“New Zealand! It’s Italy, upside down!” exclaimed the swarthy proprietor at B&B Mercurio in Bologna. Palpably delighted to have their first ever guests from New Zealand, he and his partner were all smiles as they asked us about the rest of our itinerary and assured us, with a meaningful look at T, that we were in safe hands (if size is any indication, then sure).
Indeed, New Zealand is the opposite of Italy in so many ways, and not just as a physical mirror image. We can’t hold a candle to them in food, fashion, or history. Everything we encountered was a revelation.
Some cannonballs with your old city walls?
The canals in Venice didn’t smell at all, even at the sticky height of summer.
What can I say about Rome that hasn’t already been said countless times before? Simply stupendous.
Skulls. Real ones, en masse. At the public Fontanelle catacomb cemetery. Possibly the best free sight in Naples.
Oh, and the statues at the archaeological museum. So many are replicas of Greek originals, but still enthralling.
Creepy concrete blocks along the Amalfi coast.
Also recommend: wharf jumping alongside squealing Italian kids at Minori, and taking a breezy ferry ride one way and a bus ride the other – the experiences are total polar opposites, and seeing the drivers handle the insanely tight clifftop turns is mind-blowing. (The traffic was a non-issue, despite all our hostel receptionist’s insistence that it would be dire.)
The castle – beautifully preserved, and just like the kind you learn to draw as a child – in medieval Bracciano.
Inside the walled town centre of Viterbo.
Where we saw this delightful scene, starring a frou-frou purple bike.
Our very first days in Italy were mundane, but not in a bad way. Lazy days, starting with panzerotti from the local bakery in Bologna. A botched attempt at doing laundry, successful only because one Italian matron was kind enough to flag down a young woman walking her dog outside the shop, who spoke English and could translate for us.
People going out of their way to help us in Italy, in fact, were one of the best things about the country – like the two old gentlemen in Naples, who helped us get on the right bus to Via Fontanelle, and then to navigate our way to the cemetery itself, respectively. The elderly man and woman who helped us find our hostel amongst the back alleys in Salerno. And of course, those bubbly owners at B&B Mercurio. I cannot rave about them enough (damn you Booking.com for not inviting me to leave a review this time!). A five-star boutique B&B, with a luxurious and gleaming bathroom, lollies on a stack of clean towels – even a sparking white flatscreen smart TV, for goodness sake – at two-star prices.
I’m just about ready to move on to the next adventure, but giving up fresh Italian mozzarella is going to be a bitch.