Ok. I get it now. Italy is as magical as they say! Few countries pack so much beauty and romance in every meter of land. It’s not just the food, landscape or the beautiful people – but the ‘dolce far niente’ vibe. This doesn’t mean that people aren’t working hard; they just do it right, they live right. That’s the closest I can form a definition of what Italy felt like to me.
It was my first visit there. I landed in Milan on a Saturday evening, totally ignoring my flight anxiety and taking photos like a mad woman of the beautiful lakes and mountains I could see so perfectly from above. I knew straight away I was going to love this country. All I could hear in my head over and over again was: ‘Feliciataaaa! La felicitaaa! (a popular 70s song by Albano and Romina Power. Those from Easter Europe will be very familiar with these names.)
I didn’t get to spend a lot of time in Milan, but we did, of course, see the famous Cathedral – Duomo di Milano. It was busy and taking a photo of it without a sea of people with cameras and phones was impossible.
We decided to take the train to Lake Como the next day – I’m much more into nature, water views and pretty landscapes than big cities, these days. Living in London takes its toll on people.
What a great decision that was! You can take a ferry from Como San Giovanni, all the way to Bellagio – it takes two hours and stops at every little port, showcasing different parts of the lake. It was amazing, I took at least 200 photos and it was still hard to capture the true colours of that overwhelming beauty! Here’s a selection – took me an hour to narrow it down to these, and they have not been modified at all!
We took the fast train to Verona the next day, enjoying the comfort of the Frecciarosa and individual sockets – so badly needed when you’re trying to Instagram every second in Italy.
Verona is small, incredibly pretty and very romantic! It’s perfect for long strolls, loving promises, whispers on the bridge and sunsets…beautiful sunsets.
It was my favourite, probably because I’m a romantic at heart…but also because it was the ideal combination of old and new, nature and urban, not too busy, and you can walk everywhere…
Fifteen minutes by train from Verona is the stunning Lago di Garda – the highlight of my trip, as I got to take my first swim of 2016! The word of the day was: WOW. And you’ll soon understand why…
Finally, we packed our bags again and headed over to our last destination – Bologna. A bigger, busier city – with lots of trams and no underground, like most of the country, obviously. (it’s because of the excavations and ruins) But with a very specific charm, lots of crammed houses, on different levels and of lots of beautiful, warm colours. There are two tours guarding Bologna and we climbed 498 stairs to the top of the highest ones. I had to confront my fear of heights and I feel rather proud to say I made it, even after I nearly went back when I looked down once while climbing those many wooden! stairs.
The view though… worth every drop of sweat, butterfly in the stomach and vertigo sensation! See for yourselves.
Now, to sum it all up, here’s a list of top 5 things I enjoyed and would recommend:
- Lake Como – 50 min regional train journey from Milan Central Station – only 6 Euros (one way). Take the ferry from Como San Giovanni to Bellagio. Then take another ferry at the end of the day from Bellagio to Varena, and take the train back from there to Milan. That way, you don’t need to go all the way back to San Giovanni.
- Ponte Pietra and Ponte Scaligero in Verona
- Piazzale Castel San Pietro – the most beautiful spot for a panoramic view of the city – you can access it via the stairs very near the Roman Theater Museum. At the top, the view is breathtaking, and there is a terrace and restaurant there with the most delicious Aperol Spritz and food.
- Lago di Garda – Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. 15 min train journey from Verona Central Station – you can sunbathe and swim in the lake, while looking at the mountains and blue skies. Priceless!
- Asinelli Tower in Bologna – the tall tower where you then get to admire the whole city
Don’t buy a bus pass for Verona, unless you’re travelling from the train station to the city center, that’s probably the longest journey you’ll take. There’s a Verona Card – which gives you access to all attractions and is also a bus pass for 24 hours. Here are a few places to tick from your list:
– Castelvecchio and Ponte Scaligero (Stone castle and stone bridge, dating from the 14th century)
– Piazza delle Erbe – restaurants, a beautiful fountain and murals.
– Piazza Bra and the Roman amphitheater
– Chiesa di Sant’Anastasia
– Torre dei Lamberti
– Teatro Romano
– Porta dei Borsari (ancient Roman gate, dating from the 1st Centura AD!)
All in all, go visit Italy, again and again. Drink espresso, eat lots of past and drink Aperol spritz responsibly! (hmmmm) I’m already planning my next trip – to the Amalfi Coast.