My first summer working for Stoke Travel in Barcelona was just like the magazine said: great for my social life but maybe not so much for my liver. In between boat parties full of boozy backpackers, I snuck in the Wine Fight and topped off the season with Oktoberfest. Needless to say, countless boats, bottles and beer steins later, I was pretty exhausted. As the rain came down on my last day in Munich, I couldn’t help but think, I need pizza, not potato dumplings. I need wine, not beer. I need La Dolce Vita, not La Vida Loca.
So we piled into Stan the camper van for a spontaneous soul-searching adventure.
STOP 1: WE FOUND SOME CALM AND GOT SOME CULTURE
Confession: I went to Verona to see Juliet’s house. Yes, of course I stood on the balcony, but what I liked most about the Capulet residence was the graffiti left behind by hundreds of visitors at the setting of the world’s most famous love story. Fair Verona turned out to be the perfect first stop after the mayhem of Oktoberfest. This town is small but very beautiful and had just enough sights to keep us busy before we lost ourselves in its picturesque piazzas.
STOP 2: WE RESTORED BALANCE
Since I was feeling a little off-kilter, I thought to visit Villa Rotonda, hyped up by art history professors everywhere as the architectural manifestation of perfect harmony and order. While there was some satisfaction in seeing Andrea Palladio’s symmetrical gem perched in the idyllic Italian countryside, it was nothing compared to the absolute bliss of devouring the most delicious mushroom ravioli I’ve ever tasted at a tiny mom-and-pop restaurant on the nearby highway.
STOP 3: A LITTLE VENECIAN ROMANCE
I stand by this cheesy statement: Venice is the most romantic place I’ve ever been. Wandering through its narrow streets feels like stepping into a Renaissance oil painting, and I’m surely not the only one who fantasises about running along its winding canals, hiding away from the world. This time, I managed to trick my boyfriend into living out this daydream with me before visiting the Peggy Guggenheim and buying me dinner that night. Venice was the perfect cure for the hungry soul, inspiring art and amazing food in a beautiful setting.
STEP 4: THERE WAS SOME FLORENTINE FRUSTRATION
If you’re going to see anything in Florence, from the Uffizi Gallery to Brunelleschi’s famous Dome, book it ONLINE to avoid waiting IN line. Unfortunately, I learned this the heard way. Our one day in Florence wasn’t the Italian Master extravaganza I imagined, unless you consider forming an orderly que a new art form. Oh well, I did get to see the top of the Duomo, and the view was pretty breathtaking.
STEP 5: WE GOT AWAY FROM IT ALL TO GET OURSELVES BACK
Many people say there isn’t much to do in Cinque Terre. They’re half-right: there are no high street shops, nightclubs or ultra-famous monuments to attract hordes of tourists in the five towns that make up Cinque Terre. But that’s exactly what made it the cherry on top of this Italian escape. Our days were spent outside, hiking from one “terre” to another, jumping off craggy rocks into the glittering ocean and eating more delicious food, perpetually surrounded by breathtaking natural beauty.
Finally, after several scrumptious meals, a little exercise and a lot of Vitamin Sea, we felt human enough to drive back to real life.