We just spent a month in Wales and it turned out to be a big surprise. It really was not on our radar, destiny brought us here. We needed some help with our travel budget and were able to secure some house sits in Wales so off we went. Two came up back to back within 10 kms of each other in neighboring villages, then we procured one in Liverpool and then one in London so we were able to plan a route through Wales and England. From London, Gatwick we traveled by train to Reading and spent the night, then the next day continued on to Cardiff (the capital of Wales) where we rented a car and drove two hours north to our first sit.
Wales quickly won us over with its lush green countryside, fairy-tale villages, historic castles, medieval churches and coastal scenery. It was hauntingly beautiful in the misty fog and gray skies but when the sun broke and illuminated the shades of green it was strikingly vibrant.
One of the things we get asked about most is our accommodations, everyone wants to know about our homes away from home and how we can afford these long stays. One of the things that’s made it possible for us is House sitting, I almost want to keep it a secret as its almost too good to be true but it is! We apply (through Trusted House-sitters) to move into peoples homes to look after their pets and home while they are away on vacation. We stay for free in exchange that they know their furry children will be loved and cared for and their home well looked after. We’ve done a few in Scotland and a few in England now and we are hooked. I’ll explain house sitting in another post but for now here is a glimpse into how great it can be.
On the canal in Venice, Italy
And so, our three-month sojourn in Italy came to its climactic ending in Venice during Carnivale, the famous festival that attracts masked revellers from all over the world in a baroque dressed extravaganza. It was a top item on our bucket list and we managed to check it off at the end of our Italian tour.
I’m a little behind for sending this post but January was such a busy month. Since I started studying Italian a few years ago I’ve always wanted to go to one of the many immersion schools in Italy that offer a month long program. We thought January would be a good month for school since the weather would be at its worst, traveling could be more difficult and since it was almost in the middle of our travels we thought it might be nice reprieve from life on the road. So I dragged Janet kicking and screaming and off to Recanati we went! Now make yourself a cappuccino and get comfortable as this is a long post, the highs and lows of our month in immersion.
Bologna definitely left us spellbound and bewitched, I can’t shake it out of my head with a yearning to return like a homesick child. It’s a modern metropolitan city but at the same time you feel like you’ve been dropped into one of Shakespeare’s Italian plays; Romeo and Juliet, Othello or a Midsummers Night Dream. Its architecture is medieval grandeur at its best that will have you spinning trying to see everything around you in 360 degrees. It’s a little rough around the edges, beautiful and boisterous, raw and gritty but elegant and grand. Try as I might to describe it you’ll just have to come see for yourself one day, if you’ve been you’ll know what I mean.
Astonishing Assisi, although we were only able to spend an afternoon is the small medieval town we are determined to return one day and stay for at least a few nights in this enchanting place. We’ve said it more than once but this town is at the very top of our favorites in Italy, it gripped our attention with so much character and ambiance. Perched on a hill in the region of Umbria it is famous as the birthplace of St. Francis of Assisi and holds much religious as well as historical and artistic significance.
Sensational is a good word for San Marino as it effects all the senses with it’s otherworldly atmosphere. Arriving in this fifth smallest country in the world you feel like you’ve almost left the planet for a land that lives in the sky, with castles and fortresses like something from a Renaissance fairy-tale.
We visited San Marino by bus from our school in Recanati, it was one of the weekend tours included in our school programs and started with a stop in the small university town of Urbino. We began our adventure here in this walled city in the Marche region south of Pesaro, nestled in the hillsides of the pre-Apennines. We had a few hours to tour the town, its famous Palazzo Ducale and museum but we opted to wonder the town taking some pics of the surrounding countryside and visiting one of its many excellent cafes to try some local delicacies. It was a quick visit but we thoroughly enjoyed our stop here.
Every year Venice celebrates Carnivale in a big way, attracting revelers from all over the world to partake in the pre-lent celebrations that happen all over the world. This year the kick off was on Saturday the 11th with the water parade starting festivities that will continue until the 28th. We mis- calculated the dates as most of the activities peak next weekend with all the big costumed balls and events throughout Venice reaching a climax on the 24th for Fat Tuesday but nevertheless we are having a ball! Don’t miss my video on the spectacular Water Parade and Carnivale kick off in Venice, Italy- bottom of this post.
After completing one month in Recanati for Italian school it was nice to get on the road again touring instead of studying. We booked four nights in Bologna and had grandiose plans to use it as a base for day trips to Ravenna, Ferrara and Verona but we ended up wanting too spend more time in Bologna instead. We were adamant though on going to Ravenna and so glad we did. At the bottom of this post is my video of Ravenna and a link to the photo gallery.
The last town we visited before starting school was a town called Imola which turned out to be a big surprise. We hadn’t expected much and were a bit worried as we knew nothing about the small city. We had booked an Airbnb there simply as a base to explore Bologna, Ravenna, Ferrara and Verona, some of the towns we had wanted to visit. We weren’t finding any accommodations in Bologna within our budget so we moved our search to Imola and found a great apartment there. Well our apartment turned out to be fantastic and the town even more so!
We spent 12 days in magnificent Milan, Italy and had an even better time than expected in this amazing city. It’s the financial hub of Italy in the more prosperous north and one of the worlds great fashion capitals. It’s a mix of the newest and greatest with the old classics being the foundation of the city. (Don’t forget to watch our video at the bottom of this post)
Another perfect day trip from Milan is the town of Bergamo, it’s a beguiling city with Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architecture. It’s known for the juxtaposition of it’s upper ancient city- Citta Alta which can be reached at two different levels by funicular and it’s lower, more modern city. There was so much to see here, so leave early in the morning for a full day and plan to return to Milan later in the evening. Trust us -you’ll need a full day! Even better if you can stay over night or take a weekend as it’s one of the most beautiful cities in all of Lombardy and top of our must see list. Below is a short video of our day in Bergamo and continue reading for all you need to know about this wonderful city.
The best day trips from Milan; #1 Lake Como-Como,Bellagio & Varenna, #2 Bergamo
If you have time to pull yourself from your Milan adventures and want to explore some of the other towns reachable on a day trip then read on. Milan is a great base for exploring the Lombardia region and is also very close to Switzerland which can be reached by train in a little over an hour. Here are a few suggestions on some side trips that we really enjoyed and think you will too!
Here is our countdown to New Years in the Piazza Duomo in Milan, Italy so you can see what New Years is like here. Hope you have a blast tonight and be safe. All the best for the New Year! Click on the pic below to open the video.