ve never done tours prior to this trip (isn’t that the easy way out?), but this one was worth it. Learning more about the vibrant and bloody past of Roma (beyond the cruelty of the ancient Romans) was fascinating. We learned of a mother and daughter responsible for ‘the mass murder of the husbands’ by making a living selling off arsenic-laced water; a group of monks who made furniture from human bones in the infamous Capuchin Crypt; the mistress of Pope Urban VIII who dropped dead on her escape from Rome after his death, and is now said to haunt the bridge of her death. Ah, I could go on and on–the history of Rome reads like a suspense thriller, but must run!  Off to explore Bath with Maria today.

More later,





Three Days in Firenze

Finally (finally!) posting some photos of the romantic capitol of Tuscany: Florence.  As the birthplace of the Renaissance,  a World Heritage Site, and ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world by Forbes, Florence doesn’t need introduction.

Over a month ago now, I stepped off the train having no idea what to expect (Ryanair’s strict cabin luggage forced me to leave even my guide book behind!), but even this was part of the allure. Of course, the Duomo, the domed cathedral of the city, was visible from nearly any point in the city, but even ‘unimportant attractions’–little side streets peppered with cafes and gelaterias, brimmed with charm. Mmmmm….present nostalgia:

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore

The Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore


The Neptune Fountain (1575) at Piazza della Signoria

The Neptune Fountain (1575) at Piazza della Signoria


Ponte Vecchio, Florence’s oldest bridge built in 1345 (and the only Florentine bridge to survive WWII).

At Ponte Vecchio


The view from Piazza Michelangelo


A panoramic view of Firenze

Yes, wouldn’t mind a visit back!



Venice Desired

It’s my third day back in Bristol after a three weeks absence, and I’ve returned to find Clifton Village alive with cherry blossoms, roses, and foxglove and the hills and vines even greener than when I left. English springs really are something to write about, and I can’t help feeling a bit like Mary Lennox(with the exception of no sick relation to nurse back to health, but perhaps my ailing essays count?).

These past few weeks have been filled to the brim with so many gifts, so many experiences I never dreamed of having and so, before I leave them to memory to become hazy like dreams, I want to record a few such moments here. I don’t believe I’ve ever done so much walking than over my time in France and Italy and despite my good intentions, I was simply too tired to write at the end of the day. But I believe we understand experiences better in hindsight, and I, for one, need time to let it sink under my skin and into my bloodstream to know it was real.

Italy, though it’s nearly impossible for me to choose favorites, was my favorite leg of the ‘trip.’ I spent three days in Venice before taking the train into Tuscany and Florence. Prior to stepping on the plane to Paris, our last Romantics lecture had discussed the allure of Venice, and it was hard to believe I’d soon be seeing it for myself.

The beauty of Venice struck me immediately. Venice is supposed to be one of the world’s most beautiful cities, but from my past travel experiences, I’ve learned to be skeptical of such claims. Often times, what is ‘postcard perfect’ is misleading because, generally, only a small portion of the city actually resembles the postcard. Not so with Venice. After crossing Canale di Fuscina, the magic of Venice was immediate. I soon realized it was not just St. Mark’s Basilica or the Grand Canal that made Venice beautiful; it was all of it. And getting lost  in the web of canals, calle and campi that make up the sestieri (neighborhoods) of Venice was the best way to explore. Every corner and campi leading to a dead-end, which in the case of Venice, means a canal, was stunning. Lines of colorful clothing hung like streamers between the Venetian appartamentos. Flowers bloomed from window boxes between brightly painted shutters. Caffè windows became pieces of art with displays of marzipan, cannolis filled with zabaione, and giant Italian Easter cakes called Colomba carefully wrapped in parchment and ribbon.

The novelty of canals replacing roads and gondolas instead of cars was invigorating. And the cappuccinos were just as good as I remember from my first time in Italy (Roma) a few years ago. And yes, the gelato was still heavenly. What I liked most about Venice, though, was the pace. In some ways, there wasn’t a whole lot to do–at least in terms of museums and other sights the traveler usually feels obligated to visit. The whole city was about having an extra scoop of gelato, lingering over a glass of red, and having a generous plate of beautiful Venetian cuisine at the end of the day. 

In many ways, Venice seemed like a make-believe city. I did not see a single car. There wasn’t an office building in sight. And, as I learned in Sweden, Venice is largely a fantasy. My cousin’s friend, Jo, grew up in Veneto, the region of Italy containing Venice, and she explained that few Venetians actually live in Venice.  It’s a city for tourists and maybe the rare traveler. Of course, Venice is slowly sinking, which might also contribute to its lack of population.

Canale Grande

Canale Grande

And I want to go back! Hmmm…back to Jane Austen & Mansfield. Next post: Florence.


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June 2023