Ah, work-related travel… Anything is better than those single-day trips to Brussels I was made to take at some point, but I′m sure that everyone who travels for work is struggling to strike a balance between being fresh and alert in the morning and seeing as much of an unknown city as possible during the limited leisure hours. I stayed in Rome for four days and three nights, with a very busy schedule, but not only the organizers made sure that we see something, but also I was blessed to have a companion who has lived in Rome, as well as a colleague who grew up there and generously shared tips before I went.
I was prepared that if I do not manage to see the famous landmarks, at least I will enjoy charming urban landscapes.
Yet I managed to see everything I wanted – Rome is really easy to navigate, walkable, and has efficient public transportation, given its size and Mediterranean culture.
During my trip to Italy (see blog entries about Milan and Tuscany) I had short stopovers in Prato (Tuscany) and Bologna (Emilia-Romagna). These are both ancient cities with a lot to see. In Prato, we had very little time. Prato is famous for its religious architecture, as well as South Italian and Chinese migrant communities.
I didn’t think twice when my friend, who now lives in Tuscany, offered me to visit her there. I only started to explore the Mediterranean region in 2009, when I went to live in Israel, so it was head-on and initially different experience. Later, when I visited Turkey, Egypt, Spain, South France and Portugal on shorter trips, I decided that it would have been a better strategy to start from short vacations – as most people do. To admire the healthy cuisine(s) of the region. To enjoy the sea and the sun without having to solve various cultural and integration problems.
Most things were really intuitive in Turkey, Spain, South France and Portugal. When something was very different, I saw it in a positive light. But Italy happened to be more surprising (socially) in many aspects than all these countries. I’ve already written a bit about my trip to Milan. My trip to Tuscany started after that.
Milan was not on my travel wishlist, but this is one of the main gateways to Italy from Lithuania, since Ryanair and Wizzair fly there. Milan is known as the industrial and business capital of Italy. I have met many Italians who have worked there at some point in their lives – and usually did not quite enjoy it. Milan is known to be stressful and competitive, even merciless. Meanwhile, the Milanese are said to be complaining that they earn Italy’s GDP while everyone else is just chilling. My expat friend living in Italy also mentioned the extreme fashion-consciousness in Milan, where, in her experience, people really judge you if you are not fashionable enough. I couldn’t say I got to know Milan, busted or confirmed all these generalizations during the short time I spent there, but the real gateway to the city was my Couchsurfing host, who also commented on my friends’ memories and impressions from living here. Continue reading →