Discovery Intern

Discovery Intern: 3 places you MUST visit in Italy

My personal favourites.

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5 days in Italy was hardly enough, but I made the most of it. I managed to explore Vatican City, which is its own country and a separate entity from Italy, followed by the rest of Rome before packing my Kathmandu backpack and heading up north to Cinque Terre, stopping in at Florence and Pisa along the way. Here’s a list of places I was able to explore and why I’d recommend you follow suit.

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Rome

Of course the capital, with all the iconic landmarks and history that make up the great nation of Italy. If I could recommend any local, culturally enriched neighbourhood it would be Trastevere. It’s like everything I imagined Italy to be; from young children playing soccer on cobble stone pathways in narrow backstreet alleys, to old couples hanging out of their windows in their multi-storey casas. I found most places in Rome to be very touristy, but if you want to explore the culture and try some authentic Italian street foods, this is the place to go. Of course a visit to Rome wouldn’t be the same without delving into its historical roots by exploring what remains of Ancient Rome. The Roman Forum, an ancient marketplace and court sits opposite the great Colosseum, surrounded by other temples dedicated to the polytheistic religions of the past in Central Rome. There’s no real words to describe the feeling when standing before the ancient ruins, with the oldst dating back to 753BC.

After all, this was the longest reigning empire of all time. Rome dominated the majority of the planet for 520 years ending in 476AD. All other super powers hardly come close to the Roman empire at her peak, and it was interesting to learn that the fall of Rome came from a number things internally, often similar to issues society experiences in this day and age. One thought that really stuck with me was how a nation so fortified in their faith of polytheism decided to suddenly relinquish such beliefs for only Christianity and Judaism. I mean, to people nowadays, ancient religions sound mythological, but what would humans another 2000 years from now, standing before our ruins, believe in? Will our modern beliefs seem like made-up myths to explain what we cannot, the same way we view polytheism? There’s truly something thought-provoking about seeing and feeling history up close, a feeling I would recommend everyone experience at least once in their lifetimes.

Firenze (Florence)

The city of love. I found romanticism in the streets of Florence. I was lucky enough to share a few nights with my partner here. We’re both travellers and neither of us have found a city more enticing and warm-welcoming than Florence. There’s a bridge here: Ponte Vecchio, which crosses the Arno river and has shops built on top. It’s the oldest bridge in Florence, and also the best place to watch a crimson sunset with a gelato in hand. There’s also the fourth largest church in the world further into Florence, The Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, a huge Gothic-style church from the 12th Century, placed in the centre of shops and restaurants with an abundance of artists and street acts around. Whatever you decide to see or do in Florence will evoke all the good feels, I loved Florence so much I vowed to return here again some day.

Cinque Terre (Five Lands)

My first pebble-stone beach was here at Monterosso. This is a coastal area made up of five small, colourful townships ingeniously built in to the jagged cliff face of Liguria. Like I said in my previous blog, it’s like taking a time machine and leaving civilisation for a bit. There’s no real industrialisation and the locals here still dress in an old-fashioned way and live simply. I enjoyed being by the ocean in a coastal township. There’s something soothing about hearing the sound of waves crashing against the rocks while the wind howls. A perfect blend of nature and culture is found here in these cute little villages. It also made me appreciate how necessary it is to take a step back from the hustle and bustle every once in a while. Life moves fast at times, so it’s important we break away from our usual routines to recharge and reconnect with what it means to be alive, to enjoy the moment and have genuine interaction with others around you.

Lastly, stop in at a few through towns during your travels. Just be warned, if you drive like I did, motorists here on average drive at around 120-150kph in the fast lane of the motorway. If you like to adhere to the local speed limit (yes road rules still apply) then you can always travel alongside trucks and other law-abiding citizens in the slow lane. But wherever you go in Italy will surely leave you feeling intrigued and slightly bewildered, the top three places mentioned above were my own highlights, from where I drew most inspiration. Throughout my trip, I learnt that Romans contributed a lot to modern-day civilisation, from the Julian calendar proposed by Julius Caesar, to the saying “all roads lead to Rome,” which stems from the first road ever built. This country has a lot to offer for those in search of a deeper connection and a greater understanding of humanity as whole. I’ll surely be back again soon.

– Ben Mikha