Give me a great bit of street art and I’m a happy bunny. I know that Rome doesn’t have the same kind of gritty urban reputation as New York or London, but it’s actually a great place to find some unexpected gems on a wall or in a shop window, in between checking out ancient ruins (which I’m glad haven’t been covered in spray paint, but have more subtle additions).
Here are some of the best examples that I could find during my visit, from bizarre animals to a religious art interpretation.
Forget taking those embarrassing Segway tours, or sweating your way through the queues to the Vatican Museums: if there’s one way to really see Rome, it’s by Vespa. Not only does it make you think of the classic scenes in Roman Holiday, where Audrey Hepburn is shown around the city by a very dashing Gregory Peck, but it also lets you see the streets as today’s Romans do, often choosing this as their mode of transport over the packed buses and the Metro.
I booked a Vespa tour with Scooteroma as the company seemed personal, friendly and a bit quirky, with good reviews from customers. Run by Annie Ojile Nerone and her husband Giovanni, they offer a range of options (including longer trips and Tuscany excursions), but I went for the three hour Motorino tour.
In just three days’ time I’ll be in Rome, checking out the Eternal City and tracking down the best coffee, pasta and gelato – well, it’d be rude not to. I’ve been loosely planning my trip for a few months, but now it’s time to actually work out the must-see sights on my list and make sure I don’t leave without ticking them off.
WEIRD AND WONDERFUL
1. The Museum of Purgatory – Regular readers might have noticed that I’m a sucker for unusual sights, so this tiny museum (dedicated to souls stuck between heaven and hell) is an essential stop. It’s at the back of a church and consists of just 20 exhibits in one tiny room, amassed by a single collector up until his death in 1912, so it’ll be a bit like stepping back in time by 101 years.
It seems that the flat-pack furniture and free pencil purveyor IKEA has copped a lot of flak for its branded hotels scheme, which is set to be rolled out in no less than 50 European locations in the next five years.
The chain, which involves a partnership with Marriott known to be known as Moxy Hotels, will open its first branch in Milan in 2014, and already I can’t hide my excitement. Here’s a little story which goes some way to explain…
Back when the Croydon branch was brand spanking new and ready to be unwrapped, I was one of several lucky families who got to try out being not-so-mystery shoppers, drafted in by the big chiefs to help the staff get to grips with the sales and refunds process. We traipsed up to Croydon and got to wander round the store, as well as being given a list of items to buy and to return. As a reward, our primary school got a lovely shiny IKEA voucher, and I was hooked on the heady smell of meatballs, hotdogs and pine wood, not to mention the promise of free tape measures and pencils.
Anyone with an interest in art history will obviously love Florence, but there’s so much more to it than the galleries you read about (although, let’s face it, the Uffizi is impressive – when I visited there was some kind of US military official being given a private tour and even he looked interested).
When I visited back in June 2007, it was bloody boiling, and I spent most of the time trying to track down a cool beer and some shade, but it was ultimately an incredible few days. Here are the highlights, in embarrassingly grainy 2007-style photo quality.
There’s nothing like dreaming big when you write a wishlist, so what better place to start than India? It’s a vast country and I’m sure I’m only aware of a small percentage of what there is to see, so I apologise if my plans involve going for the obvious rather than the hidden gems, but I’m only just getting to grips with it.
I’m hoping to visit either late in 2013 or early in 2014, with Jodhpur, Jaipur and Delhi being likely stopping points, but there are loads of other places I want to tick off. Here are just some of the experiences I’d like to have, the sights that have inspired me and the things I want to photograph, from the possible to the not-so-likely-unless-I-take-a-gap-year.
This year I’ll make my fifth trip to the Fringe Festival and my seventh trip to the city – Edinburgh, I’m unashamedly under your spell. It’s not just the Fringe that draws me in (I’ve been here in rainy October and still found plenty to do), as there’s always something new or unseen to discover. It’s constantly changing, with a buzzing art scene and some really tempting vintage shops, not to mention the art exhibitions, in particular the Printmakers’ Studios in the Old Town.
My hotel in Boston had enough history to qualify as a tourist attraction in its own right. It was the birthplace of the Boston Cream Pie, had its own clubs for 19th century men-about-town, was Charles Dickens’ crash pad during his American lecture tour, and once had Malcolm X as a staff member. But what was it like to actually stay here? I visited with my family for a four night city break, looking to see the sights.
I shared a twin room with my sister and we were lucky enough to have huge beds, a flat-screen TV, dressing gowns and a seriously tempting snack selection on offer from the minibar. We settled down to watch a news piece about a jelly bean that looked a bit like Kate Middleton and were soon really chilled out, if a little bemused about the jelly bean.
It’s nearly 14 years since I went to Vancouver in Canada (wow, I feel old saying that), but I can still remember so much about being there – my first trip on a plane; the time we went whitewater rafting; the mountains we casually drove and walked and caught a ski lift up in the middle of the August heat, only to find snow on the peaks and an amazing frozen yogurt stand (another first). But the longer it becomes since I’ve been there, the harder it is to recollect things clearly, which is why I’m so glad I still have the photos to look back on.
There’s been a lot of travel press focus on Washington DC and Gettysburg recently, thanks to the Lincoln effect (two films – Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Lincoln – have recently been released), propelling American politics and the man with great taste in hats back into the travel spotlight. I started to think about the time I went to Gettysburg, during a sixth form college Politics trip to New York and Washington DC, which saw us stopping off at the famous battleground with absolutely no knowledge of its significance.