Impressions of Italy

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Having only been in the country a few days, I can hardly say I have experienced even a fraction of Italy. But with my trip already half over I thought I might post a little about my impressions of this lovely sunny place (as experienced through my green-tinted glasses, of course). ​
Long haul flights are never much fun, but the second half of my trip was made more bearable by the pleasant chats with the Italian lady sitting next to me. She didn’t speak English and I haven’t picked up as much Italian as I had hoped, so our conversation hopped along in Spanish with a sprinkling of Italian and English, and of course over the top hand gestures.
From the plane we pretty much jumped straight on a train to Venice. It goes without saying that fast trains are awesome. The ticket even showed how much we were reducing carbon emissions compared to travelling by plane or car.
One of my favourite things about Italian cities has been the free flowing potable water taps scattered around the place. Melbourne has only recently installed water bottle refilling stations around the city, but they are nowhere near as aesthetically pleasing as the sculptural Italian taps.
Venice was absolutely gorgeous. I arrived expecting hordes of tourists, an expectation that was certainly met. But at least the main forms of transportation are relatively low impact…gondolieri – purveyors of zero carbon transport since a long time ago.
Wandering the canals it struck me how vulnerable Venice is to sea level rise (of course I had heard this before, but seeing something always adds emphasis). Already the water is lapping at the doorstep of some properties.
Florence was also beautiful, although it took half a day to become used to cars and buses again. But roads also mean Florence has plenty of cyclists, who use a unique method of parking. With one pedal balanced on the footpath, bikes are simply left on the side of the road (sometimes with a wheel locked) while the owner pops into a shop.
Listening to the Florence Philharmonic play outside the Palazzo Vecchio was the perfect end to the holiday section of our travels. A night of free ‘unplugged’ music – what more could you want.
Having arrived back in Milan this afternoon, I am super excited for the World Expo tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter for all the live happenings, and check out the UNEP blog for my daily wrap posts.
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