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Podcast: funny stories from Italy

podcast cover

If you like my posts on Italy then you might like listening to my new podcast When in Bologna on Audioboom.

There are three episodes so far which you can listen to here or download from Itunes.

I’ve never done anything like this before so if you have any feedback I’d love to hear it.

 

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Top 5 tips : Picture-Perfect Padova

Before Christmas I visited the lovely city of Padova (or “Padua” if you want to be boring and anglicise it) which is possibly the oldest city in Northern Italy as it dates back to 1183 BC. It is full of beautiful little piazzas and quaint streets all of which are encircled by the Bacchiglione river, making it an extremely photogenic spot and great for visiting by foot.

Here are my top 5 tips for a trip to Padova:

1. Stay at the Youth Hostel

fiume bacchiglione

Via S. Gregario Barbarigo

The youth hostel in Padova is located on Via Aleardo Aleardi which is just around the corner from this beautiful view of the river from the bridge on Via S. Gregorio Barbarigo. It only costs 19 euro a night in a six bed dorm with breakfast included. Being tongue-twisted by the street names will cause only minimal annoyance when you can grab a croissant and wake up to this view!

2. Go to the Piazza dei Signori at night

piazza delle erbe

Piazza dei signori

By night Padova is just as charming as it is in the light of day. In the Piazza dei signori there are a few nice bars but it is also a great reference point to depart from if you’d like to explore the bars and cafes along the side streets. Otherwise it’s just a great place to gaze thoughtfully at the moon and the dimly lit facade of St. Clemente church. Well that’s what I did anyway.

3. Go for a walk along the river

fiume 3

View from Ponte Molino

The river Bacchiglione surrounds Padova like a moat and meanders through its narrow streets and ancient buildings. I couldn’t help but stop at every little bridge and admire the view. For the best bridge snaps I recommend going for a stroll along the Eastern edge of the city where the old roman walls used to be. Otherwise just go with the flow.fiume

4. Have a coffee in Caffè Pedrocchi

caffe pedrocchi

A visit to Padova wouldn’t be complete without sampling a coffee in the famous Caffè Pedrocchi which was established in 1831. Their speciality coffee which is the cafe’s namesake is an espresso with mint liquor and cocoa powder. Don’t let the upmarket furnishings scare you off. It may look like the Ritz (there is even a white grand piano) but just a coffee won’t leave a bitter taste in your mouth…or your pocket.

5. Discover the city’s parks

giardini dell'arena

Giardini dell’arena

It’s always good to get some fresh air in a nice green space and Padova has some lovely little parks dotted around its edges. This is the Giardini dell’arena to the north of the city where you can also visit the remains of the old Roman theatre. It’s the perfect place for a morning stroll.

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Everything good happens after 2 A.M….In Bologna

Via IV novembre, Bologna

Via IV novembre, Bologna

“Nothing good happens after 2.am” – Ted Mosby

In the long running tv series “How I Met Your Mother”, this mantra which was passed down to Ted by his mother is something which I will forever refuse to believe…well at least in Bologna. Ted’s character is adorable, loveable, vulnerable, romantic albeit perpetually heartbroken yet I refuse to believe that in New York; the city which never sleeps, he couldn’t find something good going on after 2.a.m…..even if he did make a fool of himself along the way. In Bologna on the other hand, everything good happens after 2 a.m. By this time it is possible that you’ve had a birra or two, you may feel tired, you may feel emotional but in Bologna you can never feel as though anything can go wrong in the twilight hours. If anything that’s when the night is just beginning.

By day Bologna is a beautiful city. It’s “La Rossa” (The red one) ; a stunning yet unassuming agglomeration of russet and terracotta buildings; a scarlet heart pulsating with culture. By night it is ever more beautiful. Shades of red fade to hazy yellows and burnt oranges as the glow of street lamps illuminates the alleyways and piazzas. I have spent four months in Bologna now yet everytime I set foot in Piazza Maggiore under a starry sky I count myself lucky. Everything from the facade of San Petronio cathedral to the bronze sculpture of a coquettish lady in the adjoining via IV novembre seems like a painting. I sometimes imagine that if I poured some water on the scene it would vanish and the colours would just wash away like paint on the canvas of my own imagination. When I walk around the cobbled streets of Bologna with friends I often feel as though I am in some kind of magical dream world. Around every corner there is an interesting character. From the gummy African man who happily plays a chalice and spoon outside the kebab shop on Via del Pratello, to the Aussie busker who plays the guitar by the Due Torri accompanied by his chihuahua, tunelessly howling along in accompaniment.

By 3am when our friend Conor unusally finishes his shift at The Irish Times pub in Via del Paradiso there is only one place we can go; Osteria dello Scorpione. A pub which I have likened to Narnia. It can only be found when you’re not looking for it. When you really need a drink. When you aimlessly wander through random streets where there are seemingly no signs of life. But beyond rows of terraced houses and a prison on Via Santa Caterina you will find a mystical oasis. It’s not closed. You just need to duck under that half pulled shutter and walk on in. Here we can stay until 6am. The bar and kitchen are always open. Ordering a Pizza at 4am is not a ludicrous idea. Those scorpions in the tank are perhaps dead but is any of this real anyway? There are books about starsigns (including Scorpio), a dwarf sized version of jenga which the proprietor who resembles Doc from back to the future possibly hand carved and then let’s not forget the poster of Sting. That’s just pure, unadulterated genius. Here it is possible to wile away the hours by philosophising, playing cards (or jenga), meeting interesting people and eating those pumpkin seeds which come from the seemingly bottomless tin bucket by the bar.

When 6am strikes Doc gets touchy. He wants us to leave. The dream is over for another night. The sun is about to rise. So I charge my bike with 1.21 gigawatts of magic and cycle home through the cobbled streets as a realist dawn slowly comes into focus. I’m tired, I’m weary but no less in love with the mysticism of a night out in Bologna. You were wrong Ted Mosby. Everything Good Happens after 2am.

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…In fair Verona where we lay our scene

romeo and juliet

At the beginning of October I went to Verona for the day with my trusted travel companion Sabela. Going there with high expectations I was prepared to be a little disappointed, but Shakespeare’s beloved city certainly lives up to it’s reputation. It isn’t hard to see why the Bard chose it as the setting for both a comedy and one of his greatest tragedies.

verona

It is a town of many faces which oozes with history, charm and passion. It inspires romance in the most cynical of people and everywhere you look it is possible to see a quaint alleyway or charming shuttered window which somehow the throngs of tourists don’t seem to sully (although I would hate to think how busy it is in August).

roman theatre

The first thing we visited was the Roman arena which is in an incredible condition considering it was built in the 1st century. When we were there a theatre company was rehearsing for a performance of Jesus Christ Superstar which I suppose is quite ironic.

me on julliet's balconyThen we did the mandatory visit to Juliet’s house and attempted to execute pensive balcony poses whilst imagining ourselves as being one half of a pair of star-crossed lovers.

sabela on the balcony I didn’t realise that a group of women who answer love letters on behalf of Juliet actually does exist (I thought it was just something made up by that really bad film with Amanda Seyfried). Of course in the digital age there are now computers where you can send an e-mail to Juliet in order to find out the solution to your deepest troubles of the heart. For the heart broken who are more old school however, it is still possible to stick letters and pleas for advice on the wall beside the balcony. Some of these made for extremely hilarious reads.

juliet's wall

Moving on we visited the Cathedral of Santa Maria Matricolare which had some beautiful arches and geometrical patterns. I only had my phone to take pictures which frustratingly couldn’t capture the magnitude and grandeur of the church but I tried my best.

verona cathedralverona cathedral 2verona 3

After lunch we decided to cross the Ponte Pietra and admire the lovely view of the Adige river and surrounding buildings. It really was a “wow” moment and the pictures speak for themselves.

ponte veronariver

Then we ascended the steps by the Teatro romano (which unfortunately was closed) to see an incredible vista of the entire city. The grueling climb in 30 degree heat was definitely worth it!

view over verona

me and sabella verona

We spent some time here just enjoying the view and marveling at the fact that the trees on the hill in the distance looked too perfect to be real. On the way back down I randomly bumped into my friend Katy from University who is studying at Padova (you can read her blog here) and had come down to Verona just for the day. It was definitely “by some consequence yet hanging in the stars”.

As the day turned to night Verona didn’t lose a shred of it’s beauty. On the contrary it gained a new vivacity and life and it’s nocturnal ambience made me feel as though I was already dreaming.

verona by night

I love you Verona

Parting really was such sweet sorrow.

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Ciao Bologna!

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My new street – Via Don Minzoni

my new room

I have been in Bologna now for three days and I am already in love with this city. I’m sharing a flat with three other Italian girls and an American Mexican boy and so far I feel very at home and am really looking forward to spending the next six months here whilst I undertake a work placement in nearby Sasso Marconi.

piazza maggiore Bologna

Piazza Maggiore

On Friday I met some other Erasmus students from the UK and elsewhere and went on a free walking tour of the city which was a good way to get my bearings whilst learning some funny facts. The Piazza Maggiore is the main square in the city and here sits the impressive Basilica of San Petronio which is the 15th largest church in the world. Another major landmark of the city are the due torre, one of which leans slightly (Torre Asinelli) so is supported by scaffolding at the bottom.

The Due Torre

The Due Torre

In the 12th and 13th century there were actually around 180 towers like these in the city which were supposedly constructed by rich families to demonstrate their wealth. During the 12th century many of the towers were demolished so today only around 20 remain. I decided to climb up the many steps to see the view at the top of the Torre Asinelli which was definitely worth all of the sweat and breathlessness. At the top there are beautiful vistas of the city and the surrounding countryside so I took my time up here to admire the view.

due torre view 2

due torre view 1

Another interesting fact about Bologna is that it once had almost as many canals as Venice which were used for trade and commerce. Today only a few remain and make for good photos.

little venice bologna

I have also experienced a little bit of the nightlife here which is vibrant and buzzing with lots of organised Erasmus parties. so hopefully I have many more notte di feste ahead of me.

I start my work placement tomorrow so stay posted for more accounts of living the dolce vita here in Bologna.

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One boy and his dog- weekly photo challenge

One boy and his dog

One boy and his dog

This week’s daily photo challenge is all about Contrasts so I decided to post this picture I took of some sculptures near the harbour in Viareggio, Italy when I was au-pairing there last summer. I think the green tones of the boy and his dog contrast nicely with the bleached white rocks. I hope you like it 🙂