Booking under: Nicole & Keith
Ciao, come stai? We hope the slightly foreign post title didn’t scare you away, but there’s a reason why we decided to dabble in Italian this week. It’s time for another trip review! This time, to beautiful Italy.
1. Duomo & Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
We begin with two Milanese landmarks, the historic Duomo and the shoppers paradise of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. The Duomo began construction in the late 1380s and was not completed until the 1960s. Although we did not step inside, we were astounded by the majestic construction and could not imagine a better place to kick off our trip into a country with so much history.
The adjacent Galleria Vittorio Emanuele is also a landmark steeped in history, as it has claims to be one of the first shopping malls in history. Our only purchase there was for some delicious gelato (at the popular Cioccolat Italiani), and we were of course delighted that the big department store there offered free Wi-Fi!
2. Lake Como
If you are not a big shopper and prefer exploring natural scenery near Milan like us, Como is the answer. It is home to many famous villas, and one of which was where Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones was filmed. We had a day trip along Lake Como and were absolutely stunned by its idyllic landscape. After departing Milan Centrale by train, we arrived at Como in an hour and enjoyed a nice stroll around Como Cathedral and the small streets nearby.
After having a relaxing lunch by the sea, we continued our journey to Bellagio. The bus service was infrequent and can take up to an hour between each bus so remember to check the schedule if you wish to sit comfortably during the 45 minutes bus ride. In Bellagio, there are many gift and specialty shops that exhibit genuine Italian craftsmanship. Varenna was our last destination that day and we thought approaching by ferry was the best way to admire this gorgeous lake town. Colorful houses were dotted around the lake and nestled into the mountainsides. This beautiful scene created a perfect setting for photos and simply took our breath away. We highly recommend Lake Como if you are looking for a scenic and unusual getaway from busy Milan.
People often say Disneyland is the happiest place on Earth, but they may have second thoughts after visiting Burano. Situated in the Venetian Lagoon, it is easily accessible from Venice and Murano by water bus. Once a fish village, Burano is famous for its needle lace but is now more well-known for being the most colorful place on Earth. Small houses are painted differently in a variety of vibrant colors along the central canal and stands out against the blue clear sky, making every inch of Burano so attractive and photogenic.
As soon as we arrived on this gorgeous island, we were short of words. We didn’t waste time and took a lot of nice photos that we are still savoring today. Burano is a picturesque place to visit and definitely the highlight of our Venetian itinerary. A small tip for you is to fully charge your camera battery before you land on this quaint island and fall in love with its beautiful colors.
4. Duomo – Florence
Another Duomo? Are we really out of things to write about? Nope! The Duomo in Florence is just as beautiful. This majestic cathedral was unveiled to the world in 1579, and clearly stands out from the rest of the city’s smaller architecture. We had to wait in line for a while and then complete an almost overwhelming amount of stairs in order to get to the top. But it was definitely worth it!
For those of you who reach the top, you will be rewarded with a 360-degree panorama of Florence. We were lucky to visit on a day with gorgeous weather and the views we got were simply stunning. From looking over the city to across the river where Piazzale Michelangelo is, you might not even know where to start with taking pictures!
5. Piazzale Michelangelo
If Rome is a city of love, then Florence must be a city of romance. We wished we had extended our stay in Florence and experienced more of its artsy and cultural vibe as well as medieval splendor. Among the attractions in the city, Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the very few where people can oversee the whole sights of Florence with a panoramic view. That said, the open-square is usually very crowded so it takes some effort to avoid people in the photo frame. So we climbed the extra steps to San Miniato al Monte for an even better view. After reaching the top, a local Italian uncle was very nice and helped us capture a sweet memory under the enchanting Florence background. Grazie!
Yet another landmark that anyone visiting Italy should see, the Leaning Tower of Pisa (and its surrounding buildings) was well worth the two train-rides we took to get there. Construction began in 1173 but was not completed until the mid-1300s due to constant interruption from armed conflict. Although the tower is not particularly tall or imposing, it was amazing to see this architectural wonder in person. Unsurprisingly, we took some “pushing the tower over” photos just like everyone else who was there.
While the tower and surrounding buildings were a sight to behold, there really wasn’t too much else to see in Pisa. We had some food in the city but found prices to be higher than in the other cities we visited. This could be because we were still in the vicinity of the tower, but you are recommended to look for alternate dining options before/after your trip to Pisa.
7. La Prosciutteria Trevi
La Prosciutteria Trevi was not easy to locate. But once you find it, your taste buds will be
rewarded. This little deli is right around the corner from the Trevi fountain with just a few minutes of walk. Despite the small shop size, they offered a wide selection of prosciutto and cheese that gave us a dining experience that was beyond-satisfying. We ordered a a charcuterie plate for two (photo from above) and loved it! It was delicious and reasonably priced. For just €20, we walked away with happy stomachs filled with quality cold cuts. We spread the word about this hidden gem to friends who were visiting Rome and they weren’t disappointed either. Delizioso!
How about more food? Rome is just filled with good places to eat, and Almacri may be one of the more underrated ones. We were recommended by our bnb host to try Almacri, since it provided a more authentic cuisine than competitors that try to appeal to the overseas tastes of tourists, and boy were we pleased!
The restaurant offers a nice quiet decor and serves filling portions that don’t skimp on goodness. We enjoyed a delicious Capricciosa pizza along with a classic (and delightfully eggy) spaghetti carbonara and were more than pleased with our experience. Almacri is in Trastevere, but there are quite a few buses and tram lines that can get you there from the busier parts of Rome. Definitely put Almacri on your list of places to eat!
The nice thing about visiting (northern) Italy is, you can easily squeeze in a trip to another country without leaving a certain Italian city. For those of you who are confused, we’re talking about Vatican City, which is nestled in Rome.
We were very rushed for time that day, having to hurry through the Vatican and visit our final item on this list as well. However, we were not disappointed by what we saw. From the grand St. Peter’s Basilica to the countless pieces of artwork in the Vatican Museum, we were able to take in a condensed Vatican City 101 by joining a local tour group. Although photos are not allowed in the hallowed Sistine Chapel, being there in person is something we won’t forget anytime soon. We recommend you to sign up for one of these Vatican City tours. Just be careful and check that they have a legit office around prior to signing up!
After visiting Vatican, we made our way to the Colosseum. Being one of the seven modern wonders of the world, it is a gigantic architectural triumph that used to be the battlefield of gladiators and has been restored in recent years to its former glory. After getting off at Colosseo station (you don’t even need to memorize the station name!), the Colosseum was right in front of us. We joined a private guided Italian tour (because our Italian is fluent like that) that granted us exclusive access to the arena floor, underground chambers, and the third tier of the structure.
Without having a clue of what the tour guide said, we basically went back in time to witness how the ancient Romans lived in the past and were amazed by every single detail in the arena. The view from the third tier was spectacular, and nearby attractions like Palatine Hill and Foro Romano were fully visible. If you are planning to visit the Colosseum, do yourself a favor and pre-order tickets for an English guided tour online ahead of time to jump the lines and beat the crowds.
Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome are all great in their own ways and gave us some unforgettable memories along this journey. We were mesmerized by Italy’s charms, from its food to architecture, and enjoyed exploring new places and spending quality time together. Italy is enticing in every way and definitely deserves a top spot on your travel calendar.
If you have any fun experiences or exciting travel plans to Italy, do let us know! We look forward to sharing more with you via A Trip For Two in the near future.
In August, we will start a brand new topic: Contemplate the Heavens. We invite you to read our sharing on the spiritual realm and our thoughts on why and how it is related to happiness. Stay tuned!