PickYourTrail Blog

For gutsy girls – travel guide to Italy

Say ciao a tutti to our traveller Kashmira Chawak. She writes about gelato, Italy, her adventures and lessons while travelling solo in Italy. For all the girls – travel guide to Italy!

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Image credit – pinterest

Espresso, Gelato & Cheese – Italy the stuff of my dreams

The best things happen by chance says my beloved movie character, Dory. And sappy as it sounds, this is just how Italy happened to me. I was due for an academic exchange in Lugano. Thanks to the internet that makes work from anywhere easy and budget planning through PickYourTrail, I was able to take a few weeks before my academic exchange and visit Italy. I am more of an ‘experience it’ traveller so I knew that visiting every city in the country was out of  the question. While I was eager to see the majestic architecture and art that Italy is known for, I also wanted to laze by the seashore and hike the countryside.  

• ROME •

Architecture    Cafes    Sight-seeing

Fountains in Rome

Bustling with history and art, Rome represents everything Italian and was the perfect city to start my Italian holiday. From archeological marvels like the mighty coliseum to the beautifully carves fountain of the four rivers, there is so much the city has to offer. The best way to explore the city is on foot or hopping onto their classic tram systems.  I spent my days sight-seeing and evenings at local café’s OD’ing on blissful coffee and wine.

Don’t miss out on the by lanes as they are full of surprises – cafes, shops and a lot more. I did take a day out to visit the Vatican. I do regret not spending more time there. The inspirational museums, palatial gardens and colossal buildings are bound to leave you speechless.

Art in Rome

I don’t understand art or architecture much but every bit of Rome and the Vatican is awe inspiring.  You must know that both the places are extremely touristy. It’s difficult to take a photograph without having someone intrude your frame. Usually, I shy away from visiting places that have too many people but somehow, in Rome, all the noise and the crowd, added to its charm.

NAPLES •

Sight-seeing   Trekking    

ruins-of-pompeii
Image credit – pseudoplocephalus

My next stop was Naples. It’s a train ride away from Rome and the only reason I chose this place was to visit Pompeii. The history of Pompeii fascinates me and I had to pay homage to the ruins of the town. The sight of Mount Vesuvius overlooking the city is bound to give you goose bumps. The experience will not just bring the city’s tragic story alive but will give you a glimpse into the lives of ancient Romans as if they were still going about their business in that very place.  

Pompeii is widespread and make sure you have a guide to take you around and tell you the significance of each of the structures. From restaurants to theaters and well-planned homes, the Roman’s did know how to live it up. I wound up the trip to Pompeii by trekking Mount Vesuvius and checking out the volcanic crater. It’s quite a walk and worth the trek, but I do wish I was wearing the right shoes for them.

CINQ TERRE •

Scenery    Walks    Dining

Cinque terre

Cinque Terre is a cluster of five fishing villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Picturesque and serene, these villages are nestled on the coast of the Italian Riviera.  I stayed at Riomaggiore for four days and this has to be the highlight of my trip. It’s easy to travel from one village to another. They are connected by trains but the boat rides are way more exciting and full of stunning views of the coast.

I spent each day exploring a different village, lazing by its shores, chilling at a local café or exploring the cliff walks.  I was staying at the port, a stone throw away from the sea and some amazing restaurants. Evenings were all about hearing the gushing sea and live music. Cinq Terre is more than just beautiful, it’s therapeutic.

BARBINO VAL d’ELSA •

Vineyards   

Sampling wine at Barbino Val d'Elsa

If you love wine and are up for some adventure, this place is for you. I spent two days at Barbino Val d’Elsa, a country side off Florence. It’s beautiful and quiet and you don’t see anyone for miles.  However, the locals barely speak English and you are left to yourself and the silent and unmatched scenic beauty of the vineyards. Though in hindsight, I do wish I had rented a car.

Most food places are restricted to the market and open only post 7:00 pm. They have no to little public transport and it gets pretty eerie at nights. I stuck to my ventures through the day and restricted myself to the hotel at nights. Not bad, considering the wine they serve is pretty amazing and the cold cuts and cheese melt in your mouth. A private vineyard tour of the Chianti Casa Sola and a wine tasting session is what made my stay in Barbino memorable.

FLORENCE •

Architecture    Street musicians/live performances   

street-musicians-in-florence
Image credit – lee-goodwin

I had a night in Florence before I took my flight to Lugano. My plan was mostly to relax, get some clothes washed and prepare for my academic exchange. However, the guy who checked me in insisted that I shouldn’t leave Florence without an evening walk through the city, and I am so glad he did!  

Architecture marvels lit up in the night light made for a beautiful backdrop to the buskers who filled the streets with their music. I spent the evening listening to live bands performing on the streets, singing my heart out and dancing with strangers. I didn’t get a chance to see the city by day but the liveliness and the vibe will perpetually define Florence for me.

On travelling solo :

I travel alone for many reasons – I like being by myself once a while, I have a more flexible work schedule as compared to family and friends and sometimes and mostly it’s the journey itself. You either love travelling alone or you don’t, but wouldn’t you want to find out? Whether it’s Italy or any other place in the world, here are some things to keep in mind when you travel alone:

Get a local sim card: I know that the point of traveling alone is getting away from the noise but always have at least one person know your entire plan and keep them informed throughout your journey.

Save emergency contacts: Know where your country’s embassy is located and keep a note of their phone number.  Also, keep a list of emergency numbers that work in the country you plan to visit. (helplines etc.) Similarly, keep a list of your emergency contacts in your wallet, that’s easy to find.

saving-emergency-contact-numbers
Image credit – gobankingrates
On packing: Bag packs look cool but they are difficult to handle, especially if you are an over-packer. So check if you really need one or a suitcase would suffice. I personally carry backpacks when my journey involves a lot of walking or trains and buses. Also, when am visiting places that are not city-ish. If you are carrying a backpack, be minimalistic with your packing and ensure you are comfortable with the weight. You will find a lot of laundromats around to keep your supply of clean clothes.

an-overstuffed-suitcase
Image credit – gizmodo
Stashing cash: Split your money into at least three places. Don’t carry unnecessary gadgets. The only expensive thing I carry with me is my laptop because I have to work on the go. Even thing else, expensive watches, ipads etc. can be left at home.

Culture and you: The whole point of traveling alone is soaking yourself into the local culture. However, don’t push yourself into something you don’t find comfortable. Whether it’s a person, a place or a situation. If you are unsure, don’t take a chance.

Setting limits: Be a good judge of yourself. Can you handle that extra drink; can you really trek that mountain and so on. You know yourself better and keep a check on yourself.

Alcohol at a bar
Image credit – thedrunkpirate
Be Prepared: Always keep a first aid/medicine kit with you – band aids, basic medicines, sanitary pads. Best to be prepared for the most unlikely circumstances.

carrying-medical-supplies
Image credit – nationalgeographic

Lastly, have fun and take out time to indulge into the little things that Italy has to offer. No Italian experience is complete without having an espresso shot while standing at the counter, slurping on tons of gelato while walking the rustic streets, having a glass of wine while watching the tourists walk by and gorging on endless plates of Lasagne and Pizza. Wait, did I mention wine?

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Kashmira Chawak micro blogs on Instagram at kashmira_c

Have a travel story you have been dying to get out? Write to us at stories@pickyourtrail.com and get a chance to have your story featured on our blog!

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