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Thursday, 23 March 2017

Year Abroad Photo Diary: Pisa, Florence and Bologna.

The past two weekends I have visited 2.5 cities which are renowned for their beauty - Pisa, Florence and technically Bologna (hence the .5). One of the best things about doing a year abroad is that, if you're a language student, your course friends from home are dotted all over the same country as you, meaning you have great opportunities to travel. Pisa was organised as a University of Manchester meet up and spanned across the whole weekend, whilst Florence was a bit of a last minute thing for me after deciding to see my friends in Bologna.

This post is going to be a lot more photo-centric than my previous photo diaries because, as is normal when in the company of people you haven't seen for months, I spent the majority of it chatting and catching up rather than cramming every single tourist attraction into one day. This is good, however, because it means I now know where I definitely want to return to and what I want to see. I don't really agree with the sentiment that you have to see every single 'attraction' just because you're in a certain place and feel it does make the trip more tedious than enjoyable, but I am planning on writing a whole post on my thoughts about this so will get straight into the first of my trips - Pisa.

10/03/2017 - 12/03/2017

Pisa wasn't somewhere I was overly fussed about visiting, if I am being perfectly honest. I knew I wanted to see the tower but wasn't sure what else was actually there. Turns out, not much. That isn't to say that the city isn't beautiful; the Tuscany region of Italy is gorgeous as a whole and very different to what I am used to here in Lombardia. The weekend was spent consuming way too much alcohol and with very sore heads, but it was really good to finally see people from home who I hadn't seen for around 8 months.

We stayed in a hostel called Hostel Pisa, which was around a 5 minute walk from the train station. It was the cheapest one I could find which still had relatively decent reviews, and I was pleasantly surprised by how nice it was. It cost us around €35 each for the whole weekend and we had a private room with ensuite! The staff were friendly, they had a really nice beer garden and the drinks were relatively cheap too.

As you can see from my amazing photography skills on that final photo, I was pretty inebriated. I was trying to take a photo of the moon and have no idea what went wrong, but it was 5am and we had started drinking pretty much as soon as Katie and Jack arrived at the hostel so... 

There isn't really much else for me to say about Pisa. It was a weekend spent with friends catching up and just enjoying ourselves, but I'm not in any great rush to go back to see anything in particular. I have spoken to a lot of Italians here in Bergamo who agreed that Pisa is pretty small minus the tower - which was actually a lot smaller than I expected anyway - and the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) and a friend of mine who went travelling around Europe said that she spent three days there and agreed there wasn't that much to do.

This is also possibly the worst photo in existence but by the time I got to the seriously beautiful parts, my phone was very close to dying and the train windows got even more dirty so this is the best I can do... the train back from Pisa took 6 hours and although I was extremely hungover, I have to say it was pretty beautiful. I saw so many little villages which looked like stunning places to visit but accidentally deleted them from my search history (nice one Lauren) but it made the hefty journey back significantly more tolerable. I sent my friends so many snapchats whilst I still had internet/battery on my phone and probably pissed them off but I couldn't believe how beautiful it really was.


Florence was a last minute plan for me. I had decided to go and visit my friends in Bologna, but they had already made plans to go to Florence that day, so I decided to tag along. It was an extremely long day for me, as in order to get to Bologna at a decent time I had to take the FlixBus at 5am from Bergamo, which got into Bologna at 9am. I cannot sleep unless I am absolutely exhausted on busses, so spent the entirety of the journey wide awake - luckily the bus has free wifi! 

Our train was at around 10am from Bologna to Florence and took around an hour to an hour and a half. Once there, we met up with two other girls from Manchester who are studying in Pisa, so it is pretty easy for them to get to Florence (jel). There is so much to see and do in Florence but as it was a Saturday and we only had a day there, we decided to just have a wander around and see some of the obvious sights, but ended up basically drinking the day away on a beautiful terrace bar.

Florence is absolutely somewhere I want to go and visit again. I am an art history student so a lot of it appeals to me anyway, but the city itself was just stunning. When I passed through it on the way to Pisa, I only saw a little bit of it but knew it was somewhere I wanted to go and explore. 

I would say that Florence is one of the more expensive cities I have visited in Italy, probably on a par with Milan and actually less expensive than when I went to Rome. We went for Aperitivo in a library which had a really nice view of the Duomo from the outdoor terrace and it cost €10, where as in Bergamo and other places it has generally been from €6 to €8 depending on the quality of the food and drink provided. I do not know how much it is to stay there as I was only there for the day but my general thought would be that it is somewhere a little pricier than other cities.

18/03/2017 - 19/03/2017

This is where the .5 element of cities visited comes into play. I had planned to visit Bologna and actually see the city, but as our train to Florence was an hour after I arrived there, then we got back at almost midnight and my bus the next day was at midday, I didn't actually see anything other than the inside of a club and a McDonalds. It didn't cost a lot for the bus, so I am going to look at some train tickets or bus tickets in advance and book a proper weekend to stay there (although I may have to actually book a hostel or something because sharing a bed with Jack is not the one). 

Post SodaPops candid on the way to get the most overpriced takeaway ever, where the woman literally locked us inside to stop other customers coming in and acted as if we were asking her to feed the chips to us by hand the entire time... yeah its a Saturday night but its not our fault that you have to work this shift? We tried eating our takeaway the next morning because for some reason we just couldn't stomach it at night and it tasted pretty shoddy the next day - obvs.

After a 4 hour bus journey with limited battery and a wifi which was playing up, I was finally home and definitely feeling a little worse for wear. The only part I really dislike about travelling to and from cities is that I have to do it on my own because none of my close friends from Manchester live anywhere near Bergamo, so I just spend the entire time counting down the seconds to when I will be back in Bergamo. However, I am more than willing to face the train again to revisit Florence and Bologna, as well as other more central and southern Italian cities. 

I will end this post with 6 of the 60+ 'candid' shots I took of Jack across the weekend, these being a couple of my favourites (and I think he would kill me if I uploaded the video he took of himself dancing...). Next on my list is Venice for the second time, Lake Como and Milan as my mum and Aunty Linda are coming to Bergamo for around a week so we are going to do some exploring so I will definitely have a lot to say with regards to all of that!

Have you ever been to any of these cities? What were your first and lasting impressions?
Lauren x

Lauren Gibbins
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[name=Lauren Gibbins] [img=Your Image Url Here] [description=I'm Lauren, I'm a 21 year old student from Manchester currently studying in Italy for my erasmus year abroad.] ( ( (bloglovin=

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