Verona: Northern Italy’s hidden gem


I’d always written Italy off. It wasn’t as exotic or fiesty or distant as somewhere like New Zealand, Rome looked cramped, and besides, pizzas are just tarted up cheese on toast. Italy wasn’t for me.

Until, like the true eagle-eyed budgeter I am, I spotted hella cheap flights using Kayak’s “Everywhere” tool. Return flights to Verona for two people for less than £150? I decided I’d put up with Verona for that price, and use it to get to more interesting places. I am nothing if not a reasonable person.

After trundling off the plane and squinting into the sunlight, I realised “putting up with Verona” is the very least anyone can do. It’s incredible.

Verona was to be our base- and I wasn’t expecting much from it other than a cheap place to sleep in between day trips to the more expensive locations Venice and Lake Garda. Sure, there was the whole Romeo and Juliet situation, but I was dead certain that’d be a bawdy museum full of bored school-trip groups, and maybe a few tourist traps selling tacky “Romeo 4 Juliet” tee shirts, but nowt actually interesting.


Well, more fool me. What a place!

Verona is a city of colourful alleys, marbled streets and Roman ruins, hidden gelatarias, gorgeous parks and bell towers both adding to and offering city-wide views of this breathtaking city.

Our B&B was a stone’s throw from the city centre, which was full of amazing places to eat. I used to very much an Italian food cynic- anyone can knock together cheese and tomatoes, that doesn’t make it a national cuisine- but I’ve firmly shut my mouth since firmly stuffing into my mouth several portions of fresh gnocchi, tagliatelli and my previous pet-hate, pizza. Oh, and gelato. Fuck loads of gelato. All hail Italian food.

Other than food (which is obviously my priority), Verona proved to be a labyrinth of gems. Every side street had something awe-inspiring tucked down it, whether it was the best damn sandwich you’d ever had, or the entrance to a sweet little garden, or, I dunno, a massive Roman ampitheatre. These streets constantly surprised and impressed me.


So what would I recommend to do in Verona?

Well, eat. The best restaurants in Verona are the ones you’ll find filled with locals- Leone Pizza behind the Arena, RetroBar hidden down some sidestreets- so ip-dip-do your way through the centre until you find somewhere with a terrace, grab yourself a bottle of Bardolino or Soave and challenge yourself to a little game of Man vs Food.

When you’re stuffed, go view hunting. Through Verona snakes the Adige River, which we crossed every day. If you climbed up the mini peaks of the foreboding medieval Castelvecchio bridge, you’d get a glimpse of the river winding around the city, and maybe catch a sunset like the one above. Clamber up the Torre de Lamberti (above, top right) and gaze out onto the city.

There’s a market on the Piazza del Erbe, which when it’s not full of hoardes of school children in matching caps trying to steal ornate face masks, is a delight. Giardino Giusti (below) was probably my favourite place to wile away the hours. There’s a maze, which suitably confused the fuck out of me for far too long, gorgeous views and all the beauty a Renaissance Garden should have. Sigh.


Be warned, it’s a very romantic city. Lots of couples gazing into each other’s eyes over the last lick of ice cream, lots of very public snogging and candlelit dinners going on at every turn. Made not unbearable, naturally, due to the equally large population of incredibly cute dogs. Couples and pomeranians galore.

Although we still used it as a base to get to surrounding destinations (the big V has excellent and cheap connections with Venice and nearby Lake Garda towns), Verona is not a commuting city. It’s it’s own destination, and a bloody lovely one at that.


Tw*ts in churches.

There are a few things that bug me about travelling. Nothing too big, just the usual. Delayed flights, insect bites, being jealous of other people’s adventures. The same things that irritate anyone going away.

But there is one thing that I loathe. Utterly, utterly hate.

Twats in churches.

You know the ones. You’re in a touristy spot, you’ve just entered a church out of appreciation for it’s cultural significance, the architecture, the lavish embellishments and decorations, and maybe, if you’re that way inclined, for a spot of prayer/worship/religiousness. There is a sign at the entrance, written in several languages, welcoming all people indoors if they would be so kind as to observe dress rules and no take any photographs.

In you walk, ready for a spot of quiet observing. Then you see them. The Twats In Churches (TICs). Stomping around in short-shorts, strapless tops, making loud phone calls, farting as the flash of their camera blinds a passing vicar.

I wandered into a gorgeous church in Venice recently, and was silently apoplectic (that fabulous British mood) to witness some douchebag stood in front of the altar next to a sign asking people not to take photos. The service was about to begin- with people literally kneeling all around him- filming the organ music and people’s prayers with his fucking iPad.

Where do these people think they are? Are they lost?? Did they queue for an hour outside the Basilica thinking there would be a bloody theme park inside? Were they expecting showgirls?? Has this man totally lost his mind?

I have no problem with people capturing the inside of these buildings. None. I personally don’t do it that much, but I have done and I probably will do again. I have no beef with photos of ceremonies, recording the music, or with anyone that is even mildly interested in what the building is intended for. But these douchecanoes cross the line in two ways.

One: Respect what should be respected, dude. You might not believe in whatever deity the building you’re in was designed to worship, but the people around you, yeah those ones kneeling and praying, do. And let me tell you this, they’re not doing that to provide you with some top action shots, they’re doing it because they’re praying for their suffering or future or other stuff that does not need documenting by your dumbass iPad.

And, most of all, two: No TIC will literally ever watch or look at those badly-shot crap quality images of what is a supposed to be sacred place ever again. Anyone who is culturally buttheaded enough to record a private moment is not culturally interested enough to actually ever fucking look at it again. Which makes the whole selfie-with-praying-old-lady spectacle pointless.


York is the best city in the UK.

love York. I went to university there, where I spent three years running around finding myself, bars, boys and bookshops. It was an amazing backdrop to my little life, and is my all time favourite place in the UK, if not in the world. So much nostalgia! So many memories!

I was back up there over the bank holiday weekend to visit my wonderful best friend, who is rocking an amazing little flat behind Museum Gardens. We spent our time in and out of beer gardens, pottering around cobbled streets and lazing around in gorgeous parks. York is such an idyllic city, and I can’t think of anywhere better for wiling away my time.


I’m not saying I’m an expert in what to do in York, but an enthusiastic three years of trial and error does give me a cheeky advantage. My recommendations for spending time in York would be:


The Lime House, Goodramgate for dinner. Some seriously good food with a cheeky set menu for those on a budget.
Trembling House of Madness,  Stonegate for a boozy lunch. Incredible decor, to-die-for burgers.
The Sitting Pig, Walmgate, or “The Sticky Pig”, as I like to call it. Sweet, simple cafe with a killer breakfast menu.



The Habit, Goodramgate. Gorgeous hidden gem that fills nooks and crannys with wonky stools and a great pint. Rekorderlig on tap, for the softies too.
The Hop, Fossgate. Live music on Saturdays and a gloriously wood-and-stone cavernous pub feel to it. Plus, cheap gin- win.
Dusk, New Street, for cheap and cheerful cocktails. If you can’t afford Evil Eye’s concoctions, head here for a MilkyBar Kid and thank me later.



Charity bookshop galore. Oxfam on Petergate and Amnesty International on Goodramgate are total goldmines. Take an empty rucksack, you’ll need it.
Zesty, Market St. Cheap makeup conveniently wedged between the Superdrug and the Boots, so as to curb your spending.
Goodramgate is home to the greatest collection of charity shops ever known. Go. Explore.



Il Paridiso Del Cibo is not worth the hype. No amount of pesto can make up for rude customer service, and there are defintiely better Italians in York- go to Piccolino on the bridge instead.
The Old White Swan, Goodramgate. Cocky bouncers, slow service, no personality and a crap pint. Walk two minutes up the road and go to the Habit instead.




Just hang out in Museum Gardens. Picnic, people watch, squirrel watch, whatever. Beer garden your days away. They love a good beer garden in York. Find one, any one, and set up camp. Lamb and Lion is a goodie. Marvel. Spend your entire time, whether it’s a weekend away or a lifetime, wandering around and marvelling. Touch the ceilings of buildings on The Shambles, wander through Rowntree park, lose your balance on cobbled Mickelgate. You’re in the best city in the UK, make the most of it.



Cheap tickets for Matilda the Musical

My sister isn’t one for an early start. It runs in the family, for sure, but she’s especially hard to drag out of bed. And on a weekend? Good luck seeing her before lunch time.

So when I set my alarm for 7am on Saturday, I wasn’t expecting her to be be impressed, or even responsive. But the early bird gets the worm, or in this case, the cheap theatre tickets, and I was determined.

Various theatres in London offer cheap tickets for their shows for us cash-stricken 16-25s. The catch is you have to buy them in person from the theatre’s box office, and it’s first-come-first-served. In practice, this means there’s usually a queue forming up to an hour before the doors swing open at 10am, which means no lie in for me or my sister.


Come 9am, Baby Kelly and I were running through Covent Garden, the Cambridge Theatre sparkling away in the distance. We wanted £5 tickets to see Matilda the Musical, but so did another twenty-odd twenty-somethings who had clearly got up earlier than us. Thankfully, we were in luck. The Cambridge Theatre reserves 16 tickets per show per day for young people, and we secured two matinee tickets without any problem.

I really, really recommend Matilda the Musical. It’s not as dark as the film or book- her parents are comically stupid rather than wilfully neglectful and the Trunchbull is a little bit panto villain rather than a hard nosed, disciplining demon. Understandable, really, as 80% of the audience were under ten years old. A kid’s musical is no place for in depth exploration of the effects on a neglected child’s imagination, amirite?

The show is amazing. It looks gorgeous and has brilliant wit throughout- Tim Minchin hits the sweet spot with lyrics that are the right mix of wink wink in-jokes for the adults and cute and cheeky lyrics for the kids- stand out lyrics including the gem “Ever since the day doc chopped the umbilical cord, It’s been clear there’s no peer for a miracle like me!”.

The choreography is smooth, fast, snappy and exciting. My personal highlight is the School Song, where letters of the alphabet appear shoved through school gates, with dancing pupils swinging from and jumping onto them, tap dancing and just generally having more physical coordination than I can ever dream of. Fast-paced, cheeky and sweet, if you’ve got to entertain some young’uns, it’s perfect, or if you’re just feeling pangs of nostalgia for the “ummway, umway I WOULD LIKE TO REACH OUT MY HAND” song, or for watching children shove giant chocolate cake in their face, then it’s a good day out for you too.

Anyone between 16 and 25 can get tickets- so if you have friends visiting or are going to be in the capital in the morning, it’s well worth getting out of bed for. With tickets for a measly £5 each, you really can’t argue with the early start. Details here.