Arriving in Italy for the first time has to be one of the most exciting moments of my year, and not just because I am a die-hard pasta-oholic.
Italy is home to so many of the most iconic places in Europe and being there makes you feel like you’ve just stepped on to the set of your favourite film. And the rich Italian culture is still so refreshingly present in all the locals you encounter. I really did kick myself wondering why I had never been here before.
Experiencing it for the first time with Topdeck is probably one of the best ways to be introduced to this incredible country. Vincenzo, the Tour Leader, and Csongi, the coach driver, took us everywhere I had dreamed of for an Italian adventure.
Starting with a visit to that iconic tower, I proceeded to eat way too much gelato to fuel a whirlwind stop in Florence and lived out my Lizzie McGuire fantasy by riding a scooter in Rome. But there is one other thing that you absolutely MUST DO when you get to Italy. Get yo’ butt down to Venice and take a gondola ride through the canals that connect the 118 islands. Bucket list item: check!
That’s right, you don’t necessarily associate Venice with typical ‘island life’, but it really is a floating city as wood pilings have been set on 118 submerged islands connected by 400 foot bridges and 170 boat canals (to be precise). Talk about Instagram-worthy!
Vincenzo took us on a little walking tour where we meandered through the countless narrow streets and across dozens of footbridges. I picked up what I’m pretty sure was the world’s best cup of Italian coffee along the way, and we ended up at a little dock where we would be taken to see the city from a whole new perspective.
For those of you who don’t know, a gondola is a traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat. Now I don’t know why I seem to have just assumed these gondolas would be steady-as. Perhaps it was watching the ease of how the gondoliers were navigating and cruising around so effortlessly. But let me tell you. If you are not perfectly balanced, the boat will rock and give your cool, calm and collected persona a bit of a rock too!
After watching a few people before me get the wobbles, I made sure to move as stealthily as possible into my seat, #ninjamoves. There were six to a gondola and after everyone had taken their seat we started to slowly drift backwards and off we went to explore.
Obviously we spent the first five minutes incredibly excited to be experiencing such an iconic activity. Taking pictures, giggling and enjoying each other's company as we took in the scenery. As we started to relax, it was an absolute pleasure to just sit there in peace and take everything in. I was actually glad for the unsteadiness of the gondola in the end because it forced me to be still (something which, if you know me, I am not very often!).
I was in awe as we drifted past homes of the local people. I love to people watch, and how fantastic to be able to do such a thing while gliding through a whole city without moving an inch (literally, otherwise I would’ve been in the drink).
After the ride, Vincenzo took us down an alley to get the best pasta in town. We took our little pots of pasta and sat on the ground by the canal. No frills, but all the flavour, and with great company. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Christianne Risman - better known as being “Backpacking Bananas” - has been travelling, and vlogging her experiences, for over 5 years. Christianne is an adventurer with a not-so-subtle passion for hostels, long-haul flights and those dusty roads less travelled. Her 30,000 fans trust her travel tips and enjoy following her spirited footsteps backpacking around the globe.