After experiencing the peaceful canals of Venice and carefree days of wandering through Florence and the Tuscan countryside, it is natural to think you should head straight to Rome to complete your tour of Italy. If you are able to, however, hold that thought and take a small detour to the sleepy little town of Assisi. Located in Umbria, it is home to the infamous Basilica de San Francesco. If you are seeking a cathedral that stands out from the crowd, then this is the place for you. The cathedral is actually comprised of two separate buildings on top of each other: the one on the bottom, which contains the tomb of St Francis, is older and adorned with frescos. The top of the cathedral juts out of the mountain in a dramatic display of beauty. Of course there are many other things to check out in this city, but if you are able to make it there on a short stop, you will be rewarded with a single visit to this cathedral.
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132 Kms from Assisi
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.We chose to begin our sightseeing in Florence with Palazzo Vecchio as it was open till 7 pm which gave us sufficient time to explore it. This medieval palace cum fortress, originally built to host the members of city council and later used as a residence by dukes of Florence, currently serves as the town hall and contains mayor's office and other municipal offices.
307 Kms from Assisi
Napoli football club's home stadium, Stadio Sao Paolo, has also earned a name for being ultra-notorious when it comes to supporting its team. Several minor casualties are reported after every match.Famous footballers to have played here: Diego Maradona, Gonzalo Higuain, Edinson Cavani, Gianfranco Zola, Fabio Cannavaro.Things to do apart from football: Witness an actual active volcano – Mt. Vesuvius. Attend an opera performance at San Carlo Theatre.Average expenditure per day per head: Rs. 4,000Book the best hotels.Read more about the city.
214 Kms from Assisi
My last destination within Italy was Venice, and I wanted do a brief pit stop somewhere before getting there. So bidding Florence goodbye, I headed for Bologna. Bologna is quite close to Florence and is well connected by train. It was Christmas eve and I didn't have elaborate plans, and Bologna seemed perfect.I lazily walked down the streets and walked into the cathedrals before reaching the foot of the Two Towers - Asinelli and Garisenda. It was quite surprising to learn that the Tower of Asinelli was the tallest leaning tower in Italy, much taller than the tower of Pisa (97 meters as compared to 56 meters).
172 Kms from Assisi
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.
293 Kms from Assisi
Before leaving Treviso, I certainly fulfilled my promise to myself of going back to the places that I had visited on my first stroll through the city. Treviso fulfilled all my expectation of what Italian nightlife should be like. Crossing bridges across flowing waters and watching twilight change into evening in the city was a magnificent experience. In the evening we saw some tango dancers on the roads and despite being close to midnight the piazza was teeming with people having fun.
321 Kms from Assisi
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