I had quite a brutal post about Italy and our negative experiences there planned, but I realised I was being naive about the country’s economic state, I was perhaps making generalisations, and on reflection, there were many positive things to say as well. So, here’s the toned-down version.
The worst thing about Italy is that it can seem as if people are only helpful if there’s something financial in it for them. In the cities, it feels like everyone’s on a mission to scam you, steal from you, or rip you off. Being two blonde girls wearing big rucksacks, so easily identifiable as tourists, made sightseeing peacefully in Milan just impossible.
Public transport also, at times, made life difficult. Only one of the six trains we caught left on time, and stations are just full of queues, crowds, pickpockets, and general disorganisation.
Backpacking in Italy required more patience and alertness than other countries. The big cities are chaotic, packed with tourists, and not very cheap at all. Even Lake Como was dirty and pretty disgusting in parts. Maybe it’s just that I’m fresh from clean, cheap, friendly Slovenia…
A couple of pieces of advice;
– Garda over Como.
– Breschia – a stopover town between Garda and Milan – was very cute, no tourists, with two amazing cathedrals. A great place to spend a couple of hours.
– Riva del Garda was a great find, the youth hostel there central and cheap. It’s lacking some Italian culture (replaced by German food and drink), but we rented SU paddleboards and had a fabulous morning on the water. Pretty quiet in the evening but really chilled-out. Sit on the beanbags with a Coke Zero but watch out for the rainstorms.
– Don’t go to Milan unless you have to. But if you do, and want a good time, stay at Zebra hostel.
– Don’t miss the coach to Zürich by assuming the coach station is at the main train station. Trust me.