A Little Piece of Tuscany
YHA New Zealand member Neda Zdravkovic went exploring in Italy recently and shared some of her travel experiences with us. Read her travel tales here!
When travelling continuously for six months around Europe, there are two things that become essential for a traveller’s survival: a fresh bar of soap and quiet, clean, affordable and well run accommodation. Without these two in place, long, smelly days and noisy, sleepless nights await to turn one’s European adventure into a bacteria-ridden, exhausting and sleep-deprived torment.
Especially when you book that bed six months in advance and find, after arriving in Florence and buying a mini-map of the city, that your hostel is located in a suburb an hour away on foot or 30min by public bus. And you think in terror: “Oh my god, what have I done!”
Until…I arrived there.
The bus stops in front of a wisteria-in-bloom covered ancient stone gate and the bus driver turns back and yells at you in Italian: “OSTELLO!” signaling this is your last stop and the furthest the bus will go – beyond this point, there are no streets. You put on your backpack and leave the bus, watching as it disappears around the bend. Suddenly you realise – you are not in the city anymore. There are no more tourists around, no traffic, no noise, no buildings. Only silence. The sun, the trees. Hundreds of beautiful Tuscan cypresses, cedars and stone pines. The birds and the mild wind. You breathe in the air and immediately feel at ease from the travel rush and anxiety. Instantly – you feel at home. I know where to go this time, as the stone gate clearly shows the way – a gravel road leading you upwards through the forest.
It felt like being back in New Zealand, with my walking shoes on, following the long, almost hidden and overgrown ancient path through the bush. I passed by several magnificent Tuscan vineyards in early bloom, beautiful landscapes and well-run large family estates with olive grooves, vegetable and flower gardens, lavender fields. I could see rooftops of ancient Italian villas in the distance, high up at the top of the hills above the forest. And all that -engulfed in perfect silence and tranquility. After 20 minutes of walk or so, I started to wander where on earth is this “ostello” as there was no trace of anything similar ahead of me. Instead, I arrived at the magnificent 2 meters high gate of a three hundred years old Tuscan villa, with breathtaking gardens, fountains, ancient marble columns and luxurious mosaic floors running from the courtyard into the main entrance. Again – the blessing of a Tuscan sun, the trees, silence and the sound of the spring greeted me, with lilac in bloom and Hostelling International “Welcome” sign on.
I could not believe my eyes. I died and went into the Florentine heaven. The 30 min bus ride seemed a trifle inconvenience compared to this sight. I went in to find the reception, feeling just like a princess entering a renaissance summer residence in Bella Tuscany. The photos accompanying this story that I took on my first day of arrival show the Ostello Villa Camerata grounds and interior with the reception.
I found that my 14.90 euros per night plus 2 euros City tax provided the bunk bed in the quietest and cleanest 4-bed female room in the middle of the Tuscan garden, free wi-fi, daily breakfast (cappuccino, orange juice, butter, jam & Nutella with toast, tea) and the in-house laundry service.
During my two week stay here, I met extremely hard working and well organised hostel staff (all mostly Italians) who assisted me with whatever I needed, including great effort on their part to understand my Kiwi English accent. All that was left for me to do was what I came there for – to enjoy the gardens, the stylish old villa, explore Florence and the rest of the Tuscany, relax and taste original Chianti, pizza and pasta.
Neda Zdravkovic is a professional librarian, digital nomad, writer, property developer and entrepreneur living in New Zealand. She is currently travelling in Europe until September 2019.
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