Wanderer

Christmas has found Italy!

I’m feeling all Christmassy!

So I spent a couple of days in Naples after meeting the lovely Davide in Rome, who was kind enough to offer me and my friend a place to stay. I’ve visited Naples once before, very briefly in order to meet Pompeii, and frankly, I didn’t like it. It’s noisy, smelly, dirty, the people are often pretty rough around the edges (Davide being the exception there!)

In fact, one thing that I noticed pretty much about Neapolitan guys on this visit, is that they are often questionable in one of two ways: either they seem like pretty dodgy, probably belong in the Mafia kind of guys. The kind of guys who you cross the street to avoid because they can’t help but same some ridiculous comment towards every girl they see. Or, they’re questionable as in.. you just can’t tell if they’re straight or gay. Guys are very comfortable around other guys; cuddling (yes, as in, in bed in the evening while discussing their day with everyone else in the room), holding hands, taking a bite from each other’s rum baba’s (not a euphemism – a rum baba is a cake. Google it, it’s delicious!), and so I think, ok, gay, nothing wrong with that, it’s just a shame because they’re both cute… and then one of their girlfriends arrive, and the guy will give her a kiss while still holding hands with his friend. And this is perfectly normal. Ok, different cultures and blah blah blah, but… I for one found it confusing. And more than once I’d meet a guy and say ‘oh, so this is your boyfriend’ and be met with ‘no, he’s just my friend/cousin/neighbour who I hardly know’.

My bad.

Moving on from the Mafia and confusing sexuality of Neapolitan men… Italy is getting ready for Christmas!

Image

Naples is famous for it’s Christmas streets or presepe: San Gregorio Armeno, which sells nothing but Christmas decorations and Nativity sets all year round. Lord knows how they can afford to sell Christmas decor all year round, but they manage, somehow. Tourism? Do people flock to Naples in June to decorate their tree just because they can? Who knows.

Image

They really know how to make a nativity set! Really elaborate miniature houses – towns, even – made from wood, twigs, moss, beautifully crafted. And then there is such a range of figurines and items to fill them with! I saw figurines of bakers, butchers, seamstresses – every profession you can think of (well, every “old-fashioned” profession, so no photographers or tech-wizards, unfortunately) with little motors so that they move their little plastic pies back and forth in and out of the LED oven, or constantly ironing the same dress, or hacking at the same lump of plastic meat.. or whatever.

Image

Image

Not being one to think much about the religious side of Christmas, needless to say that no, I haven’t bought myself a twigs-and-moss nativity, and there are not little motor run, palm-sized bakers working through the night on the same pie in my suitcase. They’re cute to look at, but definitely not for me. I have, however, started a cute little Christmas tradition; collecting Christmas decorations from around the world. Obviously it’s a collection limited to my winter travels – unless I can find more cities with year-round Christmas markets like Naples – but I think it’s pretty cute to have a tree decorated with memories. Nothing cheesy though, no ‘Rome 2013’ baubles, so I’ll have to make a note in my travel journals as to which were bought where for when I’m old and forgetful.

Image

Image

Oh, and I ran into someone who was clearly a celebrity (screaming girls, lines of people having their photo taken with him), but I had no idea who he is… clearly his fame hasn’t reached the UK!

Image

So Naples wasn’t all about Christmas markets, of course. FYI, if you want to try the best pizza in Naples, go to Sorbillo on Via Tribunali. Best. Pizza. Ever. I recommend both the margherita and diavolo (me and a friend of mine shared so that we had half of each – delish!) I’ve already mentioned baba cake, which is basically rum-soaked cake, also delicious but can be a bit sickly after a while… or I found so at least, but everyone else cleared their plates and asked for seconds! There’s also sfogliatella, which I have to refer to as ‘that one, please *point*’ because I just can’t pronounce it to save my life. Sfogliatella comes in two forms; frolla (smooth) and ricca (curly), and basically it’s a sweet pastry. Layers and layers of pastry – to me, it looks like a sea shell! – with a ricotta filling, or most commonly at least. A must try!

And… despite the noise, insane traffic, dodgy reputation, piles of rubbish and general Naples-ish ways of the city.. it can still be so beautiful.

Image

Image

Image

Image

And then what did I find on returning to Rome? Christmas!!
As ever when I arrive in Rome, even if I was there just a few days ago, I head straight to Piazza Navona, my absolute favourite spot in the city. So imagine my excitement when I round the corner and see this scene!

 _MG_0984-edit

The words ‘giddy’ and ‘schoolgirl’ spring to mind.

_MG_0990-edit _MG_0991-edit2

They were in the middle of setting up while I was walking around, but I did spy some familiar-looking twigs-and-moss nativity sets lurking in the back of a lorry. No mechanical villagers yet though!

_MG_0986-edit2

_MG_0989-edit

_MG_1000-edit

_MG_0995-edit

_MG_0999-edit

_MG_1001-edit

I’ve been told that Christmas celebrations don’t officially begin until 8th December, on which the Feast of the Immaculate Conception takes place. That’s Mary’s conception, not Jesus’.. apparently the ‘immaculate’ part of of the tradition is because she never sinned.. or something like that. But anyway, so me and my friend will be heading back to Piazza Navona to see the finished market, decorations and celebrations next week. I’m. So. Excited.

Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – Google+ – Pinterest – Polyvore

Standard
Wanderer

Is Hitchhiking as dangerous as people think? (Especially for lone women)

In short, no.

I have been hitchhiking for quite some time now. How else can a poor student without a driver’s license explore Europe? I’m the only English person I know who is ‘brave enough’ to hitchhike, and I only know a small handful of people from other countries who hitchhike. It’s a rare thing now, which is a real shame because 99% of the time you are picked up by lovely, inspiring, fascinating people. I haven’t yet experienced the other 1%, and anyone who my guts tells me could possibly be in that small minority, I refuse to get into the car with.

Image from Something About Iceland

Hitchhiking comes down to common sense and listening to gut instinct. If I don’t feel right about someone, I’ll refuse to get into their car, even if it causes offence (especially if it causes offence!) As a lone female hitchhiker, I also have one personal rule which I always follow: never get in a car with a man or group of men, only women, couples or families. Even if it means having to wait all day for a ride, that’s my rule. When I’m travelling with a friend, then we’ll travel with anyone who passes our ‘danger sensors’.

Pepper spray is also a good precaution, and Bear spray even more so (which is basically super powerful pepper spray), though always read up on the laws and regulations on pepper/bear spray before you travel, as in some countries its classified as a prohibited weapon, whereas in others its an openly available self-defense weapon. You’d have thought that if you can show that you’ve just saved your own life by pepper spraying a dodgy character in self defense, no one would care that you were carrying a prohibited weapon in the first place… but you never know these days.

I constantly have people lecturing me on the ‘insanity’ of a woman hitchhiking alone, and my answer is always the same: people only have this idea that hitchhiking is a guaranteed way to end up raped and murdered because of the media. You never flick through the paper or turn on the evening news and see ‘News just in, lone female hitchhiker made it safely to her destination’ or ‘New study has shown that 99% of hitchhikers have no problems whatsoever on the road.’ Instead we only hear about the horror stories, the rapes, the murders, the missing people.

I don’t think we can live our lives around what the media says. We can’t not hitchhike simply because there’s a small risk it could end badly. The way I think about it, there is statistically a much greater chance of you going for a drive now and dying in a horrific car accident, or walking outside and being hit by a car than there is of coming to a horrible and gruesome end when hitchhiking. I personally would rather hitch and be considered ‘insane’ for doing so than sit in my house in my ‘safe’ city or town and wrap my life in cotton wool. That to me is insanity.

Photo from Pretty Little Treasures

HitchingHobo rules of Hitching:

  • If a woman travelling alone, only hitch with women, families or couples.
  • If possible, carry pepper/bear spray or similar.
  • If people are confused as to whether you’re a hitchhiker or a prostitute, re-think your wardrobe.
  • Have a look into the meaning of the thumbs up in certain countries. E.g. in certain countries such as Greece and Iraq, giving the thumbs up is equivalent to giving the finger.
  • Don’t be afraid to offend. A common issue with us Brits, we can be overly polite and considerate to other people’s thoughts and feelings. If I don’t like the look of someone, that British part of me thinks ‘oh but this nice man didn’t have to stop with me, he’ll be offended if I say no’, and I have to slap that side of me away. Its still important to be polite, but as long as you’re polite without going against what you want to do.
  •  Try to keep your bag with you rather than in the boot. I’ve personally witnessed an Aussie hitcher lose his bag with all of his possessions when the car sped off before he had time to retrieve it from the boot. Even if it makes travel slightly more uncomfortable, its worth it.
  • You can check that doors open from the inside by pretending not to have shut the door properly. If not, bring it up!
  • Its safer to sit in the front of the vehicle. If anything happens, you can always grab the handbrake!
  • Make a note of the registration number and at least pretend to text it to a friend. Make sure that the driver sees you do this and explain as you do it.
  • Wear visible clothing and hi vis for when its dark.
  • Be sensible when choosing where to stick out your thumb. The amount of times I’ve seen people trying to catch a ride on a blind corner!
  • Also don’t be afraid to ask a driver to drop you off somewhere else if you don’t feel they have selected the safest spot.
  • Sensible conversation. I never mention that I am a photographer, and my camera is always safely stored in my bag when I’m waiting for a ride, and remains there until they drop me off.
  • Emergency exit tip: If you find yourself wanting to get out of the car, but the driver won’t pull over, ready yourself to unlock your seat belt, wait until they come to traffic lights or a stop sign, and then in one swift motion open and door, grab your pack and get out!
  • Another one is to complain that you’re travel sick and need to get out now before you ruin his/her car!
  • Just have some common sense and listen to your gut!

There are certain countries where I would perhaps think twice before hitchhiking, particularly countries with certain views about women, but generally I think its no where near as dangerous as people think as long as you are sensible.

Don’t allow the media’s horror stories to scare you into wrapping your life in cotton wool!

Facebook – Twitter – Instagram – Google+ – Pinterest – Polyvore

Standard