To celebrate my Dad's 70th birthday, my family decided to book a trip to Italy. Tim was already going to be in Italy, attending the World Esperanto Congress in Turin, for the first part of their holiday. I decided to fly out to meet them in Verona towards the end of their time there, while Tim made his way across Italy from Turin to meet up with us all for the second part of the holiday in Bolzano.
My journey started on Friday morning, walking into Nuneaton to catch a train to Birmingham International for my Ryanair flight to Verona. Having heard that there is a bit of chaos at Birmingham airport this summer due to renovations for a new security terminal, I decided to turn up three hours ahead of my flight to make sure I definitely got through security on time. Imagine my disappointment when I got to the Ryanair baggage machines, only to be told that I wasn't allowed to use them until two hours before my flight.
That was annoying, but I managed to pass an hour in Costa and then come back for a second attempt. It turned out that I needn't have worried about getting to the airport early; it was a pretty quiet time of day and I whizzed through security in less than 10 minutes. Unfortunately, my flight then ended up being delayed for no clear reason, but luckily only by around half an hour or so.
The flight to Verona is a fairly short one and before too long I was queuing for passport control on the other side. By the time I got through that, my bag was already waiting for me on the baggage carousel which was a relief; I'm always nervous about flights where I have to stick my own label onto my bag!
I emerged into a rather humid Verona, where it looked like it was soon going to rain. Getting the airport bus into the centre of town is theoretically straightforward, but in practice turned out to be complete chaos. Lots of passengers didn't understand how they were supposed to buy tickets, then once people had bought tickets and managed to get on board there was more chaos as it's one of those airport buses that don't have any space for luggage. I spent the entirety of my journey balancing in the bendy part of the bus, where the floor moves every time you go round a corner.
Once I made it to the main station in Verona, it was just another short bus ride to the part of the city where my family were staying. My sister met me and led me to their apartment, where I spent the night.
The next morning, after a breakfast of croissants and coffee, we headed back to the main station to catch a train to Bolzano. The journey took less than two hours on a regional train, which was surprisingly busy; we were lucky that we were at the station early so that we could jump on the train as soon as it arrived and find space for our luggage. We arrived in Bolzano around 13.30 and I set off towards the apartment I'd booked, where someone was waiting to check me in.
It's a nice apartment, in a residential block not far from the cable car station in Bolzano. We've got a kitchen...
...a living room...
...and a bedroom.
Best of all there's air conditioning, although it did take me a while to figure out how to get the temperature to go below 25 degrees!
I unpacked for a while, then set off back to the train station to meet Tim, who had had a nightmare 9-hour bus journey across Italy from Turin.
Once we'd all made it to Bolzano we went out in the evening for a pizza. The weather forecast had been looking a bit mixed for the following day, but when we woke up on Sunday morning it seemed surprisingly sunny.
Our first plan had been to go up the cable car to Soprabolzano, but when we all met at the cable car station we found that there was an enormous backlog of people queuing to go up the mountain. We're not sure whether it's always like that at this time of year or whether it was particularly busy today thanks to the good weather, combined with the fact that it's a Sunday.
We decided to leave Soprabolzano for another day and instead go with a back-up plan to visit Runkelstein Castle, which is about a 40-minute walk away from central Bolzano.
We started by walking through the town, where we got a glimpse of the controversial victory monument erected by Mussolini.
From there we turned off and walked along a pleasant trail through lots of greenery.
We could hear, although not always see, a fast-flowing river.
Every so often we also got glimpses of mountains in the distance.
We walked past vineyards...
...and several buildings which looked like castles but weren't the castle we were going to visit.
The views of the mountains here were fantastic.
As we continued on, everywhere looked so green that it almost felt like we were in the Azores.
We passed another building which wasn't the castle we were looking for...
...found the river again...
...and then eventually got our first glimpse of Runkelstein Castle.
It was an impressive castle, but quite high up; we still had a bit of a climb to get to it.
It was rather steep but we all made it to the castle gates just before a torrential downpour began!
Luckily the castle has a nice restaurant, where we were able to sit inside until the weather improved and get some lunch. I was slightly disappointed that they'd run out of apple juice, so couldn't make me the Apfelschorle I was craving, but I managed to console myself with an Aperol Spritz.
After lunch, my family stayed to explore the castle which has some impressive frescos. Tim and I are philistines as far as frescoes are concerned, so we decided to walk back to Bolzano via a slightly different route.
The weather had massively improved by this stage, which was good.
The path led us uphill towards vineyards.
There were so many grapes!
We could see down towards Bolzano in the distance.
This part of the route was relatively flat, but there was a lot of uphill to get to it, followed by a lot of downhill at the end.
The views of Bolzano were superb though...
...and as we got towards the end of the walk I was amazed to find that there were cactuses growing by the side of the path!
Definitely not what I expected to find in Bolzano
The path brought us out not far from our apartment, so we were able to head back there for a while to cool down (and catch up on the blog ).