I could not resist the title (though really it would be more applicable to Belgium), however what I mean is favourite ‘stumbled upon’ spots that I have found in Italy. Please add any of your own in the comments, maybe others will be able to find them too.
The park in Grosseto, seen in a photo in my previous post on Grosseto with the ‘wonder wall’ graffiti. While that alone could be enough for it to reach the top spot (there is quite frequently English graffiti though that one made me laugh), this quiet park was a lovely and tranquil place to pause on a sunny stone seat with something to read. Wandering around small Italian towns is a fantastic way of spending a touristy day, but there’s no denying it can get tiring – especially in summer. While there are bars and cafes (though standing at a bar with an espresso is not my idea of relaxing), a free bench in a secluded spot is a brilliant find and a calming place to unwind.
The stone steps (like a mini amphitheatre) in Verona across the river, I think near the Giardino Giusti. I apologise for the vagueness, but that is the trouble with favourite but slightly random spots. They are best found when slightly lost. This was not exactly an alcove, but so peaceful that I was able to fall asleep in the sun with a stone step for a pillow – much to the amusement of the two people I was with. Second to that, the gardens themselves are worth a visit (as far as my memory goes – if anyone has been more recently please let me know if the gardens are still as lovely).
The steps of the San Francesco di Paola in Naples. It is large enough for you to get a nice quiet spot to yourself, even on a busy day. During my stressful first fortnight I did a lot of walking in the town, and this was a great shaded place to stop (especially if you bring a slice of pizza). You get a great view of everything happening on the piazza, and can continue your walk with renewed energy to find a view of Vesuvius and the sea just around the corner.
Castel dell’Ovo, or castle of the ‘egg’. The story goes that there is an egg hidden somewhere in the castle, and as long as it remains hidden then Naples is safe (so I recommend not looking too hard for it while you are there… On another note, I wonder if they do an Easter Egg Hunt in March at the castle). If you turn left instead of continuing on with most of the crowd to the front of the castle, you will end up in a quieter spot with two archways of stone with ledges. The perfect place to sit with an incredible view of the sea. Even better, the castle is free. For another incredibly (free) view of the sea, also try the rocks at Mappatella Beach. Easy to find, you just follow the path along the sea front from town until you reach the (tiny) beach.
On a lunch-break from work today, near faint from hunger as still unused to the late lunch hours and slow moving queue for pasta, I was not eager for either the over-crowded cafe or the office. Unprepared for the onslaught of rain – it had been only pattering which I found rather lovely, apparently I have been in North England too long and by necessity have learned to miss the rain – however rain in Naples can turn quickly into a deluge complete with thunder. I ended up in a large doorway and was actually rather pleased with the arrangement being dry, out of the office and with just about a view of the sea. The pasta was delicious and it was fun sitting with something to read and the rain pouring down only a couple of feet away (of course it was still not cold, despite being November). I was rather happy on my floor spot, though an incredibly kind older gentleman, also sheltering from the rain, took advantage of the opened door and invited me to sit in the rather grand entrance way with him. I did, and continued reading, until my lunch break was over and the sudden rain had just as suddenly left.
Next time you are in Italy and it starts raining as suddenly, I’d recommend a nice doorway if you are in need of a place to shelter (provided it is not a busy one). You never know where you will end up finding your favourite little spot.