Italy – all about the food!

The most important part of travelling as a vegan, as all fellow vegans know, is finding yummy food to sustain your journey and also bring much joy and happiness. With a growing number of specialist outlets as well as vegan options appearing on standard menus, it can still be a little tricky navigating new countries and towns that are still to catch up with the ‘revolution’ 😉

In Italy it proved difficult at times, not just because of what was on offer, but also for what I fancied eating. It would be easy to survive on the classic spaghetti al pomodoro, which is served pretty much everywhere, providing you go without the usual addition of parmesan sprinkled on top, but stuffing up on breads and pasta isn’t for everyone. Especially the health-conscious amongst us. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get creative or walk a little bit further to find somewhere that serves good food or are open to making some alterations to their menu for you. And in Italy I did find that most were at least aware of veganisim and happy to accommodate. However, I didn’t venture far off the HappyCow beaten track… sometimes when you’ve been walking for miles around a city all day the last thing you want to do is meander your way around back lanes for even more miles when you’re hungry for something tasty!

Good news is (very good news in fact) Italy has become even more vegan-friendly since my visit last September. New vegan places are popping up everywhere and there are more vegan options on the standard menus as well. Good work Italy!

So here are my top picks from my travels through Italy:


Trattoria Enzo & Peiro (see their website
A cute little tavern on the road I was staying on, which was very convenient. A friendly place where the waitresses was very au fait with veganism and very happy to go through the menu to help choose something that suits the vegan diet. Thankfully she also had great English skills! The food was very fresh, well made comforting home-cooked style food and was the perfect end to a day of walking around the city. A yummy soup followed by a delicious tart washed down with a fantastic glass of red wine. Superb!


Veg & Veg (see details on HappyCow)
Based on the first floor within the bustling food market, Mercato Centrale, this corner counter serves a wonderful selection of burgers and salads (select your own), juices etc. I opted for the delicious arzillo burger and wasn’t disappointed, although the patty was a bit squishy and the spices came from the mayo rather than the burger itself. Bun was toasted, very nice, and portions are very good. Salad options seemed a bit pricey to me as I didn’t want to just choose 3 items 😀


Brac – Liberia di contemporanea
Situated down a narrow quiet street, near the river and Ponte Vecchio, is this little haven for foodies, artists and readers. The cute backyard between the bar area and the restaurant is nice to sit in for a beer but I dined in the bar area and got chatting to a handful of others from America and South India who had very interesting stories to share and made the dining experience relaxed and open. Owner is very knowledgable about vegan food and I felt a bit spoilt for choice! Went with a potato and bean salad in the end – huge portions, hearty and wholesome food.



Bio & Chocolate (see details and reviews on Happy Cow)
Unfortunately I didn’t come across this place until my last day. There is so much yummy stuff going on here, definitely must go if you’re in town! I only had a few little snacks but it was tasty and had I known about it earlier (was on Happy Cow but didn’t seem like it offered proper meals, just drinks and chocolates – which isn’t the case) I would have worked my way through much more of their offerings. Staff and owner very friendly and knowledgable, open to new suggestions.


Whilst there are gelaterias everywhere, this is a chain throughout Italy offering fruity flavoured dairy-free gelato and sorbets. I sampled their fig and peach which was delicious and enjoyed sat in the sunshine-filled Piazza del Campo.



And, if you have access to a kitchen during your stay, you’d do well to pop up to Conad supermarket where they have lots of healthy alternatives at reasonable prices, as well as a large selection of dairy-free goodies in the chiller! I bought some nice bread (check the labels) ‘mozzarella’, black olives, fresh basil and some gnocchi (again, check the labels) which turned into a couple of tasty gnocchi dishes as well as sandwiches for my onward journey to Rome. Perfect!



Again, I was fortunate to have access to another kitchen so I made up a few things at the hostel, but there were a few options out and about. Unfortunately they are spread out across this large city and some had strange opening hours or were closed for some reason or another, but the ones I found and experienced were pretty good.

Écru – vegan and raw. Pure deliciousness! 

Rifugio Romano – a laid back restaurant, almost gastro-style, but with an extensive vegan menu. And I mean EXTENSIVE! Was spoilt for choice. I had arancini for starters followed by a risotto dish…that didn’t look or photograph too good I will admit, but tasted very nice indeed.



Life in Naples would not be complete without a tasty pizza, it is the birthplace of pizza after all! And if there is only one place you must have on your Must Go To list it has to be the original, L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele.

Featured in the film Eat Pray Love, it has always been a local’s favourite but is now also a bit of a tourist attraction. Expect to wait a good hour standing outside before seats become available and your number is called. The time waiting can be pretty funny though with all the cars trying to squeeze through the crowds and incessant beeping from scooters. But the wait is totally worth it and the ‘Marinara’ is the choice for vegans as it comes without cheese.


Tandem Ragù
Set back a narrow side street with outdoor seating these guys will help you choose some tasty vegan versions of local cuisine. I also tried my first non-alcoholic beer here and was pretty impressed! A very satisfying meal with loads of bread, a brisk walk home helped digest the hearty food.


Shanti Art Musik Bar
I ventured here on my last day to chill out for a few hours before heading back to Rome to catch my flight to India. Had passed by the night before, when I ended up in Tandem instead as this place was just SO happening and very busy. What I loved about it was the Indian theme – how very apt for my last cafe before my flight to Delhi! The vibe was chilled (in the daytime), with cosy cushions, brightly painted wooden furniture and a great menu I wished I’d had more time (and money) to try more delicious dishes, juices and smoothies.


Coming soon…. FOOD IN INDIA!



Beautiful holy lake, trek up to the Savitri Mata Temple, Laughing Chocolate Balls, chill-out time, best falafel wraps, finding a fab yoga teacher, amazing Ayurvedic massage and getting our spines re-aligned – as you do! 

Oh Pushkar, what a wonderful place you are!

Arriving on the local bus from Ajmer we caught our first glimpse of the holy lake as we meandered along the main market road that led us to our next Moustache Hostel. Immediately blissed out and excited at the same time, our senses were treated to sights, smells and the prospects that lay ahead of us in this holy town where we were looking forward to relaxing and taking it easy for the next 5-6 days. Was so nice having loose plans and not needing to be anywhere or think about anything except where to go of food, for a while.

Unloading our bags in our new dorms I recognised a face who had also just arrived from the Jaipur hostel! (I will need to learn to not be surprised at this – it happens a lot). But what were the chances? So the three new besties became four as we strolled around our new surroundings, thinking about shopping and food and what to do with our days ahead. The hostel was (again) brilliant – although this time the bathrooms were typical dorm style (not like the plush ones we had in Jaipur) and in place of a rooftop restaurant we had a beautiful big garden, perfect for chilling out in.

Moustache Hostel, Pushkar

Around town we discovered several good places to eat but The Laughing Buddha became a favourite, especially with the Laughing Chocolate Balls on the menu (I’ll let you guess what they are :D) as well as several vegan options to keep me happy. It was also a beautifully decorated little place with lots of artwork and comments from previous patrons who’d also fell in love with it, and it offered a view over the streets perfect for people-watching. The owner was very friendly and had interesting stories to share and happily joined us in a few games one evening. After the chocolate balls had been eaten 🙂  Was good to hang out with a local and hear, through tears, how he had ‘climbed’ from his original ‘untouchable’ status to become an established business owner, something that must have been extremely hard to do. His passion was strong, and together with his obvious tenacity he was now living his dream – although not without its struggles as many business in India seem to endure.

Some of the highlights of this part of my trip included:

Going to an Indian wedding! OK so we ‘sort of’ went to one. Next to the hostel was a venue that, seeing as it was in the thick of Wedding Season, was holding weddings every night and we decided one evening to stick our heads in seeing as we could hear it all anyway and everyone is always saying to go to one if you can. The idea is that there are so many people at these events no-one will know or are too much if you don’t actually know the married couple or their guests. And seeing as we were westerners we’d probably be treated very well! So standing at the threshold of the party, two of our four got cold feet, but Mati and I forged on in as though we were meant to be there. We stared in amusement at the colours and statues and piles of food as well as the bride and groom sat in the middle of the stage watching everyone have fun without them (well that’s what we thought anyway).  But soon the other two joined us and we started to get noticed and had some chats with the beautifully dressed women who invited us to the actual wedding in a few days. There was quite a bit of dancing going on on another stage which entertained us for a bit and eventually, yes you guessed, we got invited to join them. So up Miriam and I went for a good boogie to some great Indian pop music. Was such fun, a pure gem of an experience. (Of note, we didn’t make it back for the wedding as we were too blissed out in The Laughing Buddha – see below. But we did watch the procession from the balcony, if that counts).


An amazing Ayurvedic massage with Deepak Sen (who also provides a short but very useful consultation on your constitution and how best to keep things in balance). No photos soz! But definitely check him out if you’re in the area and need a very good massage. He comes highly rated. We also got our spines re-aligned by Miriam, who is a newly qualified and very gifted chiropractor. Tears fell as she cracked a few back ribs and gave me her permission to release all the things I’ve been holding on to over the years.  It wasn’t painful, just a major release. With all this caring bodywork I’d received I felt like a new woman.

Mate receiving treatment from the talented and spirited Miriam

A trek up to the Savitri Mata Temple (only 40 mins but the second half of the climb needed several rests it was sooooo steep!) But the climb in the heat was worth it – impressive panoramas of Pushkar and the surrounding desert-like barren area. Little families of cute monkeys lined the walkway and temple, with some very new-borns trying to learn to jump and climb. Was utterly awesome.

Finding an amazing yoga teacher, by chance, when attending a morning class at the Sunset Hotel (was within easy walking distance and cheaper than the other classes I’d seen advertised) with a different teacher. Hahrendra, who was to become my new, personal teacher, learned that I had recently received my 200hr teaching certificate but hadn’t yet taught – and was feeling rather unconfident about starting… so he offered to share some advice and handy tips if I practiced teaching him. (the former became the predominant way we spent the hour 😀 along with some playful acroyoga). But before that, he threw me in the deep end and got me to lead the beginning of our first class, which I’d turned up with two of my three new besties. Wow – I wasn’t expected that! Luckily the first 15-20 mins or so of a class I feel kind of ok in leading, so I decided to just go with it, remembering the feedback I’d received in my training to speak up and clearly, though worrying I’d not give the correct advice or spot if they needed help aligning. Anyway it went well and I ‘let’ him (read: begged) to take over the class once a few more people turned up! And for the next 4 days or so I headed to his studio at 4pm to work through good exercises for strengthening and improving flexibility and hear his good advice and – my word – it was such a help. I felt my confidence grow, confusions dissipate and ideas on how to lead a class become much clearer. I will be forever thankful to him for his time and generosity.

There were plenty of places to get vegan food and teas/coffees thankfully. One good find in particular was the falafel wraps on the main street (cheap, quick, delicious) and a few bakery stands that offered a host of flavoured vegan cakes. One evening we were stood around one such stall each taking our time to decide which cake to go for. I was focusing hard on which one to choose when the others started laughing… as I became aware of their giggles I turned to look at them and found a cow poking his head up the side of my arm checking out the cakes too! So the seller gave me some leftover cake to share with the cow who greedily took the whole thing in his mouth – paper plate included! Having witnessed the many cows wondering the streets and often eating all kinds of rubbish – plastic, cardboard boxes etc – I decided I couldn’t be responsible for one more non-nutritious waste matter ended up in this cow’s stomach. So I quickly pulled it back out, although the cow slightly protested, much to the others amusement.


Watching the many tourists taking photographs of themselves by the holy lake, with signs behind them stating ‘no photography’. 😀

Catching our first glimpses of Nadu Sadhus (naked yogis) wandering the streets with their dreadlocked hair wrapped on their heads, bodies painted in ash.

Whilst we didn’t do too much (wasn’t too much to do anyway) it was fab having some down time and also hanging out with some lovely people who became my good friends. But from here we went our separate ways… two went to Agra, but on different days, the other headed up north to Dharamshala where the mountains were calling her name. My next stop was Udaipur, having decided to leave out visiting Jodhpur and Jaisalmer as I didn’t fancy all the extra travelling, preferring instead to spend more time in a few select places. Plus I had some time restrictions now as a good friend from the UK was due to be in Mumbai the following week, who I just had to catch up with as it had been a while, so it made more sense to start heading south rather than continuing west. But Pushkar is a firm favourite, reminding me of my blessed Rishikesh in many ways and although sad to leave I was also interested to see what Udaipur held in store.

Pics from the streets of Pushkar…. 

Aaaaand food pics for those interested…


So next, Udaipur

Travel tips and funny customs….

**This is being updated as I go – more will follow!**


  • Trains are safe, fast, reliable. Get an Italiarail pass to enjoy some discounts on travel, attractions, events etc. There is also a VIP lounge for members at Rome station (or you can pay for a day pass) which offers free WiFi, air con, free afternoon nibbles and drinks (inc booze!) and assistance with booking, planning etc.
  • In train stations where there are no electronic schedule boards, look for the printed ones displayed on the walls and on platforms. You should find your scheduled train listed and will guide you to the correct platform.
  • Even if it says you have as little as 5-10 minutes to change at a station, providing it is not a big, main station you should have plenty of time to find your train. The only downside is some stations don’t have lifts/escalators so if you have luggage you will be lugging it up and down steps!
  • Eating out as a vegan can be limited, especially in smaller towns. Even worse if you are celiac or gluten intolerant as main/only choice is likely to be spaghetti pomodoro. Always good to ask for alternatives though as they are usually happy to help. In mid-expensive restaurants you could call ahead so the chef has time to get the ingredients and prepare the dish. I always found this to be appreciated in London and the chefs love having to create something different!
  • Siena was quite tricky for eating out, very limited options, although Bio & Chocolate had lots of sweet and savoury snacks with more filling options at lunch and dinner and was very affordable. It was also located in a quiet street away from the crowds which was very welcome.
  • As with any country, having some basic language skills always goes down well. And Italian is a beautiful, expressive language that is fun to speak in, so maybe brush up on some pleasantries and words that will help you get around.



  • Udaipur airport is small and has one type of canteen. So unless you’re not fussy, and especially if you’re vegan, it would be wise to take some snacks with you.
  • It is likely you will receive lots of intense stares when out and about. Don’t be put off by this, it’s just curiosity. Mostly.
  • It is likely you will be asked to have a selfie taken with the locals. Be careful if you say yes as a queue might form! In some place (Delhi mostly) they might even ask you to pay them for the privilege! I decided early on to only have my photos taken with children, families or all females. For obvious reasons.
  • Travelling in the trains is relatively safe and easy providing you go with an open mind (which needs to be permanently open if you are to enjoy what India has to offer!) and accept the friendliness of others. If traveling alone as a female, it helps to acknowledge your fellow passengers to make friends and feel safer. Best options are other females and families but I’ve had fine experiences with solo men who will often try a little conversation and share their food.
  • Delhi is totally overwhelming if you haven’t experienced India before. And even if you have it can blow your mind a little. A second visit is usually way more enjoyable when you’ve got your head around it a little, but try not to let it spoil your time.
  • Delhi metro is an excellent and cheap way to get around. Very reliable. There are female-only carriages if you prefer but I’ve also had a nice reception from guys in the general carriages and people tend to give up their seats or make more space for women as well. Only be cautious when traveling during very busy times when the carriages are cramped and you’ll be pushed around in the throng of people getting off/on!



Wow. Delhi. It’s so it’s true what they say about you! Crazy, chaotic, hot, beautiful, mindblowing….

My 7hr something flight from Rome to Delhi was uneventful and pleasant and actually went by pretty quickly, which I think was helped by watching a film whilst eating my meal with a small glass of wine and then promptly falling asleep for several hours. I woke a couple of times thinking I had just dozed off yet the crink in my neck and announcement we were only an hour away from landing confirmed I had actually properly slept. So upon arrival at Delhi airport at 7:30am I was actually pretty refreshed and alert. Who needs business class eh?!

I flew with Air India and despite being a predominantly vegetarian airline these days still didn’t quite get the concept/were unable to provide a full vegan meal. I could smell delicious curry as soon as I boarded and felt instantly ravenous for my first dish. As being vegan means being ‘special’ my meal came out first. Yesssss! No waiting! But then I had many curious eyes all directed at me wondering why I got mine first. That was my first experience of the intense staring…. And so of course I couldn’t start to eat it, as no-one likes an audience as they tuck in to their food. So I waited for a few more people to get theirs (luckily the service was amazingly quick and efficient) but then faced major disappointment when I opened the main carton to find…. grilled/boiled veggies and plain rice. No luscious curry gravy. Gahhh. I checked my fellow passengers’ meals and yes, there it was, the gorgeous smelling thick curry I had been salivating over. I consoled myself that it probably contained milk, butter, ghee, paneer. But it would have been soooo easy to make the same thing without any of that dairy…! Ah well. My meal still filled me up, which was good as the rest of the items on the tray were not vegan, including the dessert. And it also meant, in my unique way of thinking, that I could therefore treat myself to a glass of wine. Which in turn helped me sleep. Win win.

Arriving in Delhi airport was my first introduction to The Way Things Work in India. I needed money and a SIM card and a taxi to my hotel. I’d heard about the scams (more in the Travel Tips page if interested/need to know, coming soon) and felt kinda confident I’d be prepared, but when actually there, with only the airport workers to ask, who seemed to wobble their heads a lot in answer to my questions not confirming yes or no, I was going to have to keep my wits about me and stay strong.

Luckily all three services (money, SIM card and taxi service) were all located together in little booths on the way out and this proved to be the most straight forward part of my airport-hotel run experience. First up: money. I’d heard that in Rishikesh, where I was going to be doing my yoga teacher training and where I would need to pay the balance upon arrival (and which was quite a lot of money) getting cash out can be quite tricky. Turns out getting cash is quite tricky in Delhi too, although at least not as bad as this time last year when the cash machines ran dry every day. So I thought I’d do it at the airport in one go and not have to worry about it any more. Unfortunately it wasn’t so straight forward. Swiping my debit card in the Thomas Cook desk revealed I had not transferred the money from my savings to my current account and I could not access my savings account either with a card (I don’t have one) or online (I had no SIM card/online access). So I paid over the odds fees to get out just enough for my stay in Delhi. Finding more cash before leaving Delhi would have to become a new task for the coming days…. Next up SIM card. Easy peasy. Just had to wait an hour or so to be connected (took another day or two to get the mobile data working) and this meant still no access to Google for assistance or maps to check the taxi driver was taking me the right way and all the other things we rely on our phones for.

Next up: taxi to hotel. I was offered 400 rupees in a non-AC ‘black and yellow’ cab or double that in an AC plush taxi. I opted for the former to cut down on unnecessary costs, took the voucher and went off to find said taxis. A long line of black and yellow taxis lined the road and as I worked my way to the front the drivers approached me forming a big crowd around me saying their taxi was the best and to go with them! It was quite comical and slightly unnerving! I couldn’t remember the protocol and got in an old battered tiny cab and handed over the voucher, something I should have probably done at the end of the journey, but ah well, I arrived safely.

The journey to the hotel was amazing. I had to keep pinching myself that I was here finally, in my beloved India! Somewhere I had felt an infinity to for so many years but had never been here. How can you want something or know something would be good for you when you’ve never actually experienced it or known it before? When you feel that way it is very special, and something you have to find a way to make happen in your lifetime. Something deep inside is calling you there, calling you to feel something new, deeper, raw, to learn something about yourself, other people, a new philosophy maybe. Whatever it is, when you have it, act on it.

Anyway I digress! The taxi ride presented me to what will be the ever presence beeping of horns. Man they love to beep them horns! And traffic/driving is crazy and chaotic and seems to be so dangerous with lanes marked for two becoming three sometimes four actual lanes of vehicles swerving in and out of each other, beep beep beeping… yet somehow works. These guys would make excellent rally drivers! And also along the way….. monkeys. Yes I did say MONKEYS! At the side of the road, right next to people, clambering along the fence…. and wild piggies, cows – of course but I wasn’t expecting them in the middle of a busy main road!  The driver skilfully got us around the wandering cows without any harm. Then there were people. So many people. So much poverty. I caught my first glimpse of a slum and the first sightings of people so poor they lived on the roadside with just the clothes on their backs, probably defecating and urinating right by where they sleep. So many people with nothing. How can this be?

And then we pull up to my hotel. I’d booked something a little plush, not too posh, but definitely higher end, thinking I would need it from my flight and to gently ease into Delhi life. And it is here we pulled up outside to the doormen and bellboy in our little battered non-AC taxi! I couldn’t stop giggling, handed the driver a healthy tip (was so glad to have made it there in one piece without being the victim of the many scams I’d heard about I figured it was money well spent) and proceeded to put all my luggage through a scanner before entering the smart, AC’d lobby to wait for my room to be ready. Whilst waiting the staff were very attentive bringing me coffee and tea, finding soya milk etc. Being a female solo traveller has its perks! The next two days at breakfast all the waiters knew I’d like soya milk with my coffee and went about making a very nice cappuccino for me, so nice!

But Delhi was about to be hit by another short (thankfully) monsoon rain. It was to last two days and was unbelievably humid in the day I arrived leading up to it. I took solace in my comfortable room with it’s massive bed and just rested, thinking about what I would do with my 4 days in Delhi and also pondering the journey I’d booked from there to Varanasi…. something I wasn’t quite sure was the right thing to be doing….

Those first two days were the hardest for me in India. I had the safety and security of the hotel yet didn’t want to be stuck in there, especially alone, knowing there was so much to explore outside. It was scary heading out into the thick of it, but necessary. I I was going to fall at the first hurdle I may as well get on the next flight home with my tail between my legs. So out I did venture…. Thank goodness my Googlemaps, saving my skin again! And also group walking tours. I joined a ‘free’ (ie make a donation at the end) walking tour of Old Delhi, in the pouring rain, and was so glad I did. There I met fellow travellers who sparked some adventure and inspiration in to me as well as pass on handy travel tips. It meant I also got to witness the intense stares from the local natives whilst feeling a little more safe having people around me who ‘knew’ me and were in the same boat. It also allow me to find my feet with the Metro (sort of), find some confidence to walk around the narrow lanes and busy roads as well as see a working elephant wandering down the main road whilst in my taxi taking me to the walk starting point.


After getting pretty wet and saying goodbye to the lovely people on the walk, I somehow made my way back to the hotel alone via my first go on the (very, very squishy) Metro and a 15 minute or so walk passing surreal extremes of poverty and riches, arriving at the plush hotel with the filthiest wet, muddy feet I think I have ever had (save for Glastonbury Festival 2012). Again, making an entrance to the nice hotel 😀

It soon became time to leave the sanctuary of the hotel and make my way to Zostel, a hostel near the main railway station and a few minute’s walk to the Main Bazaar Road (which I did wander down and made my first market purchases – two pairs of trousers for Rs 250, total bargain). If I thought I was in the thick of it at the hotel, then this location was in the centre of the storm! Bewildering as it was, in hindsight I can safely say it was probably a good move. It also meant that instead of hiding away in my room I shared a female dorm room with two others, who were to become my friends, and also hung around the lobby where I met a few others, including a lovely German guy who wanted to go see some sights on a tuktuk. Thankfully he invited me along as doing these kind of things for the first time is much easier when not doing them alone! And he was way more confident and experienced so I get to learn the ropes, so to speak, in a nice afternoon spent in the grounds of a beautiful serene temple and visiting the highly touristy India Gate. Unfortunately he had to leave that evening so we exchanged contact details and said our goodbyes. Luckily my two dorm-mates were perfectly balanced in the being sociable but not OTT scales and we got chatting.

The next day I was due to leave for Rishkesh, having changed my travel plans and cancelled my train to Varanasi. I’d decided it would be nice to arrive early in the place I would be staying for 4 weeks for the yoga teacher training course (YTTC) and get to know the place. Plus it looked gorgeous in the travel guides; a valley town surrounded by mountains and nature with the glorious turquoise Ganges running through the centre and filled with backpackers, yoga and meditation seekers. It seemed just the tonic I needed after feeling quickly wiped out by Delhi. I just needed to get there, but compared to the 14hr train ride to Varanasi I had originally booked, the 5hr train ride to Rishikesh would be easy! Although I could see there was some charm to Delhi, I wasn’t sorry to be saying goodbye to Delhi. Many fellow travellers felt the same way, it’s just so overwhelming and, as someone quite well put it, astonishing! Maybe some more time in India will help me get used to things. Let’s hope Rishikesh will be the just the place.

Next stop: Rishikesh!



Pizza! Music! Vibrance! Passion! Creativity! The ocean! What more could you want….?! 

OK so I was getting more and more fraught with worry about going to Naples, especially as it was to be my last stop before leaving Italy and I didn’t want anything to spoil my amazing experience here so far. I’d heard lots about pickpockets, muggings and murders (!) but not just via word of mouth, it came straight from those who it had happened to. To make matters worse, the hostel in Rome gave us the unfortunate news that the two girls who had shared our dorm room and gone on to Naples the day before had been involved in an attempted mugging by a couple of guys on scooters. Fortunately they didn’t lose their belongings, but what is perhaps even worse, is that one of them got dragged to the ground and hurt her arms and legs quite badly. I can only imagine how frightening something like that can be, and how extra vulnerable and distrusting one would become after such an event. I felt awful for her. I too had my handbag snatched one evening when I lived in Bristol, again by a gang who followed me in a car…. it took me years to feel ok about walking in the dark alone again, even if it was still early evening. It’s a horrible thing to happen, makes you feel like you are susceptible to the worst possible things that can possibly happen in life and it turns everything on it’s head making you feel that you no longer have control over your own your own life or can do anything independently because you fear the worse. I hope she recovers well and can enjoy the rest of her travels and it doesn’t ruin her experience of Italy.

However…..! Despite the chaotic, noisy and manic reception I was greeted with as I came out of the train station (where for a brief moment I confirmed in my head I was nuts for coming here) I turned into the main road where my bed & breakfast is located and passed by a side street on my left which was totally the most typical Napoleon street you could ever imagine – just like you see in the movies! Except there it was in real life! I could not believe the scene it literally took my breath away. The sun was perfectly over the street casting a golden glow and I wish wish WISH I had the nerve to stop and take out my camera and capture it right there and then. But I didn’t. I still had The Fear. I had all my luggage with me and felt like an obvious newcomer, a tourist – someone worth mugging! So I told myself I would return later and sneak some photos. Well, I tried this several times but it never quite had the same impact and I feel my photos unfortunately reflect this. But the memory of the scene hitting me with full whack in the face, and in the heart, will remain forever, and for that I am grateful. It is those moments in life, when travelling, with loved-ones etc, that sometimes can never be captured in a frame anyway. They are the ones worth storing in our busy fuddled brains, to pull up whenever we need to be cheered up, reminded of the great things, people and places we’ve been lucky enough to encounter in our short, wonderful lives. They are life’s gifts.

The street in Naples that blew my mind… it was just like in the movies! 

So my impression of Naples was quickly improving. Sounds of samba music, the constant beeps from scooters and cars on the busy roads, the amount of what appeared to be local people rather than hoards of other tourists all seemed to make me feel like I had somehow found another place that could be considered ‘home’. It was gritty, chaotic, colourful, confusing and hot. But it was alive and brilliant and intriguing, all the ingredients that make discovering a new area liberating and exciting – and also provide more opportunities to learn more about oneself and others.

My bed and breakfast accommodation was slightly indulgent, which I felt was justified as I had a long journey to India ahead. It was a peaceful haven in amongst the chaos, right on Piazza Nicola Amore, fairly close to the train station and not too far from the port. The port was somewhere I was anxious to get to – I was in desperate need of seeing the sea! So after checking in I attempted to find food (there are a few vegan options in Naples, thankfully) and walk to the port to see the sea and smell the fresh sea air.

The food conundrum was simple. One of the oldest and best pizzerias in Naples, which had also come highly recommended by some other travellers, was just a short 4 minute walk from where I was staying. Seeing as it offers a vegan pizza (there are only two topping options, the marinara is vegan) and also featured in Eat Pray Love, it went without saying that a visit was in order. One thing I wasn’t prepared for though, even at 3pm on a Monday afternoon, was queuing for 1.5hrs…. and this was spent standing outside in the street in a crowd, often moving out of the way for impatient but skilfully driven scooters hooting their way through.  I was hungry when I arrived. Starving by the time my number was called. As it is a sit-wherever-seats-become-available kind of place, I had to hijack the table of a couple who had been glued to each other’s faces in the queue outside, thereby no doubt ruining their romantic experience. But she wished me a good afternoon when she left with a friendly wave, so I guess they knew the score and maybe even…. ewwwwwww felt sorry for me dining alone! Oh god. Apparently it is considered as odd here in Italy, a sorry scene even, to be dining as a woman alone. Oh well. Am used to it now! But visiting the pizzeria was an experience, one that had to be done before I left Naples and I’d done it within a few hours of arriving. Happy days.

From here I needed to walk a bit, walk off the lump of dough sitting in my happy but heavy belly and so I attempted to walk to the port. It was getting on a bit and despite feeling a little bit better about the town I was still going to heed the advice of not walking around after dark, so time was limited. I spent most of the following hour trying to reach the sea…. the whole area seemed to be big busy roads and dead ends leading to massive cruise ships so I couldn’t get to the sea!  Defeated, I went back to the B&B, happy that the next day I would be meeting up with one of the girls from my Rome dorm for a day trip to Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius. The weather forecast was not great but it would be better navigating the rather confusing and complex journey by public transport to the sights with a friend rather than alone.

Unfortunately, she messaged the next morning to say she wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t face the long journey (she’d opted for the cheapest but therefore longest train from Rome to Naples, which would have taken about 3 hours!) and therefore wouldn’t be joining me. Which was such a shame, poor thing, as she had already been to Naples once and missed out on going to Pompeii then too. It was her dream to go, she had told me.  But this also left me with a difficult situation as it was by then too late to join a tour in order to still see the two sights, and I did not feel confident about going alone on public transport. Again, the bad stories were plaguing my mind and keeping me locked in the safe and secure B&B bedroom, away from any potential risks and hazards!

I took a moment to breathe. To accept and acknowledge that I only had one whole day in Naples, which was also to be my last day in Italy, and I really didn’t want to let it go to waste. I was almost glad in a way that Pompeii and Vesuvius were off the menu as I had really wanted to see more of Naples and now the opportunity had presented itself. So I (mentally) pulled on my Big Girls Pants and got a grip on myself and started looking at local walking tours or some kind of guided tour and found a golden nugget. A tour of old Naples and the port, with a guide and a car – and it was affordable and didn’t start until 13:30 so I had plenty of time to book, confirm and get ready! It also meant I could be back in time for dinner somewhere before dark. Everything was working out fine. It was all going to be ok.

And so I met the guide at a nearby hotel and we got in a Mercedes to pick up a couple who would also be joining the tour from their very posh hotel in the port area. It was nice it being a small group with just the three of us and the guide (and driver). Made it more intimate and personal plus we had more choice over where we wanted to go. The guide was excellent too. A lovely local lady of similar age to me, who had had a similar recent burning desire inside to change her life up recently which led her back to her home town after some years away. She was very knowledgable about the area, the history and had lots of interesting quirky facts and it made for quite an entertaining experience, especially as the couple (from America and Australia) were both in the travel business and seemed to ask very interesting questions that brought even more intrigue to the town and it’s culture. But the best bit was getting up close to the sea, and then driving up the hill to get an amazing view of the town and bay. Blue sky and blue sea stretched for miles. Open space, nature, fresh air. It was a beautiful day and we marked the end of the tour with some vegan gelatos by the ocean. Perfect.

That evening I went in search of some vegan food, and was met with typical European time issues…. the first place was due to close at 7pm, and when I got there at 6:30pm it was already closed… the second place was meant to open at 6:30pm but when I got there 10 mins later they were still opening up and told me the kitchen would be open about half an hour later…. but by then I was in the thick of the back streets, meandering with Googlemaps as my guide as this was definitely the kind of place you could get lost and I wasn’t sure how I felt about the environment. It seemed very much a locals place, tiny little bars and shops peeping out of the darkened small streets and they seemed a little bit interested in me walking about as well. So a quick review of the situation and finding somewhere else on HappyCow to try, I found myself walking along a route we had done on the tour earlier that day, which was nice as it was familiar to me (which is always reassuring in a new place where you’re not entirely sure where you’re going) and even more of a bonus, it led me to one of those amazing pedestrianised streets where everyone is walking, shopping, eating, drinking, chatting – the place to be. I love it when this kind of thing happens!

Here I found Shanti Art & Music Bar, which looked amazing but was very busy so I earmarked it as somewhere to come and chill out for a few hours the next day whilst waiting for the train back to Rome in the afternoon, and walked a few doors down a side street to Tandem, which not only offered vegan options but also had outside seats available. Bonus! The guys there took good care of me and served up some delicious food and I even opted for a non-alcoholic beer. Which is a new experience for me! Tasted good – in fact it tasted even better knowing there would be no repercussions from drinking it!

It was dark by the time I had to make my way back and I have to say sticking to the main busier streets and roads is the way to go. Feeling familiar with the route also helps, so maybe after a few days of getting to know the area, marking out territories that need to be avoided, if only because of how you feel when you’re in them, certainly helps you enjoy the town and feel confident with being out and about. Same goes for any town/city really. The other great thing is the city is cheap. Everything was way cheaper than say Florence or Siena, even Rome.

The next day was my final day in Italy (boooooooo) and I had a bit of a wait in Naples before boarding the train to Rome airport so I did what I planned to do, sit in Shanti Art & Musik bar eating a bit of brunch and chilling out as much as possible. It was the perfect location as it was very quiet, and the place was decorated with lots of India-inspired hippie cushions, throws, bunting and art, getting me in the mood for my upcoming trip to India and getting in the mindset for finding peace and spirituality!


Leaving Naples, passing Mount Vesuvius (don’t worry, I will be back to climb you, for sure!) on the way to Rome airport…. goodbye Italy, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Will be back to see more of the South another time. Until then xxx


Ancient ruins, weary feet, thunderstorms, meeting super human beings, beautiful fountains and gin

I arrived safely in Rome, and in style, thanks to my Italiarail Pass which upgraded my seats free of charge to Premier. Woohoo! Whilst this might seem like an unnecessary treat for a backpacker, it is really rather handy as there is more luggage space in these carriages and you can even fit cases behind the seats, therefore they are always near you, which is so reassuring when you want to sit back, relax and enjoy the view and not be worrying about your stuff going off with strangers. It meant I also got free water, coffee and snacks. Not bad eh. The trains are very easy to navigate, even if you have to change at stations. Although watch out/listen out for last minute changes to platforms, I’ve been almost caught out twice already.

As for Rome…. I arrived with some trepdiation. A busy city, known for pickpocketing, sprawled out over several Kms so not quite as easy to walk around as Florence and Siena were.  I didn’t fancy the local public transport and so braced myself for some severe walking, especially as I only had one full day there to squeeze everything in.

I was welcomed at the hostel by a couple of super friendly and knowledgeable young guys from the Philippines and offloaded my stuff into the 4-bed female dorm, finding myself once again in the top bunk. I was getting a little negative in my head as I realised there was only one bathroom between appx 12 people and a small kitchen, which was handy, but wasn’t quite offering the space to relax and chill out that I felt I really needed. I needn’t have worried though as it worked out to be a very cosy and super friendly place where it was much easier to get chatting to the others than in a larger hostel, or hotel.

I was feeling a little displaced and uncertain about what to do with myself and didn’t really feel like hanging around on my bunk so forced myself out into the streets with my trusty GoogleMaps, HappyCow app and an old fashioned map. Not wanting to venture too far as it was already late in the day, and it would seem no-one liked walking around Rome after dark, I opted for the nearest place to eat listed on HappyCow which turned out to be a pretty good idea as their vegan menu was pretty extensive! Took me a while to decide what to have, but in the end went with two arancini balls (yum) and a tumeric and lemon risotto with seitan pieces (which really didn’t look very appetising, but was actually very tasty) and a small Peroni. Well, when in Rome 😉

Mmmmm arancini!


Eating by myself had really become quite a chore by then but the people at the tables next to me provided some light entertainment (not that they realised) thanks to their loud Southern American drawl, and an older couple who were sat ahead of me spent the entire time barely speaking, with her flicking her finger on the table repeatedly and staring into space… awkward. Was pretty relieved to be dining solo compared to all that.

After dinner, despite wanting to crawl into a ball and hide, I forced myself out back on the streets away from the hostel and headed into ‘town’. A storm was coming (think it was following me from Siena!) and heavy rain had been forecasted which some local entrepreneurs had swooped on the potential to make more money and adorned every street corner selling umbrellas. Passing Palazzo della Republica, the fountain and then many, many shops, I came across a sign for ‘Hollywood Icons’ and experienced a wonderful sensation that I had done the right thing by forcing myself to go out as this was a photography exhibition that I had wanted to see but had missed in London last year! I sat on the steps of the Palazzo delle Esposizioni wondering if I should go in or keep walking and then decided it was fate, and that if I didn’t go in now I would probably forget about it and miss the show again. Plus, it was a Saturday night in Rome – what could be more fitting than visiting an exhibition! And also a great thing to do when you are alone….. And it was marvellous. Lots of famous, classic photographs of course, but also lots of information about the stills photographers who worked in Hollywood from around the 1920s – 50s,  who were largely responsible for making the Hollywood stars the famous icons that they became. Everything was so glamorous and stylish, it was just great.


When I came out of the exhibition however, darkness had descended, it was raining and a full on thunder and lightning storm had started. It was a short walk back to the hostel, maybe 15 minutes or so, with only one spookily quiet road to walk down (I fastened my pace even more so) and only a slight need in my heart to grab my camera from the hostel and head back out to some iconic landmarks to capture the lightning. This soon dissipated as my shoes and socks became soaked through (and the rest of me) and returning to the hostel found a couple of the other girls winding down and ready for bed. Any adventures for the day were surely over.

The next day was the only full day I would have in Rome, so I was up bright and early and ready to go. Well, that wasn’t the plan at all as I was fancying a lie-in with the duvet over my head but the two girls who’d had an early night were up and about, ready for their next journey to Naples, and I found myself picking up their positive energy and wanting to get out there and see the world too. So up I was, ready to leave the building by a surprisingly early 9am. Still not early enough for a trip to Vatican City though. Apparently you need to be there and queuing by 8am. Not gonna happen. Although in hindsight I wish I had made the effort to go as it truly does look astounding.

However I settled for the Colessuem, Palatine Hill, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Ponte Fabricio, Ponte Sant’Angelo, the beautiful long alleyways filled with cute little shops and lined with flowers and plants, Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna before heading back. Quite a filled day! So what did I think, how did it go?

Well it was both pretty awesome and weird to be walking down the road and suddenly there are some ancient ruins popping up out of the ground. And I became acutely aware of how little I knew about what it all was and thinking a guided tour would probably be a good idea. The way I’d walked meant I’d arrived at the ticket office for Palatine Hill and seeing only a small queue was thinking about getting a ticket there, except I didn’t know if it would include the colosseum as well and instead of finding out I just walked off heading in the direction of the colosseum where I found the entire area packed heavily with queues for all kinds of different versions of tickets. Feeling quite flummoxed I figured it might be easier to just walk back to the first office and hope the queues are still quite short, but instead of returning the way I’d come, I decided to head up a pathway that looked like it would be a shortcut.


Up and up and around we went, bumbling over paths made of huge, gappy cobblestones (tip: don’t come here with pushchairs, wheelie cases and the like, it will be impossible) climbing further up rather than along, I soon realised I was on the ticket-less route of Palatine Hill, often peeking a glimpse of those lucky ones on the inside who would be able to enjoy the best views and close-ups of the ruins. However, us weak paupers stuck on the outside were treated to some beautiful music played on what looked like an upside down wok by a lovely, smiley man just as we got to the end of the road and had an opportunity to sit down and catch our breath in the Convent of S. Bonaventura at Palatine before descending back down the way we’d come. A bit of a detour, enough to make me rethink bothering to get a ticket to go inside. Do I regret this? A little. But not loads. I’m not sure if ruins look better on the inside or pretty much the same. I’d image as the interiors are also ruins it isn’t that much more impactful than seeing them from the outside. The only difference is perhaps the colosseum and similar amphitheatre style buildings what with their scope and layout making for an impressive sight.

The fountains (especially the Trevi) were gorgeous as were the little alleyways and the imposing Castel Sant’Angelo. What I realised I liked about the city, after not knowing how I felt about it, was the amount of history on every corner, every road, the architecture, sculptures, the passion and love that the city obviously has in abundance. But I wasn’t so keen on the noise, the amount of people EVERYWHERE and the obvious issue with homelessness that I hadn’t noticed in the previous towns. It also took quite a lot of walking to get around all these attractions and I still missed a few; particularly somewhere to get up high and view the city from above would have been nice.

The downside to the day was losing my glasses, either through carelessness (which I doubt) or from pickpocketing (highly likely). So most of the early evening was spent in the local opticians getting my eyes checked and fitted for some cool new glasses. An expense and inconvenience I hadn’t banked on, but it could have been much, much worse and was easily rectified. I expect the pickpocket was pretty surprised to find it was a glasses case, complete with prescription glasses,  rather than a purse filled with money and bank cards after the swifty swipe. Annoying, but like I said, could have been worse.

But what ended up making my time in Rome ultra-special wasn’t the landmarks – or the pickpocketing – but the people back at the hostel. The staff and fellow room-mates were just lovely, open and friendly and brought about a wonderful ending to an eventful day. I hung out with two in particular that evening, Saori, a girl from Japan who’d been travelling around a large chunk of Europe over 3 weeks, and a boy from Argentina who’d lived in Australia and was staying in Rome whilst organising his residency. Both were warm and kind with funny stories and a playful nature that saw us cracking open a small bottle of Gin (thanks Lolo) getting the guitar out and enjoying an evening of music (thanks, again, Lolo!). We even had to sneak out for more beers, but soon after crashed. It was very late. But it was the most social I’ve been since I’ve left home, and these two felt like instant friends which really made the trip so much more sparkly and magical.

La famiglia (L-R Lolo, Saori, Anna and me)

The next morning I had a train to catch to Naples, a town I had come to dread as I’d heard so many bad things about it (it’s poor and you’ll get robbed for sure) even Lolo was winding me up saying there had been three murders (thanks yet again Lolo :D) So it was with fear and dread I left my new friends in Rome and boarded the train for my last stop in Italy.


Medieval brick buildings, winding alleyways, gelato, chilling out, vegan food in the supermarket(!), making new friends, a room with a view, thunderstorms and some hot sunshine

In essence the above pretty much sums up my time in beautiful Siena! It was a time to relax, enjoy three nights in my own room (with an amazing view!) centrally located by the Duomo and a few hundred years from Piazza del Campo and all the cafes, restaurants, bars, shops you could ever need and everything within the central was within a 10-15 mins walk. Apart from the train station. And this is the most important thing I could possibly share with you, if you ever plan to visit Siena by train:  avoid the hassle of trying to navigate the buses or facing a VERY long UPHILL walk into town by jumping in a a taxi. Will cost you around 7 Euros. Wish I had done it. And I didn’t even have to face the main hill into town as there are about 10 escalators from the shopping mall to get you up the majority of the hill but it’s still a good 15-20 walk over cobble streets with wheelie luggage/backpacks…..

Anyway, after the long slog and arriving sweaty and knackered, I quickly fell in love with Siena. It’s a peaceful town where there isn’t so much to do that you’re rushing to fit everything in. It’s all within walkable distance and lots of beautiful side streets to explore. That said, I left wishing I could stay longer as I had by then settled into the Italian way of life and learned to slow down, be present and enjoy things. For instance, instead of heading off into the countryside to enjoy an expensive wine tasting tour (although I’m sure they are fantastic) find a place in central Siena where you can get expert guidance and taste the wines all in the company of the locals, for around a very affordable 12 euros, I believe. I fancied doing this but in the end didn’t work with my plans but it sounds lovely and was recommended which is always a good thing.

In fact my plans were so loose my daily schedule worked itself out for me.  It seemed to go like this.. I woke when my body was ready, did a little yoga to unravel and straighten out the sleepy joints and knots, had a milky coffee and edited photos, caught up on the blog (well, nearly!) had some lunch (homemade sandwiches) before heading out with the camera later in the afternoon when the sun was hot but lower, so the colours would be clear and bold, then eating a bit later in the evening with perhaps a little time taking some night time shots too. It felt so safe there and I only had to roll out the front door of the beautiful period building I was staying in (Airb&b) to find something enchanting to shoot.

Siena was, however, way rowdier at night than I expected, which was a surprise. I didn’t know quite what to think as it sounded to me like an Italian version of a bunch of drunken Brits abroad! Quite funny really.  You can see the difference in Siena by Day and by Night in the following short videos (had to record it!) I took from my bedroom window:

This also caused me a bit of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) as, up until I heard all the fun going on out there, I had been quite content to stay in, cook up some gnocchi and drink some just-about-drinkable white wine. Luckily on the second day I got chatting to one of the other guests staying in the Air&b who suggested we go out for some dinner that evening which made a nice change from dining alone.

Turns out she is also a keen yoga practitioner and interested in doing the Yoga Teacher Training Course in India as well, plus she’s been to India a few times and got me all excited about heading there soon with her stories, tips and advice. Always nice to meet kindred spirits. There were actually three of us sharing the apartment and we were all like-minded, which worked wonderfully. We all left on Saturday; Pamela, who I went to dinner with (from London but has an Australian accent from living there for some years) headed for the Tuscany hills at a singing workshop (lucky lady!) and Nicky, from the Netherlands, decided to extend her stay for another week’s worth of Italian lessons at a local college (also a lucky lady!). It was sad to say goodbye as these were the first two I had really spent any time with, but, as with travelling, comes the time to part ways and continue our journeys.

Aside from making lovely new friends I had a slight issue with finding vegan food out and around town, especially as the only two vegan restaurants in town seem to no longer exist. So for those of you interested in getting fed as a vegan in Siena, go to Conrad City at Piazza Giacomo Matteotti. It’s cheaper than the central supermarkets and has a good stock of vegan cheeses, chilled burgers/falafels, breads, biscuits etc. Particularly good if you have access to a kitchen/cooking facilities!

The other thing I rather liked was a major thunder and lightning storm on our last night! I decided to get back out of bed and try to photograph it (with that window view, of course!) and was glad I did. Not sure the photos do it justice, but was amazing to watch the sky light up all the houses in a purply-pinky-blue hue. I tried to time a long exposure with the next flash of lightening. Wasn’t too difficult as the storm was very close, if not over us, and lightening was coming fast and regularly.

By the way, the storm seemed to follow me to Rome as the next day I arrived there and by evening the same thing happened; a major thunder and lightning storm for much of the night. Unfortunately I got caught out in it when heading back to the hostel, and didn’t fancy going back out to photograph it. Nah. From the comfort of the bedroom maybe, but not out in the very wet streets!

So if you ever have the chance to go, I totally recommend it. If you want an easy-going, chilled time in Italy, with great food and drink options, some culture and a town that has history and beauty popping up in literally all of its streets and alleyways, you can’t go wrong in Siena. I think 3-4 nights is good, for extra time such as a day/afternoon at a pool or tip into the countryside, I’d recommend 5 days. But if you prefer to whizz around all the sights and move on, 1-2 nights would be plenty.

So, until next time lovely Siena….








Leaving Florence was hard to do, but the journey must continue… to Siena, via Pisa.

This was the day of circumnavigating trains and tickets and lugging the luggage! An important note: the steps to get up on the trains themselves are steep (at least that’s what I experienced on the regional trains so far), so travelling with heavy cases is quite a task. But they give plenty of time at each stop and sometimes other travellers help too. Also on the regional trains there aren’t luggage racks, only overhead storage, so if travelling on a busy train (Florence to Pisa was, and this was at 10:30 on a weekday) finding somewhere to stuff your main case without being in the way was also an issue, unless you’re fine with an aisle seat. I wanted a window seat so I could take photos and vids, but I managed ok. You also need to validate printed tickets at the platform before boarding, which I did, but then noticed (luckily) that the platform had changed! But this wasn’t a problem when the train inspector checked my ticket, so I don’t think it matters which platform you validate the ticket at.

However I did order my breakfast at the station’s cafe, in Italian(!), and it was my first proper experience of being in one of their typical busy espresso-style cafes, which was pretty cool. In case you’re wondering, I had focaccia vegana. Yum.

Arriving in Pisa I left my main luggage, and the camera/laptop bag, with the left luggage facility. For both bags it cost 10 Euros, a bit more than I was expecting, but at least I could then walk the 20mins to the leaning tower of Pisa with just my handbag and camera. It was very hot there, hottest I’ve experienced on this journey so far and it wasn’t too busy at the tower. Seeing it was a bit unreal, and yes, there were lots of people doing the obligatory ‘leaning’ on the tower or ‘pinching’ the tower between their fingers poses for pictures! There was also a couple who had just married having their pictures taken which was cute, although when I stopped to photograph them, I got flanked by a number of others who also decided to do the same! This tends to happen quite a bit. I find a nice quiet spot with a good view and next thing I know, I’ve got people practically hanging off my shoulder trying to capture the same shot – or worse, standing right in front of me! I’ll do a separate post on this, with funny photos to prove it, but for now, here are some of the day.


I quite liked the town of Pisa, it was more charming than I thought it would be but was also happy to just spend an hour or two there before heading onwards to Siena. Popped into the only vegan eatery on my way back to the train station (Come Koala Vegan) and had a delicious, refreshing, freshly-made fruit smoothie from the lovely man who runs it. I would have taken some snacks or a wrap with me for later, as Siena doesn’t seem to cater for vegans too well, but I had no room to carry it and also still had my breakfast focaccia in my bag, going soggy.

The downside to Pisa was the beautiful horses stood in the scorching sun, attached to carriages waiting for customers to cart off around the town. A few people went up to pet them and I could see they too felt sorry for the poor, beautiful creatures. Please, please don’t do anything that involves animals carting you around, or have your pictures taken with tigers that have been drugged so you can sit safely with them and all the other touristy things like this. Its just totally unnecessary and these lovely animals have a crappy life just for their ‘owner’s to make a buck or two.

Aside from that, Pisa was good, worth a day trip from Florence or en route (have heard nearby Lucca is rather stunning too) but I was happy to be on my way to Siena.




Florence (part two)

Day two of Florence consisted of switching from a private room to a 4-bed (actually became a 5-bed – eep!) female dorm, eyeballing Michelangelo’s ‘David’ and watching some opera plus meeting a few kindred spirits over dinner at the bar area of a cool arty cafe which kinda felt like I was in ‘Cheers’.

So…. the switch from private room to dorm wasn’t too bad except it meant I had to check out by 10:30 and couldn’t check in again until 14:30. Luggage issue was easily rectified – large rucksack went in the left luggage room at the hostel and reception kindly locked away my camera/laptop bag so I could walk breezily into town without worrying about someone nicking me shizzles or carrying the load like a donkey. Especially as I was going to a timed entry to see Michelangelo’s famous and beautiful ‘David‘ at 14:30.  I’d left it very late to book (just the day before) so that was the only choice. The good thing was, I barely queued to collect the reserved ticket, and then walked straight into the gallery. Unlike the throngs of people waiting in Unreserved Ticket queue, in the blazing sun, barely moving an inch. So yes, book your tickets in advance and skip the queues! This was the only ticket I bought, I’m not too mad about galleries and museums and cathedrals and all that. A bit naughty seeing as I do love art and culture but… I prefer to people watch and learn titbits as I go along and soak up the culture as it comes, not rush from place to place without really taking it all in, just so I can tick it off the list. Although I would have gone to the Uffizi Gallery if I had been more organised and booked ahead!

Yes, I know you all know him, but here is MY David, the version I captured 😀


And some more artwork that took my fancy in the gallery:


I’ll spare you the boring bit; heading back to the hostel, checking in to the dorm… feeling bit at a lose end as someone was sleeping in their bed so I couldn’t really organise myself properly….. so will skip on to heading back out to find that cute arty cafe for supper. The one I walked right passed the night before. That one.

It’s called Libreria Brac and is located a short walk from the popular Ponte Vecchio. I finally found it and seated myself at the bar to enjoy a massive portion of potato, tomato and oregano salad and got to know my fellow diners also seated at the bar. Felt a bit like “Cheers”! A couple from Southern California (he was here to give a presentation about the ozone and promote vegetarianism) and a mother and daughter from India (daughter is now a lawyer in New York and mother is visiting her from Kerala) which made for really interesting conversations and much nicer than dining alone. After mentioning I am heading to India from Italy the mother very sweetly gave me her phone numbers saying I must visit Kerala and to contact her if I need anything and/or would like to meet up – how cute and kind is that?!

Libreria Brac

From there I had to leave the comfortable setting and new friends and rush off to see some opera at the nearby auditorium, a converted church. It was a tribute to The Three Tenors/Pavarotti and here again, I made two new (Australian) friends in the queue who also invited me to sit with them inside which made the experience even more enjoyable. I managed a sneaky video of some comedy moments before noticing many others getting asked to not record the performance. Oops! I was lucky 😉 And then the finale was so good my two new friends jumped out of their seats to cheer and whoop and clap and then it came… the tears that I’d thought would come from watching opera (well it IS emotional!). Had I not been watching it with these two lovelies and witnessing their own joy and emotional response to the opera those tears may not have come. But music is such a special thing, something that has been close to my heart since my first ever memory as a baby, and it will always move me like nothing else can. So to see these two respond so joyously and emphatically tipped me over haha! And I’m very glad it did. I wanted to be moved. And I wanted to feel that others were too. And they were.

Here’s some pics and the cheeky vid I got before it become obvious videos are not allowed…. I caught a funny bit.



And this marked the end of my stay in Florence as I had an early-ish train outta there the next morning to Pisa. But what a great end to seeing Florence! ❤