I have to say, I would not recommend going to Greece or Italy in July and August. It was 36-38 degrees Celsius (96-100 degrees Fahrenheit) every single day. I uploaded a lot of pictures to Instagram and Facebook with #heatstroke. Every single smile on my face is a lie. It was too hot to truly be happy.
City #1: Athens, Greece
Athens was unbearably hot. The picture on the left is in the National Gardens. The cicadas were so loud I could barely hear myself think, but I live in NYC where there are no bugs or wildlife of any kind, so I'm just not used to hearing anything besides cars.
The top-right picture is the Parthenon at the Acropolis. Below that is Hadrian's Arch, which we passed on our walk to the Acropolis. Then there is the front of the Acropolis, which was unfortunately under restoration. Not a pretty picture, but I wanted to show what it really looked like.
At the bottom my mom and I are smiling in order to fake like we are enjoying ourselves but we were honestly just trying not to die of #heatstroke. It was 100 degrees and we were at the Acropolis at noon. Sometimes it pays to be a morning person. Like when you are going to the Acropolis in July. We are not morning people.
If you prefer to vacation in English-speaking countries, then go to Greece. Everyone greeted us in English, spoke excellent English, and was very friendly. I think I said "good morning" in Greek once in the whole 10 days. Everyone spoke English, including to the Italians, Spanish, French, basically all the tourists except other Greeks. I have no problem fumbling through another country's language to the best of my ability when visiting other countries, but I always appreciate being spoken to in English!
City #2: Santorini, Greece
The island itself is shaped like a crescent moon and it used to be a circle, but there is a volcano and now there are 5 islands and the beaches have black pebbles. I say pebbles instead of sand because it is NOT sand. It's pebbles. You can see the color of the pebbles in the upper-left picture.
My mom and I hiked up to the top of the volcano and I took a selfie at the top in the lower-left picture. The white on top of the island in the background is Oia. I do not recommend hiking a volcano in July. It's very hot. #heatstroke
The lower-middle picture is how I truly felt in Santorini. It was too hot anywhere that wasn't on the beach. The lower-right picture is my fake smile. #heatstroke
City #3: Naxos, Greece
The middle-right picture is of the town of Naxos. It winds up a hill and you can get lost in the tiny little streets, but you find yourself pretty easily by just walking downhill. This picture is basically the entire town. Didn't I say it's little?
The bottom three pictures are of the beautiful water in Naxos. The bottom-middle picture includes the Temple of Apollo Portara Arch off in the distance. It's the only ruin left of the Temple of Apollo.
City #4: Naples, ItalyIn all honesty, I really didn't want to go to Naples. But it's the easiest way to get to Capri, which is where I really wanted to go.
Naples is an interesting city. It's very old, and looks like it hasn't had a paint job in about 500 years. I've never heard anyone say anything positive about Naples, and I'm certainly not going to break that streak.
Naples is the birth place of pizza. If you do one thing in Naples, eat pizza. It's honestly the best thing to do.
There is a castle in Naples right down by the harbor! It's big and old. There is also a Royal Palace right behind the castle, but it was completely covered for restoration, so I didn't take any pictures of the outside. It was disappointing.
I met a woman in my hostel who had been traveling for 8 months. Eight! She had been to Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, India, Dubai, Lebanon, Jordan, and many other places. She keeps a blog about her travels. It's all in Spanish, but check it out, if even just to look at all her beautiful pictures! Her blog is LaPerlaEnSuOstra.blogspot.com. Add traveling to all these places to my growing list of #lifegoals.
I also met three wonderful Italian girls in my hostel in Naples. I love hostels because you make friends with strangers and hang out like you've always known each other! If you have some fear about staying in hostels, just know that you've seen too many movies and people are always kind and friendly in hostels. I promise. I've only ever had good experiences in hostels. My Italian besties loaned me their phone charger when I realized I left mine in Greece! They also told me how to ask in Italian for a new charger so I could get a new one the next day and they invited me out for dinner and drinks. That's how they became my Italian besties.
I believe at least 10% of traveling successfully through non-English-speaking countries is relying on the kindness and English skills of strangers. I had to ask strangers for directions or clarification numerous times and people always responded politely in English, both in Greece and Italy. I had to take two trains in Italy and both times I had to lift my 30-pound suitcase into the overhead bin. I do not have the arm strength to do this, so I would make a half-attempt, look around pitifully and make eye contact with whichever man was closest to me, make a pitiful look in my eyes, and ask in broken English if he could kindly put my suitcase up there. Every single time I did this, a man gladly got out of his seat and put my suitcase up or took it down. Don't ask me why my English became broken, since it is my native language, but it was an effective way of getting strangers to help me.
City #5: Capri, ItalyI felt like a little kid whose birthday came twice in one year when I got on the ferry to Capri. I was giddy!
The island of Capri is beautiful because the water is a gorgeous blue-green, and there are caves and arches all over around the island at the bottom of sheer cliffs. The picture in the upper-right is in one of the caves. This picture is not filtered - the water really is that color. In the caves, the sunlight gets reflected in a way that makes the water a neon aquamarine color. It's incredible! You can rent a private boat with a group of friends or family for the day and then boat around the island, stop at a pretty place, and jump off the boat and swim around in the gorgeous water. Many people did this and I was jealous of every single one of them!
The island has two towns on it - Capri and Anacapri. You have to take a funicular up to Capri from the harbor, or you can take a bus up to Anacapri. The town of Capri is the smallest town I've ever been to. It is a square, a church, and several streets that shoot off the square. You can walk down these streets and there is shopping. But that is the entire town of Capri. There is a bus that goes from Capri to Anacapri. Anacapri, on the other side of the island, is twice the size of Capri and is the second smallest town I've ever been to. It has two squares and two churches and a few streets with shopping. However, shopper beware, everything on the island of Capri is very expensive. My lunch at the harbor, which was a tuna panini, a bottle of water, and a slice of watermelon, cost 16 euros. For a one-day trip, Capri is absolutely worth visiting to see its beauty. But again, the highlight is the water around the island. Not the towns.
The Blue Grotto is in Capri. I did not go in. It costs 13 euros to get in. There was an hour and a half wait to get in when I got there at about 2pm. If you do want to go see the Blue Grotto, be sure to go early in the morning to avoid the wait, however be warned that you only spend a minute or two in the grotto itself. And again, it costs 13 euros for those two minutes.
City #6: Verona, Italy
There is an old castle on top of a hill across the river and my picture in the upper-left is from the castle, overlooking the whole city. It is free to walk up to the castle and it's beautiful. It's not a long walk and I highly recommend the views.
There are also manicured gardens, Giardino Giusti, across the river outside of the touristy part of town. These are the upper-right and middle-right pictures. It costs 7 euros to get in, unless you are like me and get there 40 minutes before it closes and then they let you in for free! I was eaten alive by mosquitos though, so I paid in blood.
The bottom-right picture is of the Arena. It is like the Coliseum in Rome. It dates back to the Romans, except it is still in use! There was an opera one night that I was there and thousands of people poured out of the Arena at midnight when it ended. You can go inside and walk around, but I chose not to because I've been to the Coliseum in Rome and I just didn't think it could possibly compare to that. Once you've been to the Coliseum, all other Roman arenas look pretty lame.
The bottom-middle and bottom-left pictures are of my addiction. Gelato! I had gelato at least once a day, most days twice. Including in Greece. It was very hot and ice cream cools you down immediately, so that's my excuse and I'm sticking with it. Gelato probably saved me from dying of heat stroke. I didn't take that many pictures of all my gelato because I didn't want there to be proof of how my weight gain journey started. Before this trip, kiwi gelato was my favorite. And then I had pear gelato and that is my new favorite. I also highly recommend papaya gelato! And mango. And nocciola (hazelnut). Oh lord, I recommend them all. If you have never had gelato in Italy, then do yourself a favor a book a trip to Italy ASAP. Like next week. Seriously. Clear your schedule and go to Italy.
City #7: Lake Garda, Italy
Lake Garda is a big guitar-shaped lake in the Alps, halfway between Venice and Milan, and about a half hour from Verona. It was also noticeably cooler in Lake Garda. About 2 degrees cooler than sweltering.
The upper-right picture is of the lake. You can see the Alps across on the other side. It was kind of hazy and cloudy that day unfortunately, so it wasn't a great day for pictures.
The castle in the lower-left picture is in Sirmione, which is on a peninsula that sticks out into the lake. It's a cool castle right?
The lower-right picture is my future house. I want to live in a house covered in purple flowers! This is also in Sirmione. It's in a very touristy part of town, but I feel like I could get used to having so many people walk past my house all the time and take pictures of my gorgeous purple flowers. And there are dozens of gelato places around, so I could certainly comfort myself with gelato. Six times a day. This is my life plan.