I have to say, I'm quite surprised that there wasn't more of an uproar in the city after the game last night.
I've experienced Italy post-success before (think cars jamming the roads, horns beeping in joy for once, youths hanging out of doors and off mopeds as they wave flags and sing and shout) so I was expecting a similarly extravagant mourning ceremony after last nights unfortunate performance against Costa Rica.
I was out watching it with Magro and his friends who weren't overly happy...
On an entirely separate note, my Expat interview has just been published on Expatsblog.com (click here to read it). It's a bittersweet time for me at the moment as my time in Italy is drawing to a close. The next few weeks are going to be fairly jam-packed - a concert in Verona, a wedding in Lombardy, a trip to Lake Como, saying goodbye to the friends I've made here... but I know I'll be back at some point!
Anyway, the other month, Martina and I decided to hop on a train and explore Sirmione del Garda for the day.
As relaxed and happy as we look in the following photos, it was actually quite stressful getting there (there was an ordeal with me buying tickets for the trains at the wrong time and said tickets being non refundable and us sneaking onto an earlier train anyway, hoping that our youth and my Englishness would let us off a fine... it didn't. Goddamnit.)
Oh yeah and this was in the period of the broken toe. If a young girl in a strange country with crutches can't be let off a ticket fine I don't know who can!
But never mind all that, before long we had been safely deposited in the heart of Lake Garda territory.
Having gotten the 8am train, we stopped off for a bite to eat before jumping on the ferry.
We had company.
This little sparrow was the cheekiest thing. Martina had popped to the loo to wash her hands and I was just reclining in my chair, enjoying the sun on my cheeks when I heard a fluttering sound.
This cheeky little chappy had landed on the table and was regarding me with curious eyes. I was happy for him to sit there until he bounded forward fearlessly and took a swing at one of our croissants.
I launched forward and flapped my hands at him. Completely ineffective. He darted forward again and took another stab. I grabbed a napkin and started aiming for him with it which worked just about enough but at this point my crutches had slid over and were getting dangerously close to the lake so whilst I was saving them, he advanced one more.
An old couple nearby chuckled whilst I battled away. Luckily Martina came back and we ate our breakfast as quickly as we could.
After our ordeal, we hopped on a ferry from Desenzano to Sirmione.
I got way too excited when we left the port and I'm not cool enough to hide it or deny it.
We sped across the lake where nearly everything you can see seems to be made of hundreds of shimmering blue tones. Here is where you will see that typically iconic Italian landscape; an idyllic azure lake stretching away for miles with the colourful coastline biting into the water and lilac mountains rearing in the distance, their snowy peaks seeming a hundred miles away from where you are with the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair.
Before long, we were pulling into the bustling port at Sirmione. Our boat trip was up after a mere 15 minutes!
Sirmione is famous for being one of the most beautiful old towns on the lake. The old town is the place to be; it's practically a little island away from the newer modern town and is accessible either by water or by crossing over the drawbridge to the old castle.
It's a touristy place, yes, but for me it isn't ruined by this. Plus we saw a place (which I suspect is actually the pizzeria in the above photo if you were curious and if my memory isn't failing me) offering a marinara pizza and 2 spritzes for €10. Bargain!
It's an incredibly beautiful little town and for me, it embodies everything that is beautiful about Lake Garda with a smattering of brightly coloured buildings, welcoming bars and little tourist shops filled with tat and treasure alike.
Without a real plan and with our tummies still full of croissant, we wandered down by the castle and found a beautiful little pebbled beach where we stretched out for what felt like hours.
Paddling is hard when you're not supposed to put any weight on your big toe and the stones keep shifting underneath you with the flow of water.
I have no idea what I found so scandalous on my phone screen here. But here's your typical holiday photo of feet on the beach... with a nice bandage to complete the look. Lovely.
The view was absolutely striking and though I'd visited Sirmione before, I'd never chanced across this little beach before. I know exactly where I'll be going next time.
Those damn sparrows.
After a while we decided it was probably time we got moving and did some exploring.
As we were leaving, a swan wandered up the shore, creating a bit of a panic with its purposeful striding and cornering all the poor people left on the beach. It did make us chuckle though.
After a little wander up the scenic coast of Sirmione, I had an idea of what to do next.
When I first came to Garda with my family three years ago (on that trip that introduced me to Italy and during which Magro and I got together) my mum and sister were on a tourist-train mission. For some reason they're obsessed with jumping on them and having a little tour of the town they're in just for fun (and because my dad refuses to pay to get on them).
This one is pretty handy though as it takes you from the old town all the way (ok, it's only about 1km) up to the ruins.
The driver was going too fast for Martina!
Suddenly we found ourselves amongst scores of olive trees and old crumbling ruins.
It only costs a few euros to get into the ruins (keep your EU passports and student ID with you for a discount although it's pretty cheap anyway!) and it really is worth every cent.
The land has been taken over by olive trees which are harvested to make olive oil nearby.
We jumped off the train and headed into the Grotte to explore a truly mediterranean landscape.
And Martina found a random cat which didn't want anything to do with her. She's quite good at this I must say.
When visiting, beware the midday sun as it can get very hot (obviously) but if you're craving a bit of Grecian or Southern Italian charm whilst up in the North, it's the perfect place to visit.
There's a museum on site showing lots of artefacts that have been excavated in the area and images showing what the villa would have looked like when it was first built.
We uncultured souls skipped this part and went straight to look at the crumbling old buildings.
They're not the easiest things to navigate on crutches though.
This ancient piece of floor tiling has been wonderfully preserved even though the roof that once covered it is long gone.
It's so strange to think about all the centuries of sun and wind and rain it's endured; the roads in Milan certainly aren't this hardy if my falling-to-pieces-post-pothole bike is anything to go by..
With views like this, I could have stayed there all day.
The ruins are huge and in the heat, you might want to set aside a couple of hours to really take it all in. There are a few shadey coves to hide in when it gets too much and although there's a sign saying that picnics are forbidden (the meanies) there isn't anybody around to check so sneak a bottle of prosecco and a punnet of strawberries in your backpack and have a snack. I won't tell if you don't.
Lovebirds. Cute huh? I thought so too until the Mr jumped up on the Mrs' back and began flapping his wings enthusiastically. I put my camera away quickly then.
My favourite thing to see in the ruins is this improbable piece of wall, now being held in place by supports. What I want to know is: how on earth did the villa get worn away to leave just this behind? And was there more wall there when they first attached the supports? I can't imagine this being able to stand on its own.
What a palace. Proof that the rich and famous have always been coming to the Italian lakes.
Once we'd overheated a bit too much and were in desperate need of refreshment, we made our way back to the town.
Martina was in the mood for ice-cream whilst I fancied a slice of pizza. We found a quaint little bakery where an old nonna sat behind the counter with her grandson, playing games and colouring together.
My pizza was delicious and smothered in vegetables although the base was a little doughy and undercooked. I also bought a piece of focaccia and was surprised to find that it came to €6 altogether - proof that nothing comes cheap in Sirmione!
At 4pm I declared it aperitivo time.
Since moving to Italy, I have started drinking a lot more than I used to back in England, even when I was at uni!
When I am at uni, I don't tend to have very much free time. I don't understand how other students do it - all of my friends always seemed to be having so much fun, going shopping and for cocktails and out clubbing. I seemed to spend all of my time weeping over research papers! Ok, it wasn't quite that bad.
Anyway, I have been more than making up for my sobriety at uni this year and now I have quite the afternoon drinking habit.
Exeter, beware. I'm coming back for you and things have changed.
Sitting in the shade, Martina was a typical Italian and got her scarf out to stop herself from catching a cold. It is a truth err Italian-ly accepted that a person with their neck bared is in want of an illness or malady. You know those days when you just have time to wash your hair and run? Doesn't happen in Italy. You have to blow dry your hair to within an inch of its life or that pesky wind will come along and kill you with the cold and damp.
I meanwhile was a typical Brit and died in the heat.
Whilst getting excited about the alcohol.
Yes. I am British.
All hail the Spritz of the castle!
I even persuaded Martina to have a Campari Spritz instead of the usual Aperol.
I remember first tasting a spritz on the shores of Limone Sul Garda, August 2011. I was nearly sick. Remember that clear, foul-tasting nail varnish to stop you biting your nails? Yeah, it tasted exactly like that. Yet now I love the bitter tang of the Italian liquor. Strange.
Sitting in the dappled shade, having a chat and a cooling drink. My perfect afternoon.
Poor Martina however is not used to drinking so early so we took her off to the beach again for the last half hour to recover.
Meanwhile, I became obsessed with photographing the lake and the movement of the water.
Meanwhile, somebody else was still drunk..
Unfortunately it was time to drag ourselves away from our beach so we left the lovely old town and headed towards the main land again.
We wanted to catch another boat back to Desenzano but the buses were more regular. Or so it appeared on the timetable. Note to self: never trust the Italian public transport system!
Whilst we waited and waited for our late bus, we spotted some more Brits on holiday.
That just about sums us up. Not coping with the heat, drinking lots (both demonstrated by yours truly) and sacrificing all dignity for a tan. Rule Britannia..
We finally got the bus back to Desenzano station and hopped on a train, getting back to Milan in time for our respective dinners and parties (we're busy ladies don't you know).
Unfortunately it was all too much for Martina who passed out after a crazy day of walking around, relaxing in the sun and eating. Poor girl.
Next weekend, we're going away with our boyfriends and dear friend Mollie. It's a trip that has been months and months in the making and it's finally arrived. Lake Como, I'm coming back for you!