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My Adventures in Italy, Ghana & Tanzania

  • Submitted by: Paloma Wregg
  • Submission Date: 11th Feb 2005

Day 1

Arriving in Milan, the flight was a crystal clear aerial view of perfectly designed and divided landscapes. The Alps were spectacular to fly over and the day was about 30 degrees when I arrived in the morning. Luca and Umberta look the same and Lucia and Stephano were bright and friendly to me. Lucia took me to the swimming holes they use in the Medeterannean Sea. So clear and beautiful – no sharks, no rubbish. I was glad to sleep. The steps go all over the countryside and the cars can be scary.

Day 2

In the morning we went to the Portofino Mountain cape. The cats are like accessories scattered and sleepy on the villas. This is because of the fishing in the area. The walks are beautiful and the mountain is cool enough to enjoy. Then we went to Recco. A small beach and Riviera full of shops and fishermen. It was completely rebuilt after the war because the railroad was a target for bombing. I left Umberta in the Supermarket and realised for the first time how scary it is without English. I managed to ask a little girl the name of her dog (Bianca, white) but that was all. The smell of the city is beautiful, breads and pastas and coffee. We had foccacia in the morning for a treat. Umberta showed me the Giant Fry pan they celebrate around once a year.

Day 3

Recovering quite well from yesterday and I am unsure of why I was so sick. Today I woke up to the phone but stayed in bed to make sure I am better. I go down to the rocks by myself to take a picture of the Sunday bathers. By 11:00am I am home and we set out on our walk to the Picnic. UP and up the mountain by endless stairs, past little villas hanging on the edge of the mountains, each with a little herb garden and a cat or dog sprawled in the sun. The grey line of highway stretches between and through these mountains dotted in tiny flowers and olive trees. It seems to take no time at all to hop from one side of the mountain to the next and we reach the little church, old and decorated within and hour. It's so pretty here. It's a very hot day but the church is shaded by rows of pine trees on both sides so its quite cool with the welcome mountain air. It is an Accente Festival (the rising of Christ) and the food is ongoing from the start. Polenta, sausage spirals cooked on the slate BBQ. Fresh Brushetta, foccacia and lots of red and white wine. This is my favourite fragalino. Its so light and made locally. Rice cake, biscuits and fruit donnuts for desert with short black coffee.

All the while the Italian laughter from the little ladies cooking in the smallest kitchen ever, at the back of the church. There is a choral singing and Luca translates for me. After almost 7 hours we start to make our way home, full and blissful. Thankful for the walk home, we spend the evening watching Stephano's slides of his scout trips. Luca's slides of Brazil. Both are fantastico. A thoughlly enjoyed day. It is still light outside at 9:30pm and I go to bed tired. Tomorrow is Portofino and San Fruttosa.

Day 4

Today we went to San Fruttosa. We walked for 2 hours through the Mediterranean forest, beautiful cool weather, over the mountain. Lucia has had the day off school and come with us. It was a wonderful walk. We arrived at San Fruttosa and look longingly at the sea.... But first a trip to the museum. Afterwards we swam (my first swim in the Mediterranean) and sun bathed on the pebbles for lunch. A little cafe restaurante spills on to the beach. A couple enjoying a romantic meal. White table cloths and red flowers in the centre. Red wine to match. So romantic like in the films. Catching a boat around to Portofino we walked high up into the castle and out toward the lighthouse. Eating Gelati we walked through the shops and I saw so many beautiful clothes and things. Everything is so expensive though. Definitely a favourite place. Perfect in scene. Portofino Paradise.. Umberta tells me of the Christ that they have beneath the sea to protect submarines etc. I found the fact they have crosses on the top of every mountain peak so strange, but under the sea as well is funnier to me still. I buy a postcard to send to Steven. Churches have the best positions in this area, overlooking everything, serving as the gathering places for firework displays over the bays. On the boat around to San Margarita... there were so many balconies of pink and red flowers, walls of Jasmine. Even on our way to the train station, the stop signs were in flowerbeds and there were pots of daisies all along the railway platform. Summer is such a spectacular time here. Feeling a little pink from the sun, I finally feel on holidays. Italy is so romantic... everything about it. I adore east Genova so far. The sun is still high in this wonderful day and I look forward to beating it to bed.

Day 5 and 6

Day 5 and 6 and are joined together because until now I have not had the time. Yesterday we went to Genova to see the Historical churches and towers. Umberta gave me a guided tour and without her I would have given up. The streets are all twisted and tiny like a labyrinth. The old town has such narrow streets that only the Buzz cars can fit down them. Only about 5 people across they twist and turn. I particularly liked looking in the art shops as we passed them.

Choosing to sit on the harbour for lunch. Umberta told me of other historical things around the area. I must admit I am over the church thing and prefer the stripy architecture to the religious paintings. they all look the same. The renovation industry in europe is the richest I'd imagine. Everything is being renovated. After lunch Umberta left me and I learnt again the value of communication. I searched everywhere for chocolate and eventually found a small bar for a lot of money. Getting home was fine and dinner with Umberta's brother was very entertaining. He had just come back from Tanzania. Today I am in Pisa and after finding (accidentally) a botanical garden, I have decide to sit and update my accounts. Being driven from my spot by monstrous mosquitoes I have relocated to a seemingly safer shade. It is lunch time and 35 degrees I am sure. Too hot to do anything and all the city is closed anyway. Gelati and a lot of fruit has cooled me down a little and is a welcome non-carbohydrate fix. I came here by train this morning and made my way by foot to the leaning tower. It was spectacular and I invested in the expensive all around pass. I had to see it all. I saw another cathedral, but it was busy inside - very beautiful from the outside. The silent cometary where the floor is made up of marble tombstones was very special. I found it a little disapointing there was not so much around in English descriptions. I wandered around just guessing and admiring. The merchandise surprised me, because as well as the masses of leaning tower keyrings and T-shirts – were Dawson creek postcards and Bart Simpson bags. A little out of place. Thousands of Pinochioes (wooden, painted, carved, moulded, big, small and tall) which I eventually found out belonged historically to the nearby province of Luca . Speaking of thousands, the currency is especially difficult for a maths illiterate like me. A few extra 00’s can throw me out every time. ....and old coins can still circulate and so there are three different types of ten-lira coins. Small big and alternating between gold and silver. ?????

I have followed my map and as in Genova, walked straight past the many museums I have been heading for. The buildings all look the same, each looks as historic as the next and my only clue is the African men selling watches around the entries to all the touristic places. With one or two hours to wait until the streets and shops all open again, I have just enough time to find a toilet. Till tomorrow....

Day 7

I woke up to the telephone and decide to have a lazy day. After doing not much I made my way down to the sea for some sun and swim. My philosophy being if I got a little browner, the Italian food on my thighs might be a little slimmer. Unlike Australia, the appearance of jelly fish draws crowds. A sign of cleaner water. Its a little rougher today and I'm reluctant to get in. Strange things amuse me. The sighting of a some demure cats on the terrace, shaved like lions. Some surfers trying to catch nothing. The beach is busy at this time and the more traditional swimming costume is present (nothing at all). Europeans fat and thin take a slab of rock to sun bake on. I return home with a bright pink tinge rather than the desired brown.

Day 8

Sitting in the shade of, literally Jesus himself, I am finally able to breath. Potent doses of Jasmine and coffee have clogged my lungs all morning. I am sitting on the point – feeling like the centre of the world. This is a place you dream of having picnics. Few Italians are here due to the path it takes to travel... as I will explain.

Tired of looking at the mountains, Umberta had dropped me off at the church point so I could climb it. After five minutes of trying to avoid the invisible yet sticky spiderwebs, I continued undeterred at the chance to train for Kilimanjaro. By the time I reached the top 1 1/2 hours later, I was the image of a cacooned silkworm. Picking the trillions of sticky strands from everywhere I decided to retrace my steps down to avoid another onslaught. The views are spectacular and I decided to go from the top of the Mediterranean to the middle. After naming Sarawak the place of endless boardwalks, I name Genova the place of endless stairs. I went down for another hour amazed to find people living along the way, as far as half and hour down. There were no other roads, so a fit lot they would be. Checking the map carefully so I would not chance having to go back up them, I found my way to the point. I past fishing villages and many a scattered cat. Little houses and washing hung across the path to dry in the ocean breeze. Lots of little boats moored on the perfectly clear turquoise bay. I will catch the boat back to Canolly so I can avoid the intense climb home. The water is so so blue. Before I do go I will decide whether to jump into the water or not. I can hear the sound of distant bells and thousands of birds constantly. I love this place and these long days.

I have walked the Roman salt road today and every bridge and stone looks like it belongs to the secret garden. Genova is my favourite so far. I know that Steven would love it here too. Tonight Luca is home and we will go out for Gelati to say goodbye. I have changed my mind and will go to Venice tomorrow. Petrified and excited all in one. I have run out of English books to read so I might be a little lonely. I am sure I will manage.

Day 9

Finally I have had to say goodbye to Umberta Luca and the family. I have arrived in Venice after going via Milan and it's very hot. The hotels are a long way from the railway station and I am forced to catch a very expensive water taxi with some other backpackers. The hostels are all fully booked and it seems the same everywhere. I did not realise today was the day the summer break starts. With some company of some Swedish girls -- I'm not sure of their names, they're way too hard -- we camp out at the station and move along as security comes around. It's so warm, but it's not as bad as it sounds. It's very touristic and full of people but at the same time it is so romantic. I like Venice and its waterways. I hope to get some good photos tomorrow


I have seen the galleries of Venice now and have watched the gondolas go by. Every single shop is a glass shop or a mask shop. I'm so sick of them but having fun all the same getting lost in the tiny streets. The Marco square was the best, to stand in the middle of it all with thousands of pigeons landing around me. In the afternoon and braving the crowds, I force my way to the main canal to find a boat. Going to the glass factory was interesting but not as much of a historical experience. More of a hard sell. I had to buy my necklace to leave but it was worth it. In the square there were performances and musicians everywhere. Each corner I turned I had to decide which little cafe to sit at. All of them seemed hidden away or overhanging the water. Red flowers and wine glasses set on white table cloths. Italian waiters standing to entice you to sit as you go past. I chose one in the end and had pasta. Fantastico pasta. Everything is alive and even this late as the sun goes down, people are just coming out. I'm to tired and go back to the station to rest. Tomorrow I go to Florence. I hope its cooler there. Good night....

Day ??? ..... this is where I start to loose track of my days as diary writing becomes more inconsistent.

Florence (Firenze)

I am now in Florence after a wonderful train ride across the Toscana landscape. It is beautiful here too. The river is browner than I thought but exactly like in the postcards. Its slightly cooler and I have been busy getting lost in the streets already. I have found a two star hotel which has proven to be cheaper than a backpacker anyway (you pay extra for a bath in the backpackers here). It took me 4 hours of walking everywhere to at last find this hotel. I am slowly finding more English brochures to read. Talking to myself is getting quite tiring. All the people I’ve met so far have been on Contiki tour as in Venice. It makes it really hard to tag along. I've made a spontaneous purchase of a bright blue top. It rained as I walked back to the hotel and I choose a small Italian ristorante close by in a side street for dinner. All the menu was in Italian and the waiters were dramatic with their hands as they bounced around the tables. I don’t know what I ordered but it was fabulous. I let them take care of me and they did. I can't seem to order any Fragalino around here though. As I made my way home... at 10pm the city was starting to come alive with beautifully dressed people in bright shoes and coloured coats. I am too tired to go back out and watch. I'll wait till tomorrow.

Diary Entry 10

The day of waiting, and waiting, and waiting.

My worst yet as homesickness goes. I miss everyone today so desperately.... I think this is because I'm stuck in queues for so long. The Biolla Gardens were first on my list. I wandered around and admired the most beautiful view over the city. Glancing past sculptures and statues and perfectly shaped hedges. They were like terraces of green and water spilling down to the tops of the churches and buildings. Here I met an Argentinian guy. He had given up college to come to Milan and be a super model (strange for a male ambition I thought). At least for an hour we walked together enabling each other to take photos with ourselves in them. I was afraid of having a whole roll of buildings when I got home. The trick however, proved to be more than just getting yourself in a shot as evidence you had been there, but to take it at the exact moment that there were no heads, bodies or cars in your line of vision. Florence, just like Venice is very very busy in high season. Reports of crowds in Rome by other tourists are even worse. Its sooo busy here... and I had to wait at the Ufitzi Museum for 3 1/2 hours. That was just to the ticket gates and then the thought of going around for another 2 hours and fighting to see the walls was too much. I got to know the couple in front of me quite well but it was annoying that I had to stay and hold my place. Standing the whole time meant I was starving. By the time we all got in there it was not just me who was weary. The audio cassettes had a line a mile long so I skipped it and went straight to Botticelli. They were spectacular but in a very dark room. So romantic and huge. I love the stories behind them and enjoyed just being surrounded by these huge beautiful paintings. Most other paintings were of Mary and Jesus and looked all the same. Most of the rooms I wanted to see were closed for renovations. I swear half of Italy is is closed for renovations.

I was 99% sad that mum was not here to see the art with me but 1% glad as I knew she would want me to look at every single work and I just couldn’t. Knowing the system now, it was off to see David. I skipped in the back door with “non capisco” to my defence. He was so much bigger than I thought and hard to get a photograph of with the other 100 people cramming around. After such a big day I was lulling into mode loneliness and gelati indulgent homesickness. Going to the tourist information centre AGAIN and getting lost just for fun, I found an Internet cafe. I have been looking since I left Genova. So happy I sat for one type rushed hour. Roberta is getting engaged. So life will be all interesting again when I get home. After being reminded of work I am now not so homesick. I wrote to Steven and the family. Off to enjoy the night in Florence now.

Diary Entry 11

I saw the Dali drawings today (his very early cartoonist work) and went to the Premium Museum to see the Rafaellos. Such lush galleries, paintings dripping of the walls and all over the ceilings. All framed in thick gold on bright red walls. Chandeliers and red carpet, with big dank velvet curtains sometimes open, most often not. Of course the whole gallery was a theme of Jesus and mary. After booking into another two star hotel called 'Adam', I decide to sleep through the siesta break. I swear I have walked every street of Florence CBD. Its no fun getting lost anymore as I can inevitably turn the corner and know where I am. I decided to get organised today and went to the train station and prebooked my ticket. I am looking forward to Milan where I have organised with Luca to have dinner tomorrow night. With my last day or so I can go shopping and buy myself a souveir.

Diary entry 12

(I have missed some days somewhere)

Leaving Florence for Milan, I have rung Steven and felt much better. Hoping to catch the Tuscan countryside, I find, as with my other trips, that most of the way is by tunnel. What I do see is beautiful. Olive trees and cottages standing on rolling hills. Golden greens and earthen reds and yellows. I could spend another week in this area watching the little old Italian men and women making their pasta. I also found a rare treat in the newstand at Florence: a National Geographic in English! It is now my focus as the train rushes north.

Arriving in Milan, I had made friends with the Italian next to me on the train. He was a taxi driver and his wife a fashion designer. He was being picked up by a fellow taxi driver and gave me a free ride to town. Finding the first and closest hotel 'Charley' (it was way too hot to walk streets and streets with my backpack). It was reasonable and I checked in and out... off on my shopping spree. It was of course siesta by this time so it was window shopping for 2 hours. I love Milan, lots of young people and bright fashion, there is lots of energy here and the sun is out. The buildings are fantastic here also. I have been down the expensive street of the Rich and Famous: Valentino, Gucci, etc. It's easy to want it all. I settle for the ultimate Italian accessory -- a double gelati cone. By 7:00pm I had seen enough shops to last me for ages and I waited for Lucca at Dunomo. We had a wonderful dinner on a little canal way out in the suburbs. We caught a train as no one drives anywhere because of traffic. I will miss Italy and all its romance, and beauty.


Goodbye... Arrivederci to Italy. After the flight the whole plane clapped - a Middle Eastern thing I’ve been told. Holland is a nice change and I’m looking forward to it. My driver was not at the airport and so two hours of confusion later I have been delivered to my hotel personally by the owner of the company in a limousine. I was comforted in my wait by eating a whole bag full of duty-free Swiss chocolate. The soccer finals are on in town tonight and the city is busy with fans. I am so glad Tanya booked my accomodation. It is 10 degrees here and I am cold. This morning in Italy it was 31 degrees, so it's a change. I resisted a rest, and quickly went out to explore knowing that Steve would have been out and about. I accidentally stumbled on the red light district. Most of the women were large and very bossy. They actually sit in tiny windows on kitchen chairs. I guess I thought it would be more glitzy than that. Unfortunately my stay was shortened when I took out my camera. I was chased by a number of angry black men (pimps I guess) and lots of shouting by the women.

Very amusing names for the cafes. “Sinners in Heaven”, “Cafe Smoko”, “The bushdoctor”, “The Pot Place.” Cafes all had pictures of palm trees as logos but they had 7 leaves. They don’t look inviting, but rather very scary. Dark and dingy. I was lucky enough to be here for the semi-final of the Dutch against Denmark in the Euro Cup. The whole town was orange and I sat in the pubs enjoying the atmosphere. A safe night life because the sun is up until 11pm here. I met two very very nice Dutch girls whom took me to eat traditional casserole (as traditional as Amsterdam gets) and then on to the party pubs to watch the game. It was the best time and I had a ball. Hup Holland. A fantastic town with the biggest idea of multiculturalism. A very young and fun place. It is a lot dirtier than Italy, though, with stagnant water in the canals.

Diary Entry 14

Because everyone thinks I’m English because I have white skin (no tan like the Europeans). I am writing in the sun outside the Van Gogh Museum. I think it's student lunch hour as all the young students are out on the lawn, with their bikes collapsed beside them of course. My tour this morning was very disappointing and although I saw the outskirts – they said everything in 5 languages. I had a massive headache at the end of it, and I found out you are not allowed to take photos of the prostitutes.

I then went to the Rijks and Van Gogh Museum. The Van Gogh museum was fantastic and I splurged on some cards. The Rijksmuseum was all Jesus and Mary again, although it was impressive. Now I am off to find a place to sit and relax for the evening. Well, I was off to find a place to sit but I have had to take the long way home because I was joined by 2 different drug dealers at two different stages and so I’ve had to detour so they can't meet me at my hotel as they plan to do. I wanted to go into the Hansel and Gretel house but I couldn't stop long enough. I have however found an Internet Cafe to hide in for now. Its sooo big and open 24 hours. I have never been in a computer park so big. Hundreds of them. Then with nothing but hot soup and a glass of wine, topped with a cappucino, I am off to bed at 10:30pm. The sun is still up.

Diary entry 15

I have intended to sleep in and relax at the breakfast buffet because today I leave for Africa. I have to take time to wonder about it all. In the morning I wandered around watching as the crowds of coloured football fans grow steadily to hundreds and thousands. My walk to the station is delayed as the police divide divide the teams across the Dam. I miss my train and my shoulders are killing me from my bag. Rushed at the airport I listen as the Africans I will travel with, talk in their deep voices and wide smiles. The loudspeaker is constant in 5 languages also and I am immune to the calls. It's goodbye to Amsterdam and its narrow streets, Its bicycles lined up for miles along the railings that frame the canals. Goodbye to the little house boats and the wonderful array of different cultures, food, fun and football.

Continued in Ghana...

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