Italy Travelogue – Part Deux

Planning a trip to Italy is not an easy task, so when a long weekend was planned to Milan and Florence, I had to pay attention to details. This being a trip with my parents, I had to be extra cautious with the fact that they cannot exert themselves as much we can. After a combination of internet searches, the plan was decided, a train ride from Zurich to Milan and then a ride to Florence. Spend the rest of the day and the next in Florence and catch an evening train to Milan to spend the rest of the weekend there.

With the plan in place, we set out to Milan taking the first train out of Zurich on a Friday morning. The journey is beautiful and picturesque, the first Italian station on the journey is Como. The sudden change in the landscape outside the train surprised my folks. After around 45 minutes, with a 10 minute delay we reached Milan. The Milano Centrale station is massive to say the least, the edifice was started in 1906 and completed in 1931, modified design to reflect the greatness of the Fascist era it is worth a visit. Sadly the same station’s platform 21 was the departure points for trains to Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps during the great war.

With a rush to catch the next train in time, we ended up on Trainitalia’s fast train to Florence (or Firenze), do note that booking tickets early with Trenitalia offers cheaper prices on these fast trains. Upon reaching Florence, we walked our way to the Hotel Universo, which was just across the Basilica Santa Maria Novella. Be careful, for you shall encounter many vendors and taxi-wallahs as you get out of the stations.

The Piazza is unpretentious, we went for a short walk to the famed Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella. Pharmacy? You ask? Well, you need to be there to see it, established in 1612 to serve the needs of the local public, this beautiful pharmacy offers natural products and fragrances for the souvenir hunter.

Post this place, we opted for a Hop on Hop Off tour, something which I am not a very big fan of. However, it was worth getting an overview. Our next stop was the Piazzale Michelangelo, a park with a beautiful panoramic view of the city of Florence, famous for the replica of the Statue of David & the view of a Florentine sunset. On the same hill did Galileo perform his famous experiments in gravity, he was a citizen of this city.

We next visited the famous Florence Cathedral, the landmark monument of the city and its Baptistry, the Bapitstry was exceptional owing to its Gates of Paradise and the eclectic Mosaic ceiling. This, for me, is a must visit place, one has to spend time to understand the ceiling.

The Cathedral of Florence is a unique building, one has to stand in a long queue to get in. For Bell tower enthusiasts, Giotto’s Campanile offers a beautiful sight if you are willing to walk up 414 steps.

Within a walking distance from the Cathedral was the Uffizi Gallery, another must visit place in Florence. A tip here is to book tickets through reservation or you shall end up standing like us in the queue for almost 45 minutes. People are allowed in batches in this amazing collection of art & paintings including works from Da Vinci, Michealangelo, Raphael and the likes. The gallery also offers an amazing view of the bridges of Florence, overlooking the Punto Vecchio.

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One of the regrets of this trip was the lack of time to visit Pisa, it would have been a 4 hour trip, but we had our hands full in Florence. Many people also indulge in tours related to cooking in Tuscany and wine yard trips, am sure they are fun to do.

On the same evening, we took a train to Milan. Reaching Milan at around 9.40 PM, we headed towards our hotel, barely a  walking distance from the station. It was already late at night, all we could wait for a night’s sleep.

Next morning was the last morning in Italy, our first stop from the Metro lines was to Piazza del Duomo. The massive square is the go to place in Milan, our first stop was the Duomo. The Duomo is also called as the Milan Cathedral, it is the 4th largest cathedral in the world constructed with brick and marble. The visit to the top of the Duomo is worth it, the ticket counter is behind the Duomo, not in the same compound. The trip to the top roof is a treat in itself, one of the rare possibilities when it comes to visiting a cathedral.

Inside the Duomo, the composite stained class paintings across different panels are simply majestic. Next to Duomo was the Galleria Vittoria Emaneuelle, a majestic shopping arcade opened over 200 years ago.

Slightly ahead of the Gallery is the famous square with Leonardo da Vinci overlooking his disciples. A longish walk away is the Gallery Ambrosiana, a place which I had visited in my trip last year.

We closed our trip with a short bus ride around the city, there was a lot to see, but tired from the long three days we were content with a glimpse of what Milan has to offer.

Interesting food tips is to try the Milanese Risotto and the Panettone. For shoppers Corso Buenos Aires is the right destination.

A trip to Italy cannot be completed in a long weekend, with destinations like Rome and Venice, I shall return some day. Until then, Grazie Tuscany and Lombardy.

I’ll be happy take take your questions in planning a trip, although am not an expert.

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