Travel wise, you could say I’m doing pretty well this year. In two months I’ve visited Rome, Siena, Lucca and Viareggio; and this weekend I was lucky enough to spend a long weekend in Bologna and Verona.
It had been planned for a while, this trip. My sister and I decided to make the most of her six days in Italia with a long weekend away from the city. You know, cross a few more destinations off my list.
And oh god, I was excited. We’ve got this relationship; the type where no matter what situation you’re in, something crazy is bound to happen. Non stop laughter coupled up with hour long life chats, dutty grinding to 90s R n B followed by childhood reminiscing. Basically, wherever we are and whatever we do we’ll be having the most incredible time.
Now place that in two brand new, stunning cities. It was quite simply, bliss.
The sun beat down on Bologna as we met at the station. I didn’t know what to expect. I’d heard Bologna was the capital of food… but Christ on a bike, nothing could prepare me for the exquisite delicacies I was about to sample.
But first – to the top of the city. We climbed and we climbed… you know these towers? They’re fucking huge. Like buns of steel kinda huge. A quarter of the way up my sister proceeded to tell me she had a crippling fear of heights. Good start, La.
We could see through the gaps in the stone the sky starting to turn a soft pink as the sun grew lower in the horizon. I could feel my heart plummet suddenly into my stomach, the immediate catching of breath. Please, please, please don’t let us miss sunset.
Finally we made it. Stepping out, the warm evening breeze encircled us, luring us closer to the edge. The moment. The moment that never fails to enter my soul with force, making its way through my veins until my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest. Looking down over the world below as it lights up in an array of oranges, pinks, purples and reds. Watching silently as the sun gradually dips behind the rolling hills, sending a burst of final colour across the sky line. Just sitting. Sitting and letting it inspire you, letting it carefully lift your troubles until you feel as light as air.
That’s the magic moment. Why I travel. Why I constantly want to discover new worlds, feeling them roll out beneath my feet.
It was so special, sharing it with my sister: one of the most important people in my life. We just stood next to each other, these dopey smiles spread widely across our faces. We drank it all in, each and every bit, until the sky transformed into an inky blue.
The rest of our time in Bologna was just as spectacular: and totally unexpected. What I didn’t anticipate was the beautiful opulence of the city and, in particular, the churches. A seemingly modest building would open up to reveal the most exquisite architecture; the type that punches you in the guts at the first introduction. For hours we simply strolled between churches, floating in and out to soak up their serenity. In the Cathedral we both lit a candle, knowing our Nan was there with us, taking every step in total awe just as we were.
A buzz floated around the city. A welcoming, passionate buzz. Of my experiences in Italy so far, these people were the friendliest. But the stand out performance had to come from the new love of my life, Cristian, from the incredible Ristorante Al Voltone.
This. Place. This. Guy. I’ve never had service like it. As the prosecco flowed we feasted on warm crispy bread, sizzling roasted vegetables, feather light tortellini and irresistibly rich lasagne. We gauged on creamy gelato and snacked on deliciously sweet pastries. Cristian talked us through every aspect of the menu (whilst I wistfully drowned in those chocolate button eyes) before grabbing my notebook and filling it with “must see” places in Verona. After the meal he took us outside and filled us in on Bologna’s history. He spoke with love and excitement, clearly so proud of his home.
After another day’s worth of relaxed exploring in the spring sunshine, we took to our next stop; Verona. The evening started… in an interesting way, we’ll say. Long story short, our incompetent B & B host managed to lock herself out of the apartment resulting in a three-hour wait to drop off our bags. Oh, and this B & B? Just a converted flat shared by the two of us and four ridiculously annoying Italian LADSLADSLADS with the host casually sauntering off and leaving us to our own devices. Bo, we were in a place I had only ever dreamt about and weren’t going to let it kill our jam yo.
And what a dream it was. How can you even begin to describe the romance of Verona? The spell it puts you under, the way it gets under your skin?
Everything about it felt soft and delicate; as if it were all so intricately laced together and you were gently bound to it too. Every sight exuded devotion. It was so easy to see how your work would become captivated by the notion of love just for being there.
Of course we visited Juliet’s balcony (what Literature-geek wouldn’t?). Crowds swam around the courtyard dreamily staring up at this symbol of inspiration, gazing at the wall of letters and smiling at the gate of lovelocks. A huge canvas was covered in multi-coloured graffiti from visitors, scribbles from individuals, lovers, friends and family. We added our mark and left, joy pulsing through our bodies.
We ate, we laughed and we drank FAR too many Aperol Spritz. We sunbathed in the Arena and sat by the river. We took to the churches and perused down the cobbled shopping streets. We were happy. We were so, so happy.
As the weekend drew to a close and we began the journey home, this calm glow radiated from the both of us. Really, we live polar opposite lives, my sister and I. She took to the vibrantly frantic world of London and government, I the unpredictable but (mostly) slower path of Italy and the creative industry. But we still carry the same weight on our shoulders, the same tension in our minds. We both needed this time, together, to reflect on just about everything. The time to step away from reality, for a little bit, to form a clearer picture of the road ahead.
I’m lucky. The bond I have with my sisters is something I cherish more than any relationship in my life. They hold a mirror up, helping me challenge myself to be the best person I can be. They teach me and they support me, no matter what. Three beautiful sisters. Three beautiful best friends.
It’s weekends like this I will always hold close to my heart. The ones spent in the company of a person who you know will always adore you, no matter how insatiably annoying you are or how big your mood swings can be. The ones where you talk until your throat is sore before sitting in silence, content to be together.
These are the ones that make me realise I will never truly be alone; however vast the miles between us might be.
“Sisters function as safety nets in a chaotic world simply by being there for each other.”