During my recent trip to the north of Italy (and Switzerland) You can read about here, I realised quite a few things in my surroundings that’s different to life in the UK. Here’s 10 fun things that I learnt whilst in Italy.
Italians really like to take their time and enjoy their food and drinks – every restaurant and cafe I went into, everyone was taking their time and enjoying each others company.
Italians do actually eat a LOT of pizza and pasta! – The majority of people everywhere I went were eating a slice of pizza or a plate of fresh pasta!
Hello! Long time no post, I’ve been busy inspiration searching and that involved travelling! In my usual ‘two-birds-with-one-stone’ fashion, it was also a birthday trip curtesy of ma madré (big thank you mum!) But Italy was also on her bucket list!! So let get stuck right into it!
So I like to squeeze in as much as I can when I go on holiday to a new destination, check out the Singapore in a weekend blog here. So when we went to stay in Milan for 6 nights we squeezed in day trips all around the north of Italy to experience lots of snippets from each place.
Always check the airline that you’re flying with for luggage restrictions. We flew with Easy Jet so they have a policy for one small hand luggage and an option to add one checked 20kg luggage bag. We originally were not going to even add a suitcase! But we ended up sharing one, thank god because we forgot to factor in shopping and souvenirs! I always pack heavier and bulkier things when the weather is cooler, so it helps to check the weather at the destination before you pack.
I tried to plan for a few outfit photos so I packed a heel boot… that I didn’t even wear! So I recommend just packing flats and comfortable shoes if you plan on doing a lot of walking like we did.
I also found that I could contact the hotel before hand and check what amenities they already had there so I could probably pack less i.e. shower gel, shampoo and conditioner, body lotion, cotton pads, slippers etc. So it would’ve been handy if I didn’t need to carry a bottle of body wash, but anything that I’m picky about I just took a travel size version.
We chose a hotel and flight package on lastminute.com but we booked at like 1am in the morning (never do that!) so we only had photographs of the hotel to go on. Thankfully it was the most beautiful hotel, Starhotel E.C.H.O. It’s super eco friendly with all the heating sourced etc. They even had sustainable tips on a card in each room to help. Even their restaurant locally sources their ingredients! You can check out their video explaining the E.C.H.O here.
Getting around Milan
I got the heads up that public transport will go on strike with little notice before hand, and with my luck they really did whilst we were there! But we still managed to suss out how to use the Metro which is the public underground train. It’s a lot less complicated than the London tube as you only need to know the two stops at either end of the three lines, and you could probably work it all out from there. We mostly used the green line which went through the main Centerale FS station which had an abundance of newsagents. All sold the majority of the tickets for bus, Metro and tram, along with all of the different ticket machines.
Most people spoke english being the big city centre that it is, and you could even chose the preferred language on the ticket machines once you located the right one! The most popular Metro lines tend to run from 6am – midnight, so outside of these times I would recommend taking a local taxi. Bare in mind a taxi can take around 10mins to arrive or you can find a taxi rank nearby any main station or just outside the famous Duomo cathedral.
I did find having a tube map helped, but I also love these apps whenever I travel anywhere:
City Mapper – although it’s not the best for Italy, you can see routes from A to B!
SpeakEasy Italian – Unfortunately I didn’t get to exercise my Italian much (or lack of) but it was handy if you ever need help as it does not need internet connection to work.
If you can arrange for internet roaming abroad with your network provider it will help if you get lost in this digital age.
On the first day we needed to know our surroundings so we booked in at our hotel recommended travel agent Zani Viaggi for the Grande Tour de Milano, which was a great morning trip to the most famous landmarks.
Day 2 was the public transport strike so we had to hop on a taxi to the meeting point to catch the coach. Being in the capital city of fashion you HAVE to go to a shopping outlet! Unfortunately, Serravalle shopping outlet seemed too similar to the Cheshire Oaks shopping outlet (they’re owned by the same company) that’s local to me back in the UK so I decided on FoxTown.
Little did I know it was in Switzerland! It was a great experience having found a YSL and Versace outlet that had prices up to 70% off! But even then most items were still around £500+! I did manage to find a leather skirt I liked but they only had one faulty one left! I would like to go back to Switzerland for a romantic cliché ski holiday with a cheese fondue in front of a fire (and shopping!)
A visit to lake Como was planned for day 3 as all of the tickets for Florence was sold out for that morning, however both places are exceptionally beautiful! I took a good 70% of my 1000+ photos around the lake because it was just that picturesque! We did find the famous Seta (silk) shop in Como, but I only managed to check out half of the shop before we were rushed onto the boat to Bellagio! But that just means I will have to go back again to see the other half of the shop!
For the last full day in Italy we had pre-booked a Venice day trip because it was only available on the Sunday during the 6 days we went for, and it was the one place that I really wanted to visit! Venice is such a different city, which was made apparent when we had to get off the coach at a manmade island (built mostly for all of the tourists parking!) to then take a boat over to the district.
Unfortunately, most shops are closed on Sunday but all of the tourist places were open. This meant that it was HEAVING with tourists, and it didn’t help that there was a marathon going on at the same time! The trip was a great quick overview of Venice, as I would recommend a little educational show around by a local guide for the first time there. You learn a lot from locals, but I think the beauty of visiting Venice is getting lost in the labyrinth of streets and leisurely discovering new ‘calle’ (street/s)! As my mum experienced (she got confused with all of the guides having the same flags and got lost for a few minutes!) This is definitely on my list of places to revisit as the 6 hours we spent there was not nearly enough!
Eating Out and About
I love to try all of the local food wherever I go, but having been on mostly tourist trips to the usual tourist places we paid the inflated prices! I always like to wonder around for a few minutes to compare the prices, since most of the restaurants have the same popular Italian dishes. I tried to visit the recommended restaurants, but when you’re doing so much exploring you get tired and just want to eat anything that’s close by! I did thankfully try local risotto, fish & meats, traditional stone baked pizza and gelato! It’s true that the gelato tastes amazing in Italy because they make it fresh and the flavour is mind blowing!
Can you do north Italy in a week?
You definitely can if you are fit and able to zip from place to place to get a quick taste of each city/country (mum got tried very easily). I definitely recommend going for longer so you can really savour and enjoy each place. I like leaving something to do and explore in places I would like to revisit. I definitely learnt a lot on this trip, especially about the Duomo and Last Supper painting. I didn’t know the colour of the Duomo varies because it’s made of pink marble, and that the Last Supper was painted on a kitchen wall! Although, the staple food in Italy isn’t my favourite (pizza and pasta isn’t my first choice) as I prefer a lighter meals i.e. veggies and fruit. I absolutely LOVE the pastries and antipasti options there! Everything Italian always tastes better in Italy!
With all the talk about being more sustainable to help with climate change and global warming, it seems there isn’t much credit being given to make people feel good doing it; And that’s the best bit! So here’s a few things that you’re probably already doing that’s benefiting the earth already!
Bought a new car recently?
You’re probably thinking ‘I need a car, I can’t be ‘green’ and cycle hours to and from work!’ Thankfully, car manufacturers are continuously getting tighter regulations for the pollutions levels that their cars produce. Remember the Volkswagen scandal? Having a new car will most likely produce a lot less air pollution than a decade old tin can, that’s how Nigeria is the country with the most worst air pollution levels.
Eating less meat red to reduce your carbon footprint
You’ve probably cut down on the consumption of red meat after the link to cancer was announced, or even recently turned vegan! Vegan isn’t just a fad, but actually the best diet for the lowest carbon footprint! Meat and dairy production contributes a lot of green house gases compared to growing crops, as cows and sheep produce a lot of methane!
Growing your own plants/food. – seasonal ‘smart eating’
Growing your own fruits and veg is a rewarding hobby, and harvesting that produce to put straight on to the table has a lower carbon footprint than eating imported food! Struggle with the green thumb? Don’t worry, local and seasonal fruit and veg are easily sourced today and tend to be the cheapest at supermarkets! Growing your own plants will also help to produce more oxygen, making us breathe easier. Just make sure you keep your food waste down with all of the seasonal sales, it’s easy to get carried away. I’ve picked up some great tips on this infographic to help keep your food for longer:
Supporting a sustainable brand
You might not realise it but some of the brands that you shop at have sustainable policies and are super fashionable at the same time! You can go the extra step by opting for ‘slow fashion’ brands, check them out on my twitter list here.
Still remember that talk from school about parking a bit further away and walking? It can actually benefit you and the health of the children when dropping them off on the school run. After studying on the Invisible Dust’s Human Sensor programme and learning more about air pollution in Manchester. It’s been brought to my attention that most playgrounds tend to be built as a dip! This means that all of the passing car pollution and idle engines outside of the gates would essentially fall into this dip, making it a collection of air pollution! Scary stuff! Air pollution contributes to lung and heart conditions that’s linked to 40,000 premature deaths a year in the UK.
Check out the promotional video for Invisible Dust that I helped model on! – Source
A little goes a long way! Recycling is great but have you ever reused some decorative sweet jars as a biscuit/cake tin? Great one! Breaking down some plastics can potentially produce more greenhouse gases during the recycling process. Ultimately, reducing the amount of general waste you have will contribute less to the landfill sites that all waste ultimately ends up. Check out this eco chick that has zero waste here!
Obsessed with switching lights off when it isn’t in use? Like everything so far in this blog a little goes a long way! So turning that TV off standby is doing a lot more great than just scratching your itch!
I hope you’ve related to some or all of the great things in the list above that you’re doing to live in a more sustainable way, or even taken some tips away to try out!
So next time you take a flight and worry about the carbon footprint, think of ways you can counteract that e.g. no red meat or cycle around for a week!
Thought about switching to a moon cup instead of clogging up land fills with tampons and sanitary pads? Check out the blog post ‘All about menstrual cups‘ here.
So I recently hit twenty four and now I’ve realised I have to stop being a student and scrimping all of the discounts, life isn’t too bad after all. This is what I’ve learnt so far…
Don’t compare your life to others
If you really wanted to play that game then let me introduce you to the CEO of Snapchat who is on the list of the worlds youngest billionaires. Some people are just lucky, some worked their asses off, but ultimately they didn’t do it in a day, nor being unproductive and procrastinating. So get yourself out there and active with the community!
Pay off your debts and start saving for a mortgage and your pension. The earlier you start the more money you’ll have to tap into when you retire. It seems a way off but if you think about it, just putting £1 away everyday can save up for many things! Struggle with budgeting? Download a budgeting app or do it the old fashioned way on pen and paper, there’s even printable booklets that you can DIY.
But get out of the country
If you’ve never left your door step, it’s the perfect time to go travelling. You may not feel the need to leave your bubble now, but get that travel bug out of the way whilst you can! Before you’re tied down with anything, take advantage of your freedom and spontaneity. Go and see sights that you think look amazing on the screen, actually being there in person always has a different effect that seeing it on a tiny screen.
You always hear about it but the sun can damage the skin so badly, it doesn’t affect your tan and doesn’t hurt to slap a bit on before you head out of the house! Team it with a bottle of water in your bag for you to sip through out the day and your body will thank you for it!
Put yourself first
Never settle for the second best in anything, always try your best to work harder and even in terms of relationships. You’ll get to a point in your life when you realise you have to sift through your friend list and pick out the friends that you think are worth keeping in contact with. If there’s effort made on both ends, then you have a relationship worth keeping. Even romantic relationships, if you aren’t both seeing eye to eye with the priorities in your life then maybe it’s not the right time to be in a relationship. C’est la vie!
Congratulations you’ve graduated! Now it’s all down hill from here when you don’t know what to do, here’s how to avoid going crazy out of your mind…
If you’re one of the lucky few that has everything planned out and sorted with a job and the lot, then well done! You go and do what you want to do! But if you’re stuck with more questions and doubts than you had before university, then don’t panic. There are thousands of other graduates in the same boat as you!
Here’s some suggestions:
Take up a placement/internship, getting more experience under your belt is a great way to get your foot in through the door. And right now, anything is going to look good on your CV!
Volunteer at a local charity, or even better abroad. You learn so much about other cultures and realise how privileged you are.
Travel to 6 other countries to see the world. It’s cliché but you can learn a lot about your self when you learn more about others.
Sta Travel do amazing Round The World trips that you can pop down a £49* deposit for, and visit lots of culturally diverse places that you can soak up like a sponge. A lot of my friends have used them, and are highly recommended. So just nip into the place and talk to some friendly agents that will hook you up with a holiday of a graduate life time.
Thomas Cook do some pretty neat deals and all inclusive holidays if you’re on a budget. They’ve had some backlash in the press, but they still do a great job. Hey, they’re learning! You can even double-check that you won’t be left out-of-pocket if anything as crazy as an act of God to ruin your holiday. £388* pp for 7 nights in the Canary Islands is a steal!
Or are you a super scrimper and want to book everything yourself for europe? Check out flights from as cheap as £19* (before tax) at Ryanair with edreams.com.
Want to splurge for the comfort? emirates.com is the epitome of luxury travel at a decent price tag. Hop on to business class to live life like a prince for just £362* to Dubai!
Whatever your fancy, go and explore. You’ve sent out what seems like millions of job applications, and they all seem to be just throwing them back in your face. Don’t let this get you down, all the other graduates in the world are doing the exact same thing!
And never let anyone stop you from flying alone. It’s a 16 hour flight, no biggie!
*Prices on 11/8/15. Due to the nature of flight prices fluctuations, this may change.
Is it possible to all of Singapore in a weekend? Sure it is! Here’s how I did….
It’s fine whether you get there day or night, there’s always something to do! I got there in the evening and got ready to go straight out to explore the night life. Singapore’s famous Marina Bay Sands ship shaped hotel has an amazing skyline bar where you have a fantastic view of the place. There’s also a few other bars that you can check out too, they also had a gay night that weekend. Clubs tend to close around 2am, so an all nighter is out of the question. But getting home is no worry as you won’t get any creeps following you home at night.
There’s a bit of everything for everyone. If you like to enjoy a bit of a wonder around a zoo of orchids and butterflies, the National Orchid Garden is perfect for you. You can get there by taxi or bus, (taxi being more convenient) but you may need to locate a map as the garden is huge. If you plan on being outdoors, there aren’t many large shaded areas so I would recommend taking a parasol and mini fan. There is a gift shop there that sells a variety of orchid memorabilia, from live orchids to orchid tea. You should check the flight regulations with live plants as there may be a lot of restrictions brining them back. I would recommend the white orchid tea as it is very sweet and fragrant, it almost tastes like chocolate!
Prefer to lounge on the beach? Not to worry there’s a few to pick on the southern most point! There’s a big water park for the kids and family, large beautiful sunsets to enjoy as couples, and beautiful sea and sand with friends.
Singapore is a the forefront when it comes to technology, not only are they the first when it comes to new Samsung gadgets but they have beautiful light shows on the bay and at Gardens at the Bay. Be sure to check out the times of the next showing here for Gardens by the bay and here for Marina Bay Sands. They have great stories at the light projection shows that you can sit and watch after shopping till you drop! The food is also great; pick from their famous chilli crab, oyster omelette, or satay sticks! It’s really cheap for one meal too, at £2 a pop, it’s every foodies dream. I also have a slight obsession with their ice cream. Asia has an amazing selection that caters to the local taste buds, but my favourite is red bean ice cream in a wafer or waffle.
Fancy a quick get away from the usual busy city life? Then grab a speed boat over to the beautiful island Pulau Ubin and feel like you’ve travelled back in time. You can experience how Singapore once was in the 1960s and get closer to nature with its natural wildlife of toucan like hornbills and wild boars. You can rent out a bike to cycle around the whole island, which is an easier way to get around.
Country in Asia
Singapore, an island city-state off southern Malaysia, is a global financial centre with a tropical climate and multicultural population. In circa-1820 Chinatown stands the red-and-gold Buddha’s Tooth Relic Temple, Little India offers colorful souvenirs and Arab Street is lined with fabric shops. Singapore is also known for eclectic street fare, served in hawker centres such as Tiong Bahru and Maxwell Road.