For our honeymoon we spent ages deciding where to go, and for how long. In the end, we opted to go one trip around different parts of Italy, and then some other smaller trips later on.
In the time we spent in Italy, we visited 17 different towns and cities, took around 14 trains, and walked over 50 miles. Also, discovered that Venice is shaped like a fish:
I’ve travelled plenty before this, but never gone to so many places in such a short time. For that reason, what we packed became way more important than it ever has been in the past. I read a bunch of different blogs in preparation, so putting together my own with what we ended up doing – as it worked pretty well.
Backpacks – Osprey Porter 46 and Osprey Farpoint 40
It wasn’t till we had booked our travel that it occurred to me that we would need to look into what kind of luggage we’d be taking. Using a trolley case with wheels and checking it isn’t all that big a deal when you’re staying relatively stationary, but the idea of humphing them along cobbled streets every couple of days seemed awful.
I spent a while researching, as the last thing I wanted was to end up with the pastel coloured hiking bags that look like they belong in some bad 70s porno. You know the kind I mean. We ended up going with the Osprey Farpoint 40, and the slightly bigger Osprey Porter 46.
These bags turned out to be awesome awesome, and whilst not exactly cheap, have definitely been one of the best purchases we made. The sizes we got are made to fit within the hand baggage allowance of most airlines, but can expand out with their straps hidden away to double up as checked bags when needed. Whilst on this trip we took them onboard (British Airways perks!), we have used them on Ryanair and Aer Lingus no bother in the past as well; just as long as they aren’t over-stuffed.
Getting used to the concept of only taking a backpack was something that was hard to wrap my head around at first. Even though the Porter could fit about the same amount of stuff as my usual roller case, the idea of it still seemed weird. Packing light is a particular discipline that can take a while to master.
The good thing about these bags is that even with a decent amount of stuff in them, the weight gets pretty evenly distributed by the straps – so don’t feel or really look all that heavy at all. My sister’s reaction when she saw the bag before we left was: ‘that’s all you’re taking, for three weeks?!’.
I was glad of our choice when we got to the 40C heat of Rome, but even more so when we got to the Cinque Terre, and saw other tourists fighting to roll huge cases up the tiny staircases of Vernazza, and steep hills of Manarola.
In terms of what we actually took in the bags, I packed about 7 t-shirts and pairs of underwear; 2 pairs of shorts; some bits and bobs like travel adapters and cables; and a pair of sandals. On the plane I wore jeans and had some ‘hiking’ trainer boot things that rarely came off of my feet.
This, of course excludes the additional small camera bag that I had with me…
Whilst I’m no bad at travelling light in general, when it comes to cameras, I am really really crap at it. After all, one needs to have a variety of different formats in order to capture the scene… Right?
On this trip, I took four cameras: A Leica M Typ 240 (digital), Leica M6 (35mm film), Yashica Mat 124G (120 film), and Sony RX100 (compact digital).
I took 30 35mm films with me: 20 colour, and 10 black and white (Rollei RPX 400). For 120 film I took 12ish rolls, with a mix of different kinds. Overall I shot 8 colour 35mm, 3 black and white 35mm, 7 colour 120, and 1 black and white 120.
When it came to actually shooting, taking the 4 cameras around wasn’t actually that big a hassle. I took 2 or 3 with me in the wee bag when we went out – the choice depending on what we were up to – along with some cash, the keys, ID, etc. It wasn’t ever a pain, and the size of the bag meant I wasn’t tempted to take all of them along at once anywhere.
In Rome and Florence, I mostly shot on digital, favouring the M Typ 240 to begin with. I fairly quickly realised that the sensor was pretty dirty though, and without a laptop to quickly clean up the images before posting, I got put off by the extra work involved – so it got neglected a bit after that. When you go from shooting wide open at f0.95 in dark rooms all year to suddenly shooting at f22 in bright sunlight, it’s amazing what a difference it makes.
I got into the groove of shooting film when we reached the Cinque Terre – famous for its brightly coloured buildings. It wasn’t without its flaws though, as after a whole day of taking pictures in Rio Maggiore, and being pretty pleased with them, I might add, I realised the M6 hadn’t properly caught the film leader, and so hadn’t spool on for each shot on that reel. Completely my fault for not checking thoroughly enough, but still an annoying reminder of one of the disadvantages of shooting film.
For transporting the film, I made use of some 35mm plastic cases that I found on Ebay. I’ve lost some reels in the past trying to keep them organised in my bags, so these came in really handy.
Other bits and bobs
There was a bunch of other wee bits and pieces that I took along on the trip to make things easier – some of which were dead useful, and others that I’d leave behind in future.
Packing cubes – zip-up fabric bag things that are designed to help you organise your clothes. I took one big one, along with a soft tote bag to keep my clean clothes separate from my worn ones – and to ensure my socks weren’t strewn about amongst everything. It worked pretty well, and whilst I didn’t really notice how useful they were at the time – in hindsight it would have been a much bigger pain in the ass without them.
Tesco Hudl 2 tablet – Rather than packing a bulky laptop and charger to process photos and blog along the way, I took this Android tablet. It’s extremely cheap at £100. I shot on Micro SD cards in my digital cameras, imported the pictures from them to the tablet, processed them with VSCO cam, then saved them onto another 64GB microSD card before also uploading them onto Dropbox. Afterwards, I’d resize them and write up a blog using the WordPress app. The internal memory of the tablet is pretty low, which meant I had to do the pictures in batches, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem.
Bluetooth keyboard – As a last minute idea I brought along this keyboard. The idea was that I could hook it up to my tablet and write posts much faster. In reality I didn’t really use it, opting instead to type things out on my phone and then edit them on the tablet. It didn’t take up much room or weigh too much, but I’d leave it out in future.
Mifi with Three SIM card – I have a mobile data plan for 15GB a month that comes in at about £15.99. At home I carry about this wee magic box for times when I am working from places that have crappy Internet (almost everywhere), but it really comes into its own when travelling abroad. On Three there are no roaming charges for a large number of countries, so I can fire up my MiFi and have access to the web wherever we are. Extremely useful.
Travel adaptor – Almost goes without saying, but we got a few multi-country travel adaptors off of eBay, that also came with a plug containing two USB chargers each. This meant we could easily charge up all of our various devices, even when there was a dire lack of sockets in wherever we were staying.
Cable organiser – I always lose cables, so got a cheap (2 quid or something) neoprene cable organiser that neatly kept all of my USB cables in one place.
Jetpack – In other words, a portable USB battery charger. Leave this wee thing on to charge overnight, take it out with you during the day, and combined with the Mifi you have an Internet connection wherever you go. Especially useful for Google Maps.
What I’d do differently next time
There wouldn’t be a whole lot to change if we did the whole thing again, as it all worked fairly well. I’d definitely make sure the damn cameras had their sensors cleaned before shooting in the sun, and would probably shoot less digital from the out-set… but that’s just a minor thing. If I can get away with just taking a backpack on future trips, I’m definitely going to do it.