Saturday, 3 September 2016

Volcanoes, Roman Architecture, Hiking, Sightseeing, Trains - A Week of InterRailing in Italy!

Leaving Cannes was once again an emotional experience for me! Having settled down there even more this year, it was even harder to say goodbye to everyone. On my last night there, I went to a picnic on the beach with a group of friends which was lovely because it gave me the opportunity to spend the evening with some of them seeing as it will probably be at least a year until I next go back there. However, as you can probably imagine, I didn't half cry when I left them! It seemed to suddenly hit me that I was leaving! However, even though I felt sad leaving Cannes, I did have an awful lot to look forward to as I was about to embark on another major inter-railing trip around Italy! So, my summer travels didn't end at the end of my placement in Cannes! They ended on Friday when I returned to England after an incredible, exhausting, and fun-filled week of adventure in Italy! I therefore thought that I would share some of these adventures with you in a blog post. So sit back, relax, and I will take you on a journey to Florence, Sorrento, Positano, Mount Vesuvius, Pompei, and Rome.

The week began as soon as I left Cannes city centre on the Airport Express bus. I caught the bus at 10:30am in order to get to Nice Airport in time for my midday bus to Milan. After six hours on bus, I took the metro to the centre of Milan and met up with my cousins who I would be traveling with for the next week. As we had all traveled either from France or England that day, we were very tired and therefore spent the first night getting an early night before setting off early the next morning to travel to the city of Florence in Tuscany, where we would really begin our adventures.

We spent two days in Florence and I can honestly say that I completely fell in love with the city! The constant buzz, the friendly nature of the people, the food, the stunning architecture, and the traditional looking streets were enough to make anybody want to stay there forever! And to top it all off, we saw most of the well known sites whilst we were there! On our first day we climbed up to a viewpoint where we got an incredible view of the city from all angles and also the hills of Tuscany which were absolutely stunning! We also visited the cathedral, Boboli Gardens, and ate some fantastic pizza and ice cream in various restaurants. Having now seen the beauty and charm of Florence, I would highly recommend it to any of you who are thinking of traveling to Italy in the future. It is not too big but has many beautiful monuments, and lots of history that is very interesting to discover!

Once we had finished in Florence, we used our inter-rail passes to travel down to the town of Sorrento in Southern Italy. Now Sorrento was an adventure of a different sort as it was completely and utterly different to Florence! Some of my friends have told me in the past that Northern and Southern Italy are completely different from each other, and after my visit there, I can totally see that! Having previously visited Venice, Ventimiglia, Bologna, Milan, and Florence, I was really taken by the cultural differences between the North and the South of Italy! And I absolutely loved both of them! One of the things that I really loved about the south was the constant music that could be heard in the streets, on the trains, and in stations. When we arrived in Napoli, we changed to a local train line in order to travel to Sorrento where we would be staying. And I think that my journey on this train was one of my favorites of the whole trip which was thanks to the musicians who played catchy music on their accordions and drums throughout the journey. I couldn't stop dancing in my seat for the entire hour! I just loved the energy and enthusiasm that the musicians put into their performances as it really woke me up and got me ready for the day as we traveled to various places in and around Sorrento during our three days there!

As well as seeing the cultural differences between the North and South of Italy, we had perhaps the busiest stay of all in Sorrento. The first day that we were there we managed to visit Pompeii and climb Mount Vesuvius in one day! Having always wanted to climb a volcano and see inside the crater, this was an incredibly exciting experience for me as I got to explore the crater once I had made it to the top. Although the climb was physically very challenging, it was totally worth it to see the crater and also to see the views of the bay and city of Napoli. It really was quite something! It was also nice to learn about the volcano when we were in Pompeii as I didn't know very much about it previously. In fact, Pompeii was also an incredible place to visit! It was absolutely enormous and took us about three hours to walk around the ruins of the city. Whilst we were there, we saw the large Roman Amphitheater which is still in very good condition. We also explored Roman Temples, ruins of houses and shops, cobbled streets, and we saw a selection of paintings that are still on the walls of some of the ruins. It was very interesting but also very sad as we learnt about how Vesuvius erupted and wiped out the entirety of Pompeii's population during the Roman era. Although Pompeii is now a popular tourist attraction, I couldn't help but imagine the inhabitants of the city going by their day to day activities around 2000 years ago. Although that day was exhausting, we learnt so much about the local area that we felt satisfied that we could go away at the end and recount what we had learnt to friends and family in England (which I have certainly done!). We also enjoyed some nice Italian pizza in the evening before going to bed early. We were exhausted after climbing the steep slopes of Mount Vesuvius and walking around Pompeii for three hours! Exhausted but very satisfied and excited about the next/our last day in the south.

Now you may be wondering where else we could possibly go whilst on the Amalfi Coast having been to the two most well known destinations. On the Sunday morning, we set off on what was perhaps the most windy bus journey I have ever been on, to the small coastal town of Positano. Once we had got over our travel sickness and the vertical drop into the sea that was adjacent to the road, we had a walk around Positano and very soon fell in love with it's charm and beauty. The positioning of the town is stunning as it is built on winding narrow streets and steep staircases that either overlook or lead to the sea. When we eventually found our way to the sea front, we had a walk along the water front and bought delicious ice creams from a little shop on the corner of a small piazza. Mine was banana and chocolate flavor! Delicious! :)

To end our InterRailing adventures, we headed up to Rome on the Monday for another busy couple of days sightseeing!  Rome was absolutely incredible! I think because it was a city that I had always longed to go to, I was absolutely breath-taken when I got there and saw all of the famous sights that I had heard and read so much about. We visited the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, the Roman Forum, the Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and a number of other historical sights throughout the city. We did it in a good way because we went on a free walking tour that went from the Spanish Steps all the way to the Vatican City. We had a fantastic guide who gave us lots of interesting information about each place that we passed and recommended the best places to visit alone. I enjoyed absolutely every minute of our time in Rome but I have to say that for me, the most incredible place to visit was the Vatican City. The architecture was beautiful and it was a fantastic experience to be standing in such an important and historical building. It really was an experience that I will never forget!

By the time we got onto the plane to return to London Gatwick at the end of the week, we all had big smiles on our faces but we were also very ready to lie down and fall asleep. Our week of InterRailing in Italy was not only fun and interesting, but it opened up a whole new country to me. Having visited very little of Italy previously, I didn't fully know what to expect. However, Milan, Florence, Rome, Sorrento, Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii, and Positano led me to fall in love with the country and it's people very quickly! Having gone there not speaking any Italian at all and feeling as if I had stepped completely into the unknown, I came out at the end feeling as if I now know Italy, it's culture, and it's language a whole lot better and I am certainly very keen to go back as soon as possible!

However, for now, I am focusing on getting myself ready for my year as an English language assistant in Sevilla, Spain and am extremely excited for what is to come! I naturally have the usual fears of the unknown. Who will I meet?, will I like my job?, will I be happy?. But one thing is for sure and that is that I know I will be happy in the city as I spent the second semester of my year abroad there and already have a lovely group of friends there! I also know that the city is gorgeous and is a really nice place to live! On the other hand, I don't know what the secondary school in which I will be working will be like but I am going to put my absolute best into everything that I do there in order to get the very most out of the experience and to give the students the best possible opportunity to learn English.

As I mentioned in my last post, I am feeling very nostalgic and very sad to have left Bangor University as I had the best four years there! However, I know that when one door closes another always opens and I also know that my degree at Bangor University has given me the appropriate skills and the right outlook to get the very best out of this year. So now it's time to put those skills into practice!

I will be flying to Spain on 15th September which is unbelievably in less than two weeks time! I will be writing another blog post when I am there so please watch this space to hear how the beginning of my new adventure goes!

See you in Spain! :)

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