Trapped in Italy! Or, How Fixing my Mistake Cost me €200

Only I could turn what should have been a 12-hour trip into a 27-hours of sleep deprived chaos.
Wait, what? Are you confused?
Okay, it has been a while. So sorry. Between the soon-to-be-recounted adventures and my attempts to return to the responsibilities of daily life, blogging has sort of fallen by the wayside. Anyhow, I have a lot to recap, so in true Jeannette fashion I’m going to go in reverse and start at the end of my Semana Santa/Spring Break trip…
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Day Trip to Venezia

The last time I was in Venice, it was December and quite possibly the complete opposite of tourist season. Therefore when I suggested a day trip to the city, I had no idea who different the floating (sinking) city would be in the summer, especially in the roasting hot weather of an Italian June.

Basically, there were about 10 times as many people as last time and millions of tourist trap stores and vendors. Especially traumatic for me were the ugly fake gondolier straw hats on the tourists.

Despite the high 90s temperature, Rach and I decided to wander the city in search of Venetian coffee and food, as well as any entertainment that the city could provide. Rach quickly discovered Venetian lace and happily browsed the shops until she found some pretty lace butterflies. I drooled over the gorgeous masks again, but managed to not buy another one (mostly because we had several more weeks of travel time and I doubted that it would survive those weeks while being totted in my backpack).

 

Even though the heat was suffocating, no one was even touching the canal waters. Apparently they are that scary. And no, they didn’t reek—some small little alley-like canals smelled like swamp water, but nothing too gross all things considered.

St. Marco’s Piazza was about 100F and we quickly made the decision that waiting in the LONG line was not worth it. I prefer to not die of heat stroke. Instead we hid from the heat in a precious little Venetian café, marking ourselves as tourists in need of ripping off by sitting down at a table instead of standing at the bar.

I didn’t even care because Venetian coffee is always amazing and sitting down in air conditioning for an hour was worth the tourist surcharge. I also got to witness one of my favorite forms of entertainment: Americans trying to order coffee in Europe. This dad in Bermuda shorts sat down nest to me in the tourist section and tried to order. Key word being, tried.

“Umm, Can I get 2 coffees?”

“Espresso or Americano?” asks the waiter who is obviously used to American sand our coffee expectations.

“American coffee,” goes Bermuda dad. “With milk.”

“Ahh, with milk! You want cappuccinos,” the waiter suggests, probably misunderstanding on purpose to punish the dumb foreigners.

“Yes,” Bermuda dad nods, though that’s nothing like what he wants.

To add to my entertainment, he then notices me watching and asks, “Did I pass for a local?”

I tried not to snort coffee out my nose.

After coffee we continued to wander, getting gondola offers every five feet and climbing up and down a million Venetian stairs.

On the train back to Verona we roasted because the air conditioner was very old-fashioned: roll down the windows and wait for the breeze. Which doesn’t work when the windows are broken…On the plus side, I finally saw a conductor, which means that TrenItalia only has ticket control on 1/5 of their trains! Good to know.

We ended up in Verona 90 minutes ahead of schedule and had to drink beer while waiting for the B&B receptionist to show up. That night we also drank Italian beer for the first (and last, it sucks!) time. Italians should just stick to wine because their beer is just…ick.

Verona and Italian Lakes

I woke to a room full of sunlight and the most ridiculous Italian shower in the world. I should have taken a picture of it—it was that terrible! To fully understand the horror, you must know that the bathroom is built in a converted attic. An attic with ceiling height going from about 6 ft to 0 ft at a perfect diagonal. Also the roof is hard wood and very painful.

Now, where did the builders put the bathtub? Right at the low end of the room. Which means that the bather in question has at maximum 4 feet of space to stand in. So, in order to shower, I had to crouch in the tub, holding the water overhead and try very hard to not make any sudden upward movements at the risk of giving myself a naked concussion.

Oh and also there was no curtain, so the water went everywhere and made a disgusting mess!

After this auspicious start to the morning, we hiked off to the train station and headed to Verona. No conductors appeared, which was lucky as I’d forgotten to validate our tickets and wasn’t sure how well the “stupid foreigner” card works in Italy. We found our B&B (Verona doesn’t have a youth hostel so we had to find cheap B&Bs instead) without any problems and met the owner Luca. Two important things I learned about Luca in the first minute of meeting him: he gets “we” and “you” missed up, uses them interchangeably, which makes for some interesting conversations. Oh and he’s perfectly comfortable answering the door in his boxers.

Italian undies aside, the place was nice and had a normal shower.

Our time in Verona consisted of finding pizzas to devour and tripping over the entrance to Juliet’s house. Which is a great tourist trap, some old mansion where they pasted an old-looking balcony on the wall, giving tourists a place to take pictures. The courtyard is covered in graffiti (letters to Juliet and lovers’ initials) even though “defacing” the walls is technically banned.

And to top it off, there’s a Juliet statue with a very shiny right boob—because groping the statue is supposed to bring you your soulmate in a year’s time or something like that.

That night we went out with my British friend Hannah for (more) pizza and vino, which were amazing and delicious. We also got a great recommendation for a nearby lake, and so made our plans for the following day…

On beach day, we collected picnic materials and wandered off through the city to the train station, bikinis in tow. We ended up at Lake Garda, at the same train station as what appeared to be a lame Italian version of Disneyworld. However, the beach itself was pretty and most importantly, it was a beach! So we sunbathed all afternoon. Rae got her first glimpse of the wondrous phenomenon that is the European Speedo, as well as plenty of topless old ladies, woo!

Back in Verona, we made last-minute hostel reservations for the following day and then went to the pizza place from the night before, yeah, AGAIN! And the pizza was delicious again. Also worth noting: we saw Hannah and her mom at the restaurant again too; we’re all just addicted to that place I suppose.

That night we also had a miscommunication with the waitress, which fortunately resulted in us ordering a much better wine than we’d intended (haha). We wanted the cheap house wine, but somehow used the wrong words and ended up with 14€ wine instead. Now, I maintain that this was a fortunate mistake because the wine was yummy and…very potent.

On a completely unrelated note, we crossed the wrong bridge on our walk back and ended up taking a long moonlit stroll along the Verona riverbanks. We finally made it back to the hotel and crashed, ignoring the loud drunk Italians yelling below our window.

Hey Italians, Milano is NOT Ugly!

 

We arrived in Milano to rain (by the way, the Italian airport shuttle was cheap and completely fine–I officially hate the French). Oh and a message to the Italian guy trying to hustle me for “ticket money”:  Jackass, look at me. I’m wearing my old Paris-dirt-covered jeans and carrying my life in a pack. Do I look like I have money to give to your lazy ass? Va fan culo.

We finally found our hostel after some bus trouble and sleepily made plans to see the city, the city that the entire world had warned us away from. It usually went something like this: “Why are you going to Milano? It’s ugly, boo.”

However, I beg to disagree. The city was more industrial than much of Italy, but gorgeous nonetheless. We wound through a ton of clothes shops, Rae drooling as always. We found a place where the clothes are priced by weight. Unfortunately, they were still overpriced and ugly. However, the Duomo was amazingly huge and gorgeous. I also made new friends with the bored security guards who were convinced I was Spanish. The fact that I answered them in Spanish, saying “no probably just confused them.

We then made pasta for dinner, with our perpetual mozzarella (it’s yummy and cheap!). Rae attempted to open our wine but (according to her) the corkscrew was damaged, from overuse. Luckily a friendly American wino helped us out and joined our dinner, drinking his 2 bottles while we shared 1. I must also quote his Eurotrip philosophy because it’s so practical: “Every 2€ I save is another bottle of wine.”

And on that note we went to bed, completely crashing out.

 

Firenze and Venezia

Florence rocked and the hostel sucked. Basically we got to Florence and had to wander around lost for a while trying to find the hostel. And then the ass who owned it decided that we had to pay him 5 Euros extra a night FOR CLEANING. Ass. I wanted to leave but it was too late–but the next group that came in decided to throw a huge fit and threatened to call the cops. Ignoring such stupidity, Florence was gorgeous. We saw tons of old buildings and I froze my ass off.

The tren ride to Venezia was really annoying–we had to get to the station at 4 a.m. and then had to wait for a connection for 2 hours. Landing in Venezia was totally awesome! The city is impossible to navigate, cause there’s canals everywhere. But it´s completely beautiful and I really loved just wandering around. After the fails with the previous two hostels, Jesse and I chose this one–and it rocked! Gorgeous little hotel right off the Grand Canal, with pretty rooms and they let us store our bags there all day. Now, here´s hoping they didn´t notice that Jesse dented his bed…

I bought a cute Venetian mask there, and watched Ximena hit on gondeliers. We sat on a bench, and she commented on how cute this one guy was, and finally got up the huevos to ask him the following:

¨How much for a gondola ride?¨

80 Euros

¨How much for a kiss?¨

He laughed, and so did we…hysterically. Especially when the older guy went, ¨I work for kisses too!¨ Poor Jesse, ha! He was laughing his ass off the entire time, until we put a banana peel on his head.

On the trip home, we slept in the Barcelona airport, after sneaking on a train to get to said airport. I was really really tired when I walked into my class in Oviedo the following morning.

Trip to Italia pt 2: Roma the Shithole

Day 2 in Roma was our day to explore the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. It was gorgeous, of course, so I got to wander Rome with my boots still soaking wet from the day before. My plans to buy cute Italian shoes as compensation were derailed by a desire to gawk at Michelangelo’s insanity-inducing frescos (prolonged exposure to oil-based paint at close quarters is not a good thing, as those of us with High School Art can attest to).

We decided to take a tour of the Vatican in order to bypass lines, and proceeded to be hauled around by a  crazy Russian lady. I saw tons of old statues, as well as old paintings, nothing new there. But the Chapel itself–damn that was cool. The guards of the Vatican (in their dumb-looking cloaked uniforms) banned photos. I took one anyhow, but it sucked cause I didn’t use flash, not desiring to have the guards (who also wear tights) descend on my head and haul me out. St. Peter’s was awesome as well. Huge-mungeous, and I thought I was so over being awed by ancient cathedrals; I’ve seen enough of them. Nope, totally awesome.

Went to devour pizza afterwards, and then hung with Aussie girl till about 1 a.m. And now the fun begins. You see, Ximena had decided that it would be a brilliant idea to sleep at the train station. Ximena did not realize that the train station was open air. She further was unaware that the bathrooms close at 12 am. Ergo, I had to leave the station and hunted down a Macdonald’s for a bathroom. Too bad for me, when I got back, everything was locked. So there I was, in Rome the shithole after 2 a.m., surrounded by sleeping bums, not able to speak Italian well, and with a dead cell phone. Jesus, could things have gotten any worse?

Anyhow, this Italian dude shows up. In all fairness, he was probably trying to be helpful, maybe. Offered me his phone, which didn’t help cause like a moron I didn’t know my friend’s numbers. So I got the idea to go back to the hostel, which was really close, and just sleep somewhere without bums lurking about. Unfortunately, Italian guy seemed to think I was going to hang out with him, but I finally got rid of him, after he kissed my hand…Weird. So I had to pay for another night in the hostel, ugh, and finally found my friends the next morning in time for the train to Florence. All in all, an inaspicious ending to Roma.

Trip to Italia pt 1: Getting to Roma

Okay, so we had a four day weekend. I and my peeps elected to make it a 7 day weekend and go to Italy! YAY! Yo, Jesse, Ximena, and Luz, two Americans and two Peruvians going to Rome, Florence, and Venice…Awesomeness definitely ensued, however there was, of course, great amounts of “fun” as well.

First, I had to get to the airport early Thursday morning, ugh. Then we landed in Barcelona and proceeded to explore the city for a bit, cause the flight out wasn’t till much later. Good, right? Ha, nothing is ever that simple. Well, Jesse got attacked by the Gargoyle dude in Rambles, while we laughed. I saw my old Boqueria (ie the place I bought yummy resaca-curing juices). But Ximena neglected to figure out that Girona Aeropuerto is NOT in Barcelona, it is 90 km outside of the city. She didn’t realize her mistake till about 2 hours before bording, which was way way too late to take the train. So we had to pay a crazy Catalan dude to drive us there. He got lost; he cursed, a lot, in Spanish and Catalan. It cost way too much.

Next on the agenda: Roma itself. We got into our shithole hostel afterdark. Now, anyone who knows me, knows that I am not picky about my accomadations. I will happily curl up on a crappy bed in a room with 11 other people (and have done so in Spain). But this hostel sucked! First, the guy at the desk was an ass–he wasn’t even old, so he didn’t have bitterness to excuse his rudeness. The common room consisted of a tiny room with bench and a TV…Sucky! It was cold. The rooms were really cold. The showers smelled like mildew. And this shithole cost me 15 euros a night for two nights…But wait, Roma improves.

The first day, we wandered to the Colosseum–which totally rocks. What does not rock are the assholes that make their living from ripping off stupid tourists. These morons in gladiator costumes took pics with us; then they demanded 5 euros each! I refused to pay them, but Jesse did so to avoid trouble. Dumbasses. Then Xi and Luz decided to take a horsey ride…around Roma…for lots of money. I refused, which ended well for me because it was, in their words, “de mierda.” Oh, it was also cold and rainy, and my boots leak like sieves. Jess and I found a grocery store, on the other side of the city, which means I walked like 10k that day, at least. But, I ate amazing pizza!

I’ve got so much more to say, but my fingers are tired. Will continue later.