Day 1: Monday, 4th July, 2016
After a good night's sleep at Ramada Hotel, Milan and a scrumptious, ‘complimentary’ breakfast we set out to explore the city and make up for the lost hours. Boarding the Metro, we got down at Milan Centrale and stood right in front of the huge Duomo Milano (Duomo means ‘cathedral’ in Italian). Dedicated to St. Mary of the Nativity, this Gothic cathedral had taken nearly 6 centuries to complete. The magnificent cathedral houses more than 3000 statues. After visiting the interior of the church we took a lift to the rooftop to enjoy the architecture of this humungous structure. Next to the Duomo stands the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls. The arcade contains luxury retailers, restaurants and cafes. After a few minutes of window shopping, we hurried back to our hotel as we had a train to catch to Venice – the land of the gondolas. As the train deftly chugged into Venezia St. Lucia Station, it was a sight to behold. Venice is an extraordinary city built across a group of 117 islands separated by canals and linked by bridges. Our stay in Venice was at the Carlton on the Grand Canal which was just across the station. After an hour’s break we climbed into a ‘vaporetto’ (water taxi – the easiest mode of transport in Venice) and headed to Piazza San Marco, the main public square of Venice. At one end of the square, you can see St. Mark’s Basilica, an excellent example of Italian – Byzantine architecture. It is nicknamed ‘church of gold’ because of its opulent design and gold mosaics. Next, we headed to ‘Paul & Shark Yatching’ where our gondola ride awaited us. In Venice, all gondolas are painted black by law. Gliding through the serene waters, serenaded by 2 musicians , the ride through the canals of Venice was a truly magical and romantic experience. We passed by the Guggenheim Museum and under the famous Rialto bridge. After some souvenir shopping and a delectable dinner of pasta, we decided to call it a day
DAY 2: Tuesday, 5th July, 2016
We spent the morning strolling through the streets of Venice and then boarded the Frecciarossa (superfast Italian trains) to our next destination, Florence. En route we passed by the town of Bologna, home to the Ferrari Museum – a stop we missed.
Arriving at Santa Maria Novella Station, we literally carried our luggage and walked to our hotel apartment. After catching up on lost sleep, we stepped into the city of cathedrals and statues. Amidst the many churches and chapels, the Florence Cathedral stands tall with its magnificient, Reniassance dome. Statues of the architects who designed the cathedral can be found outside admiring their work for eternity. The biggest artwork within the cathedral is Giorgio Vasari's frescoes of the Last Judgement.
Day 3: Wednesday, 6th July, 2016
Early morning we set out to Santa Maria Novella Station where our chirpy tour guide and other tourists had gathered for the Cinque Terra tour which turned out to be a remarkable experience. A 2 hour bus ride later we found ourselves amidst the most dramatic coastal scenery – 5 ingeniously constructed fishing villages on steeply terraced cliffs – Monterosso, Vernazza, Riomaggiore, Manarola and Corniglia. Each village with its coloured houses made for postcard perfect pictures. These little towns are sparsely populated with not more than 500 people living in each village. Lunch (home-made pasta and fish) had been arranged for at Manarola which is also famous for its limoncello – Italian lemon liquor. We stopped by one of the many beaches at Riomaggiore and had a dip in its pristine waters. On our way back, we had a glimpse of Giorgio Armani’s luxury yatch anchored at the one of the ports.
Day 4: Thursday, 7th July, 2016
Our next destination was Pisa. Another train ride and we hopped down at Pisa and set about straightening the Leaning tower. One mistake resulted in a 14,500 ton leaning bell tower. The Leaning Tower is the 3rd building on Pisa’s Piazza del Duomo, the other two being the Cathedral and the Baptistry. Returning to our hotel in Florence we packed our bags and by afternoon boarded another Frecciarossa (the most convenient and easiest mode of transport in Italy) to our last stop – Rome, the city with a rich history. Since we didn’t have much time in Rome we hired a taxi that took us first to the Pantheon – a temple built in 126 AD for all Roman gods. To date, the Pantheon’s dome remains the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. To be in Rome and not visit the Colosseum would be blasphemy. This large amphitheatre at one time was capable of entertaining 50,000 spectators who could enter the structure through 80 entrances. Damaged by earthquakes and stone robbers, the dilapidated structure still remains an iconic symbol of autocratic Rome. Before night set in we drove to the famous Trevi fountain and flipped in coins with the hope of returning to Rome once again.
Day 5: Friday, 8th July, 2016
It was a day set aside to explore Vatican City. With our ear phones plugged in and an ever enthusiastic guide we set off on a fascinating tour of the Vatican Museum -- the second largest museum in the world. It boasts of a great art collection -- from Egyptian and Greek statues, bronze busts, huge baths, tapestries, portraits of the Popes, a gallery of maps and much more. Then we entered the Sistine Chapel (here photography is prohibited) and you find yourself staring dumb founded at its ceiling where Michelangelo has depicted various scenes from the Bible. And finally you rest your eyes on Michelangelo’s masterpiece perhaps, ‘The Last Judgement’ painted on the sanctuary wall. Coming out of the Sistine Chapel you directly enter St. Peter's Basilica. This awe-inspiring cathederal at once dazzles and stuns you with its massive size. The famous Pieta by Michelangelo -- a marble statue of the body of Jesus in his mother's lap after the Crucifixion -- evokes all kinds of mixed feelings. Here you feel blessed to be in the company of gods and angels. A stroll through the cathedral and the Vatican Square left us drained but it was indeed a holy and pious day. We spent the rest of the evening strolling through the cobbled streets of Rome enjoying its yummy gelatos, pizzas, wine and the rich heritage and breathing in Rome's night air for the last time.
Day 6: Saturday, 9th July, 2016
Travelling, travelling and more travelling. We embarked upon our last train journey and travelled all the way back north to Milan with heavy hearts but having spent some glorious days in this country so rich in history. Back at Malpensa Airport, disheartened, we waited for the final call to all Kuwait passengers flying on Qatar Airways via Doha.
Although brief, our Italian holiday was one rewarding and fun filled holiday!!