Whilst I loved Rome’s amazing architecture above ground, arguably one of the most spectacular places that I visited was underneath the pavements. You could walk past the Capuchin Crypt, on the Via Veneto, without really taking a second glance, as it’s not that remarkable from the outside. In fact, the whole street is a bit shabby, having had its heyday in the sixties and now looking like a shadow of its former self. It is living in the past, so what better place than the Via Veneto to find rooms full of bones? Rather than holding the remains of sinful sixties celebs, in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini you’ll find traces of devout monks.
The other night I fulfilled one of my long-term travel goals: to take a Ripper tour around Whitechapel and see where the shocking murders of 1888 took place. I’m not a fan of horror in the entertaining sense (stick me in front of a slasher film and I will develop psychosomatic symptoms of distress within a few minutes), but the case of Jack the Ripper is terrifyingly real and gives an insight into the harshness of East End London life.
Maybe it’s because he was never caught, and because there are so many theories surrounding his true identity, I’m left with plenty to mull over, and a tour seemed like the ideal opportunity to match the history with the streets themselves.
We all know that travel writing is ridiculously competitive (hey, who wouldn’t want to tell the world about their adventures or, indeed, be paid to go on them in the first place?), but something I’ve noticed in the past year or so is how many lifestyle websites don’t even have an outlet for travel at all, despite it being just the thing that their readers would respond to.
Many that do offer holiday inspiration manage to drip-feed it through lengthy advertorials or commercial ventures that mean there’s no room for freelancers or bloggers to get a word in edge-ways The questions I’m left asking – how did this become okay? At what point did readers stop wanting genuine insight and travelogues and start wanting advertorial tied to competitions instead? I’d love to know, really I would.
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.