Prego! Prego!

Italians use that word for everything. So much so that I just couldn’t figure out what it meant and resorted to messaging my Italian friend to find out the meaning. Pleasure, go ahead, proceed, are the common meanings. But it was used more wildly than that.

By now, it’s no secret anymore that we went to Italy for honeymoon. I believe that when it comes to honeymoon it really doesn’t matter where you go actually. You’re so wrapped up in all the love and happiness that you’re going to have a great time regardless. Having said that, sure didn’t hurt going to ITALY!!

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We left straight from the wedding venue the following morning and had about an hour to pack and freshen up before we got whisked off to the airport again. It was a cold, rainy day which was perfect to prepare us for the freezing weather that was waiting for us on the other side.

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We had a quick hour flight to Jhb, from there we had an 8 hour flight to Doha, which was so painful. Painful because my on board flight entertainment screen wouldn’t work. Yep. I managed to get one movie working the entire 8 hours. Granted, we flew at 10 at night so normally that’s sleepy time for me, but with a full flight, little to no leg space or arm space, sleep is somewhat impossible. I resorted to eating everything they had to offer and spying on the people’s screens in front of me.

8 hours later, we landed in Doha, where the sun was now rising. This airport is still very new so there wasn’t much to do there. No places to eat or shop. Tricky thing with this airport is that they don’t announce flights that are boarding, and with the time difference of now two hours behind, we got very confused, very quickly. It also didn’t help that our flight wasn’t appearing on the big board. With very broken English from the information booth, and me hoping that now-husband understood what they said ‘cuz I heard absolutely nothing, we managed to find our boarding gate. Now-husband took a nap, while I took advantage of the WIFI. I had to keep a keen eye on our boarding gate as we were sitting far, and as most of my friends know, I don’t have the best eyesight so was struggling to see what was going on, and now-husband was snoring away next to me. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I panicked. And for some reason thought the plane is boarding and we’re now missing it. I shook now-husband violently awake and just said ‘QUICK! GRAB YOUR SHIT!’, only to realize we had another two hours of waiting before we boarded. now-husband was now awake, grumpy, whilst I was now snoring away on his shoulder.

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We finally boarded our last flight of the trip, which was a 6 hour flight to Venice. This flight was quite pleasant as it was rather empty, and we had plenty more leg space. I ended up sleeping for a good 3 hours while now-husband caught up on some movies.

We landed in Venice not having a clue of what to do or where to go. We bought a bus ticket and hopped onto the first bus, not knowing where we are going or where to jump off, so we just enjoyed the scenery.  Eventually we arrived at the main bus station which is right next to Venice, which you absolutely can’t miss. The excitement totally consumed me and I couldn’t believe how beautiful this place was. We found our hotel which was right next to the main water canal. We stayed in such a lovely room (I may have thrown the words ‘honeymoon’ out there a few times, so we got bumped up to an amazing room), which looked out onto the water.

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The buildings and churches are all so exquisite and the best part is that all churches are open and free for you to go have a look. Do yourself a favour, whether you like churches or not, go and have a look!

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The city is very dense with buildings. High walls and waterways and bridges everywhere you go. The streets are always bustling with people, any time of day. I always wondered what they actually doing and if any of them are actually going to work or not?

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Venice is like a fairytale. You can’t believe that real people live here in the real world. There are no cars whatsoever. You walk, everywhere. You get lost, all the time. There’s no logic to all the little side roads. It’s a real life maze. There are endless shops and restaurants on the tiny sqiggly roads. No shopping malls, or spars. It’s all little delis or fresh food markets.

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The only pity of staying in a hotel is that you can’t buy all this fresh yumminess and cook your own meal. I feel like we lost out a bit on that, BUT, staying in a hotel for honeymoon is a luxury well worth it. Next time though, self-catering all the way. We did sneak in some yummy cold meats and cheese and wine into our room and had our little picnic.

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We discovered some really yummy food places however. We found a few restaurants that serve two types of freshly made pastas, with a choice of about 4 sauces, and it’s all take away. You wait about 5 mins for the best pasta meal you’ve ever had. They speak mostly Italian but with a few broken english words and lots of hand gestures, we were on our way, eating the best bolognaise I’ve ever tasted. We ended up going to three of these types of take away pasta places and were by far the best I’ve tasted.

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Venice also has these really quirky fruit bars. By day, you can order super fresh smoothies or granola to go, and by night, it suddenly becomes like a little bar where you can drink super delicious cocktails made with freshly squeezed fruit juice. They entice you by giving away loads of free shots (alcohol and non-alcohol), this got us every time. We always just grabbed a take away but decided one night as we were wondering the streets to sit down and enjoy a drink. The drink they poured us consisted of about 5 shots of alcohol, and if that’s not enough for you, they will top you up with more alcohol, for free, and while they do that, they hand out free shots as well, just to get the party going. It only took one drink and two shots later to send me into my happy place.

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We took a boat ride to two of the islands, Murano and Burano. Murano is where they make the famous Venician glass. It was a nice little cultural trip but the souvenir shops were out of our league. We then headed to the tiny island Burano, which is where you see all the little houses in different colours. This was a beautiful island and I really enjoyed exploring it. The people there have such a passion for their neighbourhood and their homes and it’s almost become a craft to make your home look as beautiful as you could. It was also clear that they hated the tourists and I could totally understand why. It was a tiny, peaceful island and next thing you have this plague of noisy tourists take over and walk around and take photos of your house (totally guilty of this). I felt a bit bad for the locals there.

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We arrived back (after taking the wrong boat, and going on a huge joy ride), got some snackies and enjoyed some lunch in one of the parks. Pigeons there are a problem and they have absolutely no fear. One, literally, flew into the now-husband.

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Venice is amazing and a definite must experience. 4 days is plenty time. It’s a small island so you are rather limited in things to do but I left there feeling satisfied that we’ve covered Venice from corner to corner. Getting lost, 100% helps, and we got plenty lost!

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find this place and go there!

Next up, we went to Tuscany. This place is very different to Venice. It’s a real bustling city. I fell really ill on our first night there and continued to feel very woozy for a couple of days, only to realise that I had bad motion sickness from Venice. This put a little damper on things as I was just constantly not feeling myself. Nonetheless, we still did lots of exploring and had a great stay. We stayed in Florence which is just about two hours away from all the beautiful wine farms. We hired a car for one day and ventured off to the wine farms. What a beautiful country side.

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We drove through Chianti where we actually found snow! It was beyond freezing! We went on a Sunday which wasn’t maybe the best idea as most places were closed and we really struggled to find a place to eat. We were starving! We made the decision that the next place we see open, we stopping. I didn’t care where or what it was. We are stopping. Couple of km’s later, we found a place, stopped and went inside. As we walked in, the chef was braaing up a storm inside the reception area. There was smoke everywhere and a gigantic piece of meat on the braai. Interesting. The waiter seated us in a big dining room which at first seemed like a room full of diners. As soon as we settled in, we realized that we may have stumbled upon the wrong kinda place. No one spoke English. Not a word. This place was for proper locals and we stood out like sore thumbs. On our left, we had the mafia. For real. This family was busting out the Rolexes (rolexi?), greasy hair, husky voice, suits, the works. There were about 20 of them and they were celebrating a birthday. On our right, we had a typical, jovial, loud, average Italian family. There were also about 20 of them, and they were also celebrating a birthday. The now-husband and I sat smack bang, in the middle of these two families. Two polar opposites like you’ve never seen. We were intimidated. But excited as well. The food was flowing, the wine was flowing, everyone talking at the same time. It was amazing to watch. I love the way Italians eat. Their lunch is a good 3-4 hour session. They order big portions of everything, served in big serving platters, so you dish up and pass on. I love this idea. We had a good two hour ahead of us, and driving on opposites side of the road and car, we didn’t want to risk drinking and driving. So we ordered a Fanta. As soon as that can got placed on the table, the entire mafia family turned around and looked at us. At which point the now-husband subtly pushed the can in my direction. ‘It’s hers’. Also, the wine was super expensive. We pointed at the dish we wanted on the menu to the waitress to which we nodded. Finally, we received our food. We got an empty plate each, and our meals came in serving dishes. This would’ve been awesome if there were at least 4 of us to pass on meals and share like the other tables, but there was only two of us. So we awkwardly dished our food, into our empty plates. And ate the best food my mouth has ever gotten the pleasure of tasting. Seriously, I don’t even know what was in there. It was out of this world. The locals sure do know how to cook. I wanted to lick my plate. We finished our meals and I silently wished for more. The two birthday parties have now reach the time for the cake to come out. Both parties cake came out and I loved the difference in families that happened: the jovial Italian family took the cake, cut it up in a million slices and starting handing out all the cake. The mafia, took a formal photo of the birthday boy and the cake, sent the cake back to the kitchen to get cut up and had their cake served to them by the waiters. Then, the jovial side whipped out the biggest platter, with the most drooling pastries on there. I suspect the old man saw me drooling and immediately came over with the place and offered us some yummy treats. And yummy they were! We left there very happy to have experienced such a treat. And yes, watching Italians eat, IS a real treat.

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From Florence we also took a day trip to Pisa. We tried to see as many things as we possibly could without exhausting ourselves. We hopped onto the train and an hour later we arrived in Pisa. The city is similar to Florence. We took a long walk and finally reached the leaning tower of Pisa.

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It’s much smaller than I imagined. Also, the security around this area is tight so stick to the paths and your’e good to go.

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We didn’t go inside any of the buildings. It was a terribly windy day that day which literally nearly knocked me off my feet. We took a slow walk back to the station, got very lost, asked for directions to which I understood not a word, panicked, calmed down, found the station, happy face again.

Florence is a really beautiful city, with it’s terra cotta tiled roofs, beautiful historic buildings and of course the contrasting green wine farms. We walked around the city and explored all the beautiful buildings, took a rest on one of the benches with a live band next to us, playing the most romantic music. Once they finished their set and moved on, the next guy stopped and started serenading us with his music. We probably sat there for a good hour, just listening to the beautiful music.

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I feel like I didn’t get to explore Florence enough and definitely feel like I’ve missed out on a lot of things. We didn’t stay in the nicest of hotels, but our private terrace and the owners made up for it. Florence, we shall see you again.

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Next up was beautiful, beautiful Rome. I loved Rome. My biggest surprise were the ruins. I mean we are all aware of the Roman ruins but what I didn’t realize was how it was all over the city. Scattered everywhere you go. People are literally living amongst it, not tucked away in one corner of Rome but everywhere.

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We stayed in Rome for a week but this isn’t nearly enough. You need at least two weeks to truly let the magic of Rome seep into your pores. We stayed in a little hotel, tucked away from all the hustling and bustling with the most friendliest of staff.

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We made it our mission to go to every main spot on our map. It was exhausting, but amazing. Rome is best at night so make sure you make time to go out and explore Rome during the evening. A whole new sense of life is born during the evenings. We spent a whole day around the Vatican City which was really exciting. However, the queues were so terribly long that we never went inside the actual Vatican. I’m kind of glad about this because we ended up having my favourite evening in Rome that night.

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By the time we left this space I was exhausted. Shattered. I couldn’t walk anymore. We entered a gigantic square with another really beautiful building and right at the top we saw a whole bunch of people. Now-husband and I were contemplating on whether we should go up there, knowing the amount of stairs that await us. At first we decided not to, then we thought, what the hell, don’t be losers, just do it. I’m so glad we did!

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see the tiny people right at the top

The stairs weren’t actually that bad and when we got to the top, the most beautiful view was waiting for us.

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We bought a bottle of really expensive cheap wine, listened to the guy playing on his keyboard, and just enjoyed the sun set. A climb well worth it.

We did some extensive research in places to eat as we wanted to avoid the commercial places, which are actually quite easy to spot: any place with Italian paraphernalia outside, waiters standing outside trying to usher you in and displays of food outside, scream tourist attraction! So avoid those. Now-husband found an amazing place on a blog and took a walk there. It was extremely far so by the time we got there, we were starving. Perfect.

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This place isn’t much to look at. With it’s neon white lights, tables so close to each other, your’e practically having dinner with the family next to you, but the food is out of this world! This place is all about turn over so if your’e not ordering, they immediately bring your bill. We got to our table where the waiter put down our menus. Next to us, another family arrived. They managed to sit down before us, at which point the waiter took away our menus and gave it to them. We sat eventually, waiting. Finally the waiter brings our menu. It’s more of a toss onto the table. Now, in South Africa, most people would’ve been offended by the bad service, but I believe it’s what makes this place so much fun to go to. We quickly ordered our drinks (everything is done quickly). When it came to ordering food, the now-husband dared to say ‘uhmm’ when the waiter turned around, mid order, and just started serving other people. When he eventually attended to us again, we were ready. We ordered about four different dishes and thought we’d give this Italian way of eating a go. It was so much fun. The waiter brought our food and we started cutting up and passing food and sharing and eating at once! We left the pizza to the side as we were enjoying to other food when the waiter promptly grabbed our pizza and took it away. It was so bizarre! He eventually returned it, cut in half and each half on its own plate. It all sounds very rude but it was so much fun to experience this place. And the food at this place, takes the win for the best food we’ve had in Italy.

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We left there, about 2 hours later on such a high and already made plans to go back again. I strongly believe that you should always try different places and not go to the same place twice but this place, I would go to time and time again.

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It was almost 10pm and seeing as we were far from home, decided to head back. We found a tram stop and waited for the next tram. Not realising, that the trams have now stopped running for night. We contemplated on taking the subway, but wanted to save our ticket for the trip we were planning the following day. So we waited. Eventually a bus came. It was coming from the wrong direction, but we thought we’d hop onto it and enjoy the joyride until it had to turn back and go in the direction we wanted to. The bus carried on forever. Eventually, stopping at the end. We waited for it to turn and go back but we were promptly kicked off and advised that this was it’s final stop.

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We were now completely off our map, no idea which part of the city we were in, had no GPS or data on our phones and no one spoke English. I went to each bus driver thereafter and pointed to our hotel on our little map and said ‘home’. To which all of them responded, Non. I panicked. Eventually, one bus driver went out of his way to get us back home. We stopped his bus, switched it off, walked to some little booth where we got us all the info of which bus to take to where, and from thereon. I literally almost hugged him. So we waited again. About 30mins. We had to take bus 8. Now you have buses coming past that says 8 NOV, i mean it is November so I panicked. Made now-husband hop onto these buses to check if it’s ours. Non. Eventually our bus came. I was ecstatic! Got on, and off we went. Still no idea where we are or where we going. Eventually we got dropped off at a spot that we recognised and knew how to get home if we walked. But it was a far walk. So we waited for the next bus. Hopped on and got dropped off at a place that we’ve never heard of before. Lost again. By now I’ve lost my sense of humour. I knew we would get home eventually as there are taxis but we all know how expensive those are. Also, temperatures have reached very low single digits and I’m freezing my ass off. Eventually, with more very broken English a guy told us to get on bus 7, which was about to leave! We sprinted to the bus and hopped on where we drove around the corner, only to find the main intersection which is right by our hotel. We were so close! But not home yet. We recognised the big wall but wasn’t sure of which direction to walk. We walked and walked until we saw the familiar sightings that surround our hotel. I was so happy I could’ve cried. 1am, 3 hours later, we finally made it back to our hotel.

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The next day, totally scarred by public transport, we had planned to go to Naples. Hopped on a high speed train and two hours later we arrived in Naples. I feel that Naples is the real Italy. It’s raw and dirty and the people there scream at each other much more loudly than anywhere else we’ve been there.

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Our plan was to go have the best pizza in the world. Pizza originated in Naples. So off we went. I refused to get on any kind of public transport so we walked everywhere. Which is of course silly because we wasted a lot time walking, an we were only there for the day. But whatever. We eventually found the restaurant we were set on having our pizza, with an hour waiting-time outside. It was worth it.

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This place, was worth the wait. The pizza was made on something that’s the same as Indian Naan bread, instead of a traditional pizza base. This made the pizza more soft and juicy. Truly, the best pizza ever. And if any of you might have recognised it, yes, it’s the same place in the book Eat Pray Love. It’s that good! We only had about three hours in Naples, which made it the most expensive pizza we’ve ever had as we basically only managed to have time to find the place and have pizza. R2500 later, but it was worth it!

We planned on heading back to Rome, take the subway to the Vatican and enjoy the Vatican at night. I was so excited! We got back to Rome, first subway train we took, we took the wrong one and was now again, heading in the wrong direction. We got off at the next stop, decided screw it! If that’s how the evening started, I didn’t even want to know how it’s going to end and I was NOT going to get lost again in the wee hours of the morning. Got a bus, and went straight back to the hotel. We were actually exhausted, so it might have been a good idea.

The next couple of days we did all the sightseeing one could cram in a few days. Rome blew me away and we are definitely making a trip back there.

hope you enjoy the pics

x

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colosseum

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best pastries ever!

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trevi fountain

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sneaky photos of the sisteens chapel

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now-husband was very sad that the Spanish steps were closed

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