On the Environment / The Home of Pasta

I got the train from Zagreb to Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia. I didn’t really have much of an idea of what to expect, but I had heard it was a pleasant city, and very environmentally friendly, very ‘green’. Ljubljana is not a big city, certainly not the centre of it, which can be easily walked around, or cycled around, as many of the residents prefer to do, but it is perfectly formed. The streets are scenic, the buildings are well kept, the shops are charming, the people welcoming. There are lots of bins. The bins are often split into categories. Ljubljana takes the environment seriously. Much of the city centre has no cars, no litter too.

Through the middle of the city runs the serene river Ljubljanica, a hilltop castle overlooks the city. It is a picturesque place. I asked the wonderful staff at the hostel how the city became so…nice. There wasn’t really any key turning point from what I could make out. It all seemed like such a natural progression, such sensible choices.

I took a day trip to the town of Bled, famous for its lake. I spent a few hours walking around the lake, which really is very beautiful. The bus journey to the town goes through lots of scenic countryside. Slovenia is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever visited and I certainly hope to return.

I took a bus from Ljubljana to Trieste, eventually. It set off nearly three hours late, and whilst I had shelter most of the time I did spend too long in the pouring rain and got soaked.

Trieste is located on the far north east of Italy at the top of the Adriatic Sea which I had previously swam in. Croatia is to the south, Slovenia is to the east and not that far north is the Dolomites and Austria. I wondered how much influence this situation would have on the city. Walking around the city though, it looks unmistakably Italian with grand buildings and piazzas. I have read that some of the architecture is of Austro-Hungarian influence however. The most impressive sight that I saw in Trieste is the Piazza Unita d’Italia, a magnificent square that opens on to the sea.

From Trieste I headed westwards and to the business and fashion centre of Italy, Milan. The Duomo di Milano is an incredible sight to behold, beautifully built, wonderfully decorated, and accompanied by the luxurious shopping area of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele right next to it. These two buildings are the icons of Milan. What I hadn’t realised before I went to Milan was that this city is also home to Da Vinci’s ‘The Last Supper’ which was a great experience to see. This was the second great experience of Sunday after I had been to San Siro to see Inter Milan beat SPAL 2-0; a great football stadium with an exciting atmosphere.

After the football and the Da Vinci I rushed to Milano Centrale to catch a train (and I had to run to make it) to my next stop, an hour west in the shadow of the Alps, the city of Turin.

In a familiar theme I didn’t quite know what to expect of Turin. My main knowledge of the city was that it was the home of FIAT, and of Juventus. I had in mind those old tapes I feel I saw in school but really I cannot remember where I saw them or if they even existed; these tapes that first introduced me to Italy. In them Turin was the industrial power of the country. I wondered whether it would be an attractive city.

As I looked out over the city from the icon of Turin, the Mole Antonelliana, I could see the Alps to the north and west, I could see the river Po the other side, and I could see the red roofs and grid system of much of the city. I can say that at that moment I decided that it is an attractive city.

I am still in Turin, and at times I feel like my Italian has improved to such an extent that for a minute or two, I can convince a waiter I am Italian too. Now I just need to try and learn to dress with some style.

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