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It’s also the best preserved medieval city in Italy and I’ve read that the people of Siena speak the purest Italian in Italy – actually Italian language students often go there to learn the correct pronunciation....
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If Rome can be described as the city of ancient wonders then Florence is certainly the city of medieval marvels. Known as the cradle of Renaissance, Florence is also the birthplace of the most famous Italian poet - Dante Alighieri and the city where Leonardo da Vinci underwent his apprenticeship. But what amazed me is how underrated Florence is as a tourist destination. Whereas Rome is a pretty hyped up city, Florence is more of a hidden gem. It does not get the same glory as Rome but is certainly no less glorious. To use a cricket analogy, if Rome can be called Sachin Tendulkar then Florence is definitely Rahul Dravid.Read More
If Rome can be described as the city of ancient wonders then Florence is certainly the city of medieval marvels. Known as the cradle of Renaissance, Florence is also the birthplace of the most famous Italian poet - Dante Alighieri and the city where Leonardo da Vinci underwent his apprenticeship. But what amazed me is how underrated Florence is as a tourist destination. Whereas Rome is a pretty hyped up city, Florence is more of a hidden gem. It does not get the same glory as Rome but is certainly no less glorious. To use a cricket analogy, if Rome can be called Sachin Tendulkar then Florence is definitely Rahul Dravid.
The history of the Roman Empire started fascinating me after I picked up my first play of Shakespeare, Julius Caesar. Therefore, it was only natural that I planned my longest haul in Rome. If you ignore the hundreds of tourists buzzing around the city, Rome has an old world charm, which makes it appear like it is frozen in the times of the kings. The colosseum – one of the major sites a tourist would have most definitely been to – looks as if it is work in progress, left to be finished another day, another era. The colosseum is a 1st century AD amphitheater that was used for gladiator games. Colosseum is surrounded by other historically rich sites like the Roman Forum, Palatine, and the Pantheon. But this article is not about the things to do in the cities I visited. I am writing this article to share my journey as a novel solo woman traveler.I wasn’t thinking much about the consequences of going alone when I finalized my trip. The realization hit me only when I set foot in my flight to room. How was I supposed to manage alone, what would happen if I got lost or got robbed, what if I got bored in my own company – several questions were haunting me throughout my flight. I had booked shared dorm beds in hostels with the best reviews in most of the cities. It was a choice I made in order to meet people from around the world, make friends, and have some company if I ever felt lonely. And let me tell you, my decision did not disappoint me. The hostel I booked in Rome was supposedly a ‘party hostel’, with a club of its own – where most of the hostellers living in the area would flock to. I had done my research on how to reach the hostel from the airport, printed an offline map and had decided to buy a local Lyca sim card as soon as I landed in Rome. My assumption that I would find a sim card booth at the airport did land me into some trouble. Without the GPS, I was lost and going around in circles trying to find my way from the bus stand to hostel. It took me one hour and sheer luck of finding a couple of girls going to the hostel to finally reach the accommodation where I would be spending my next four days. My room was a four bed dorm with an attached bathroom. Attached bathroom was a choice I consciously made while booking the rooms, as most of the rooms do not have those and I did not want to share bathrooms with a dozen others. After I settled in my room, it was already late at night and I quickly made friends with my American roommate. We went to club downstairs, had a few drinks, chatted and got to know each other and closed the night. She left the city the next morning. The next four days were a roller coaster ride. I was missing home, wandering the streets alone, going to the romantic Trevi Fountain by myself, but being a foodie, thoroughly enjoying each and every meal. Pasta is my favorite dish and finding it in abundance in its natural habitat was a bigger dream come true than doing a solo trip. Freshly baked handmade Pasta garnished with fresh (and not imported) cheese is truly a food lover’s delight. Pizzas were scrumptious, and the popular Italian Gelato was worth waiting in queues for. I will admit though that I did enjoy my time at Piazza di Spagna and Piazza Navona, the streets that were bustling with high end to budget shopping brands. Being a former literature student, I loved spending hours at the Keats Shelley House near the Spanish Steps. A door in one of the rooms at the house led to a pretty balcony overlooking the steps. I spent most of my time quietly sitting there, observing the crowds trying to find a spot to sit on the steps. For the days, I had bought a three-day bus pass, using which I would board any bus and get down at any stop I liked to stroll and explore. I also saw and waved to the pope in Vatican City, which is one of my favorite places now. Evenings felt less lonely as my new roommate Catia from London and I would go downstairs for drinks and dance every night. I never ventured out to explore the other more popular pubs of the city as I was too scared to go out alone at night.
Day 06-8: Check out of Hotel Relais Maresca . Ferry from Capri to Naples. Cab to Naples train station. Train from Naples to Rome, Check in Hotel Deko Rome. Nice, modern apartment type hotel. Our host was very helpful and gave us a detailed map and places/restaurants to go to. Good location.
Last day in Rome, before I head to another glorious Italian city - Florence, and I felt I still hadn't had enough. The day was bright, there was a nip in the air, and what would be better than a walk along the Tiber. Starting from the Vatican, I walked past Castel Sant' Angelo and Pallazo di Giustizia and crossed the Ponte Umberto I.
Landing at Fiumicino, I took a train to Termini, to get to where I would be spending the next 4 nights. It's very important for me to choose a central stay location, so that I can make the most out of the stay, and Termini was ideal. Piazza della repubblica was a short walk away from where I was staying, and a visit to the cathedral was just the beginning of what would for the next few days be moments of boundless amazement.
My days in Rome, Italy started at 9 a.m. and finished at 10 p.m. It was more than 12 hours of endless walking through cobbled streets. I stopped in-between only for food and drinks. Roma, as Italians call it, is without a doubt a beautiful city with pale white walls and history at every turn.It is not just the Colosseum and Roman ruins that make Rome unique. If you are wandering in Rome, there is a high chance that you will come across disintegrated castles, ruined theatres built centuries ago or dilapidated churches in the middle of the city. This is what I Iiked about Rome. You get your dose of history without paying for it.But hardly anyone goes to Rome just to roam around, do they? For such tourists who come on a week trip with an itinerary to cover length and breadth of Italy, the Colosseum and Roman Forum are obvious attractions. For 12 Euro, valid for two days, you can visit both places and that is money well spent.
Day 6: We had a morning 9:08AM train to Rome and arrived at 10:40AM. We checked into Hotel Massimo. Then headed to the Termini, had lunch and bought the 48-hour travel pass in Rome since all spots were far from each other. We visited the Pantheon and then Trevi Fountain which was packed with people but we managed to get a spot near the fountain. From there we walked to the Spanish Steps that was unfortunately shut for renovation. We then went to the Orange Garden or Giardino Degli Aranci for an amazing view of the sunset with the Vatican in the background.
The best thing that could have happened during an otherwise uneventful summer vacation was our Italian holiday. Though short-lived, those seven days will forever remain etched in our memories. Planned on the spur of a moment, my three boys (the eldest, being my husband) and I eagerly looked forward to visiting Italy – a land of history, romance, wine, pasta and home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We booked our tickets on Qatar Airways , applied for our Italian visas which we got in a week’s time and kept counting days and finally hours.Day of travel: Sunday, 3rd July, 2016With the commencement of the summer holidays and Eid Al-Fitr just round the corner, we expected a very crowded airport. But what awaited us there was way beyond our imagination. We boarded our 4:40 flight to Doha at 5:40. Desperately we prayed we wouldn’t miss our 7:00 connection flight to Milan. Unfortunately, the 7 o’ clock flight departed leaving us at Doha. We were rebooked for the afternoon flight and landed at Milan Malpensa International Airport at around 20:40. I've heard that the sun sets late in these European countries but to experience it first hand was indeed ethereal. At 20:40 in Milan, the sun had just begun its official descend.Read More
The best thing that could have happened during an otherwise uneventful summer vacation was our Italian holiday. Though short-lived, those seven days will forever remain etched in our memories. Planned on the spur of a moment, my three boys (the eldest, being my husband) and I eagerly looked forward to visiting Italy – a land of history, romance, wine, pasta and home to the largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. We booked our tickets on Qatar Airways , applied for our Italian visas which we got in a week’s time and kept counting days and finally hours.Day of travel: Sunday, 3rd July, 2016With the commencement of the summer holidays and Eid Al-Fitr just round the corner, we expected a very crowded airport. But what awaited us there was way beyond our imagination. We boarded our 4:40 flight to Doha at 5:40. Desperately we prayed we wouldn’t miss our 7:00 connection flight to Milan. Unfortunately, the 7 o’ clock flight departed leaving us at Doha. We were rebooked for the afternoon flight and landed at Milan Malpensa International Airport at around 20:40. I've heard that the sun sets late in these European countries but to experience it first hand was indeed ethereal. At 20:40 in Milan, the sun had just begun its official descend.
9 | LAKE Como + SWISS ALPSFly into Milan and hop the train towards George Clooney’s stunning stomping grounds – Lake Como. Not much beats the picture perfect scene of the bright blue lake with pastel lake villages below the snow-capped Alps. For easy train connections, stay in Varenna for a few days but be sure to take the ferry to nearby Bellagio. After gorging on pasta and wine, head north into the Alps to St. Moritz for fantastic hiking in the summer or world-class skiing in the winter.
A city that I have consistently never liked: it’s not rich in art and I am not rich enough for Via della Spiga yet. All that shopping just waiting to be done and I can barely afford the window-watching here. People are smartly dressed which is a pleasant distraction from the ugly post WWII buildings that had all the flamboyance of a finance manager. And the creativity of a blender. Wooh, am on a roll here! My recommendation... Do NOT take a taxi to the airport, unless you booked a hotel right next to it, or are the type who flies charter. My Google Maps kept going on and soon enough I could see the Piemontese appellations on the same screen and Turin was a bare 100 kms away! I almost thought he was kidnapping me and to leave a sommelier stranded on the Nebbiolo wine route did strike me as smirk-worthy. I don’t know how far it was – he said 45 kilometres, I think he meant light years – but I paid a godawful 103 Eu• Nottingham Forest: I missed it this time but a molecular bar that comes up in every conversation must be worth its test tubes and vials. Dario Comini is no small name in the world of mixology so make sure you try something here. Closed on Mondays, which was my reason for not making it. Rita bar on Canigli was a healthy compromise but be there early so you get the tasty aperitivo treats; for come 10pm and they remove it all. And your table looks empty, and now you have to make conversation, and the drinks disappear faster and the bill mounts. En suite, we hit the Mag bar and that was by far one of the best cocktail bars I have ever been to and I do like my mixes. What a shake, what cocktails. I preferred it to the Rita. These guys also have a speakeasy (1930’s) and they have an awesome card; don’t even bother walking upto it. You need to have your name on the list. I didn’t make it. The alcohol-soaked me had to call it a night.ros! So much for not shopping in Milan. The man had already started setting up the credit card machine even before we pulled into t
Next morning, high-speed trains whisk you from Milan to Florence in 2 hours and Rome in 3½ hours from as little as €29, or take a Frecciabianca train to Venice in 2½ hours. Trenitalia is the name of Italy's national train operator, and their premier ETR500 Frecciarossa high-speed trains operate on the main Turin-Milan-Bologna-Florence-Rome-Naples route. Frecciarossa is aptly named as it means red arrow, and they can reach upto 300 km/h (186 mph) on Italy's new high-speed lines. There's no point flying between these countries anymore. Rome to Milan now takes only 2 hours 40 minutes by train, Rome to Florence as little as 1 hour 23 minutes, with a restaurant car and adequate provision for the comfort of the travellers. Frecciarossa trains have four classes: Standard (2nd class), Premium (premium 2nd class), Business (1st class) and Executive (premium 1st class). They're all comfortable, the only difference is the inclusion of meals and some facilities. A train has a different kind of an ambience, I think all trains take you back to a simpler time where people aren't really in a hurry to get somewhere anymore. Its less about getting somewhere and more about the journey you take to get there.
Day 13: Check out of Hotel Castello Vicchiomaggio in Chianti. Take bus/car from Chianti to Florence. Take train from Florence to Verona. Check in Hotel Giulietta e Romeo in Verona. Opera at Arena - Romeo and Juliet was magnificent; get seats closest to the stageRead More
Day 13: Check out of Hotel Castello Vicchiomaggio in Chianti. Take bus/car from Chianti to Florence. Take train from Florence to Verona. Check in Hotel Giulietta e Romeo in Verona. Opera at Arena - Romeo and Juliet was magnificent; get seats closest to the stage
18:00 h. Zurich – Arrival at the shores of Lake Zurich and free time to explore the monumental city centre. Visitors have a choice of Indian, Chinese, Italian and other restaurants in which to dine. Return to hotel about 22 hrs.Total distance: 180kmAlpine scenery in its purest essence.Note : please bring warm clothes and comfortable shoes to climb to the ski resort.09:00 h. Zurich – Departure.10:30 h. Eingelberg – Arrival. The trip includes a ride on the Trubsee cable car to the ski resort. We will continue ascending with the cable car to the top of Mount Titlis.15:00 h. We carry on to Lucerne.15:45 h. Lucerne – Arrival in time to explore one of the most interesting Swiss cities and see the KapellBrück, a covered bridge over the river Reuss, the Town Hall and Square with its Clock Tower and its pedestrian streets and elegant shops. Different options for lunch.18:30 h. Return to Zurich.
We all know a little bit of Verona , thanks to Shakespeare and his epic works specially Romeo and Juliet. I was shocked to know that this city in Veneto has a huge post office which receives letters addressed to Romeo or Juliet from all over the world and it even sends back replies. I saw lovers who go to the Juliet's balcony to make their love eternal. It was nice to know also that this city is a world heritage site. Verona is the place one would like to roam around for the whole day, so while walking here is what is not to be missed:- - Arena di Verona:- this amphitheatre is one of the best preserved structures of its kind. - visit Casa de Julieta:- this is said to be the house of Juliet, i was amazed to see so many peolpe coming from around the world to see the house if a person who never existed. - sceneries of Lake Garda:- this largest lake in Italia is a hot holiday destination.
Verona is often buried in its Romeo & Juliet lore, however the city has much more than a classic romance to offer. Truly shaped under Roman rule, at times it can seem like a younger sister to Rome, especially with the Colosseum-esque Arena in the center of the city. Verona is a beautiful Italian city full of history and amazingly preserved. Explore the city on foot during the day, eat dinner and grab drinks in Piazza dei Signori, and view an open-air opera in the Arena di Verona at night.
This is the city of love; as Shakespeare wrote and the Veronese would like to make you believe; it’s good for sales you see. No point visiting the arena here, it is old but renovation and work makes it appear no older than your local stadium; go instead for an Opera there if you happen to coincide and that should be fun. The Piazzas are pretty (Bra, Erbe) and Juliet’s Balcony is a tick-in-a-box (tickle the boob, if you must). That done, leave! When it comes to important tourist sites Verona is like Pisa – they both have much to offer but you will only want to see the obvious landmarks and that shouldn’t take you more than half a day to get through. In both cities, the shopping is useless, unless you get off on cheap trinkets for the extended family.
We took a train from Rome and reached Florence on 14 th Apr at approximately 11:30 am. From the Santa Maria Novella station we took a bus to our hotel which was 10-15 minutes away. We stayed at Diva Hotel and our 3 night stay at the hotel was largely comfortable. After checking in and freshening up we took a bus back to the city centre. Florence has a pretty good bus transport system but we didn't use it a lot as most of the important places are within walking distance of each other.Read More
We took a train from Rome and reached Florence on 14 th Apr at approximately 11:30 am. From the Santa Maria Novella station we took a bus to our hotel which was 10-15 minutes away. We stayed at Diva Hotel and our 3 night stay at the hotel was largely comfortable. After checking in and freshening up we took a bus back to the city centre. Florence has a pretty good bus transport system but we didn't use it a lot as most of the important places are within walking distance of each other.
The homesickness eventually vanished as I travelled to the other cities. Florence was my next stop, which is a lovely town just four hours away from Rome by train. The hostel here was more like an inn that I booked through AirBNB. I made friends with guys from London and South Africa and am still in touch with them. It is amazing for slightly shy people like me that while travelling alone you are open to striking conversations and getting to know people, but when you have company, you are so comfortable with your companion that you don’t really want to make the extra effort of talking to strangers. Meeting new people transforms your worldview and makes you a totally different person. You no more want to dwell over the petty issues of life, which restricts you from doing so many wonderful things. Moving on, Florence was exceptionally beautiful and well-designed. I did not really spend any time standing in mind numbing queues to see any of the architectural marvels, but spent the days exploring the different parts of the city, climbing hills, and going to nearby villages. Florence falls in the Tuscan region, which is famous for its wineries. I would recommend to pre-book a tour to one of the wineries for a more authentic experience.
Day 09-10: Check out of Hotel Deko Rome. Take train from Rome to Florence. Check in Hotel Lungarno in FlorenceThe best way to see Rome and Florence is on foot. Walk through the myriad lanes and by-lanes, relive the medieval times and and savour the city. Visit colosseum, pantheon, Trevi, hand of truth, Duomo, academia to see David whatever you like; have delicious cheesecake at Babingtons (the best till date); get a caricature/portrait done; do some shopping - leather bags/gloves/belts/masks/perfumes etc.Reserve a day for Vatican, I liked St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican more than Sistine chapel. Make sure to book tickets in advance for Vatican, Colosseum, academia in Florence, Uffizi. Read up a bit on Christianity if u want to enjoy more. Listen to the music artists while watching sunset at one of the bridges in Florence; have Gelato at Vivoli. Cafe dell'oro serves great pasta.
Florence is the birth place of Renaissance, so there is art in every corner, literally. Apart from the Renaissance period art and architecture, Florence is replete with street art.I made my way to Piazza della Signoria. The following photographs provide a glimpse of the magnificent sculptures of Renaissance era which are at display at the Piazza and along the way.
It was time to move on to the next stop on my trip map, Florence. Getting to Florence from Rome is simple, there are trains almost every hour from the Termini station. I took a slow train (3 hours journey time) as it was cheaper and would also allow me to enjoy the Tuscan landscape, not zip past at a breakneck speed.
Florence 3 days Hostel: Ostello del Bigallo Hostels don't get more scenic than Ostello del Bigallo. It is built on a monastery dating back to the 13th century. A beautiful garden upfront and panoramic view of Florence from the terrace adds to its charm. The only catch is that the hostel is an hour's ride from the city and involves a 2 km hike. Hotel: Ginori al Duomo The staff is extremely friendly and its location, a short walk from the train station, is ideal. However, there is no getting around the three story climb as the hotel doesn't have a lift.
Florence/ Firenze The next day, we head out to Florence or Firenze. I’m pretty proud of this segment of our trip since I knew exactly what I wanted to see and when. So, for the Tuscany region our base was Florence. We left Venice fairly early in the morning and were in Florence by 12 noon- checked into our lovely airbnb apartment by 1 pm. We had the whole day to our selves for exploring the city since the next we decided to go in for a day trip to Cinque Terre. We wanted to visit the Uffizi Gallery, but decided to skip the same and instead soak in the city by simply walking around and of course eating yummy food! We did visit the grand Duomo, checked out Piazza Michelango and sat down at the Loggia dei Lanzi and watched the beautiful Piazza della Signoria. Another smart move was to take a pass for a hop-on-hop-off bus. Initially, I thought that it looked a little foolish but trust me; you can do a lot with that bus pass. There are a couple of routes that the bus service has where it takes you through all the must see spots. If you want to get off, great. If you don’t, you can simply keep sitting. We also enjoyed a lovely pizza meal at Piazza Republica– one of the prettiest squares in the city, defined by its opulence.
Day 3: Went back to St. Mark's square and walked through the lanes of Venice, visited the square near Santi Giovanni e Paolo in Castello. Checked out of the hotel and took the water bus from Rialto to the train station for the 1:25PM train to Florence. Checked into Hotel Lombardi at 3PM. We headed to explore the city of Florence, we went towards Piazza del Duomo (Cathedral square), then Piazza Della Signoria which has a replica of David. Headed to Ponte Vecchio, this bridge is famous for the gold shops. Then in order to get a good view of Ponte Vecchio, we headed to Ponte Santa Trinita which is just the next bridge. Then went to a pub chilled for a while and after having a few drinks headed back to the hotel.
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