GETTING OUT OF NAPLES
As you probably gathered from our last post, leaving our work exchange was vital to our sanity. We threw a few ideas around before we decided to head to Bologna. Hannah, our friend and fellow volunteer, was planning to take a bus to Bologna and then continue home to Germany. Since we didn’t have anything else planned, and car rental seemed relatively cheap, we opted to for indulgence.
WORK EXCHANGE, TAKE TWO
Work exchange is a topic that we’ve discussed before, and more often than not, it is a great tool for engaging with the local community while working with a limited budget. Before leaving home we scheduled three separate work exchanges through HelpX. We gathered a number of different perspectives from friends and fellow travelers regarding their successes and failures on the road.
ON TO THE ITALIAN RIVIERA
Cinque Terre is one of those places that has started to boom with tourism in recent years. If you’ve ever looked at Instagram travel photos, chances are you’ve seen more than one photo of Cinque Terre. Unique in its composition, Cinque Terre is comprised of five small fishing villages dotting the cliff-filled coastline of the Italian Riviera. Considered a gem amongst most tourists, the crowds and infrastructure here reflect the hype.
WELCOME TO FIRENZE
Oh, Florence. Coming from Rome where there are plenty of tourists, but also bountiful space, Florence confronted us with situational claustrophobia. We were hopeful that the end of September was just late enough in the season that we could dodge crowds and squeak our way into some of the famous sights. In retrospect, we severely underestimated the amount of preplanning that needed to happen in order to ease the tension of the crowds and navigate Florence smoothly. However, if we were to do it again, the only thing I would change would be the not-so-forgiving stomach bug.
ROME: THE FOOD
If you research the world’s best cuisine, Italy is often considered #1 or #2. The quality of ingredients allows for the city to be full of variety and pride. This is why we’re dedicating a whole post to our favorite food and drink. We had high hopes for delicious food experiences, but we weren’t expecting to find new and interesting bites around every corner.
THE BAD AND THE UGLY
With as much as we’d like to glorify every day of our lives on the road, we wouldn’t be telling the truth. So we’ll get right into it with this one. Maybe you read the last post about all of the wonderful experiences we were able to have in Rome. Unfortunately, we didn’t begin our Roman adventure with sunshine and rainbows. We instead started off with… BED BUGS! Yep, those delightful little fear-mongering, filthy, blood-sucking pests.
ROME: THE COLLECTIVE
Brevity is impossible when describing Rome. It is a city full of life, excitement, diversity, and history. While we had an extremely testing experience right out of the gates, we quickly fell in love with Rome and made it a point to visit three separate times during our month in Italy. To top it all off, we were able to align ourselves with my grandma, Mikee, who came to visit us for her first trip to Italy.
WELCOME TO ITALY
Trieste is a story of a sobering and difficult time during our travels. Unfortunately, our experience and mood during our three-day stay was dominated by our accommodations. Let this, as it was for us, be more of an informative tale of how Couchsurfing can sometimes not be awesome. Needless to say, it will come with very few pictures.
Our journey from Budapest to Ljublijana, Slovenia was unexpectedly smooth. We heard from many that Ljublijana was a destination to make time for, but hadn’t done much research prior to arrival. At the very least, we knew this was a place to chase some outdoor adventures.
CONTINUING THROUGH EASTERN EUROPE
While limited in my experiences, I’ve seen enough to say that Eastern Europe is well worth the visit. This is a place where modesty and appreciation for the simple things are most important- a place where the infrastructure for tourism is relatively new. Here there is a dichotomy between locals skeptical of all of the rapidly occurring changes and those who enthusiastically embrace and welcome foreign visitors. Much in contrast to our time in Krakow and Warsaw, Budapest proved itself beautiful and unique while making us work for comfort and familiarity.