Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Our Italian Sojourn - Part Two

DREAMY FLORENCE

We arrived in Florence by train at the Santa Maria Novella station which is HUGE and has a lot of cafes and even a nice supermarket. It also has a Mc Donalds and yes the veggie option is available too (what a relief).

An important note here:
All public toilets are of the paid category, it costs anywhere between Eur 0.50  - Eur 1 to use. The other option is to go to a cafe, eat something and then use the toilet there for free. And of course - no water in the toilets. We are so used to this coming from India and having lived in the Middle East that we take it for granted. Flushable wipes are a good option to carry though I don't know how eco-friendly they are.

Keep an eye on your valuables at all times and I don't recommend wearing expensive jewellery. It's best to keep the gold and diamonds at home and go to Italy wearing something very inexpensive - saves a lot of headache! If you're using a backpack, wear it in the front .

After checking into our hotel (no recommendations here, our hotel was comfortable but not the sorts I can recommend), we relaxed a bit before heading to the Eco Florence tour in the evening. This is a highly recommended tour! The pick up is at the Church of San Philipe in the main square - our guide was a lady who drove an electric cart and we were given audio guides to listen to. The biggest highlight of this tour is the Piazza Michalangelo, which is a uphill drive to a point where one can get the best view of the city of Florence! Thumbs up !

You can read more about the Eco Florence tour online and it is bookable on TripAdvisor/Viator etc. 

Florence is SO beautiful - it has the old world charm, the cobbled streets and there's all the beautiful Renaissance architecture all around. 

The next day we headed off on the Best of Tuscany Tour. This is a group tour, travel is by an airconditioned bus and the points of sightseeing are the towns of Sienna, San Gimignano and Pisa. It is a full day tour and can get a bit hectic with little kids but given that there's a lot of travel by the bus, there's plenty of time for them to get rest and sleep off for a bit. The Tuscan countryside is a sight tto behold! After our trip to Sienna, we stopped at a farmhouse for an authentic Tuscan lunch with homemade ingredients. We also tasted the wines - Yum !!

Sienna is very rustic but beautiful, San Gimignano is vibrant with little shops selling trinkets and cafes etc. And Pisa!! No words to describe what we felt at seeing the Leaning Tower - it's surreal!

The Best of Tuscany tour involves a LOT of walking and especially in Sienna and San Gimignano - all of the walking is uphill. I recommend wearing good walking shoes - I practically lived in them all through the trip !!

This tour is also bookable online and a big thumbs up from us - highly recommended!!


OUR FINAL STOP - MILAN

After enjoying Italy for a whole week, we travelled to Milan by the super fast AV train that departs in the morning. Overall, our experience with Trenitalia has been very positive including interactions with their staff at the customer service desks everywhere and even the staff on board. They are very kind, very helpful and supportive. 

Milan - what can I say! It is one of the fashion capitals of the world - it is stylish! The architecture is modern, everyone is on the go. The city has a fantastic subway network of 4 lines, of which one line has a driverless metro as well. Because there are 4 lines, the subway routes are not as easy to understand as the one in Rome, but what I especially liked is that you are never too far from a metro station. The metro connects the whole city and is a VERY convenient mode of transport as compared to taxis which are expensive. 

We stayed at the Novotel located near the Ca Granda metro station - an excellent property and highly recommended. The shopping district of Milan goes by the name of Buenos Aires and it is located very close to the Duomo - some great deals are always available on the choicest of brands. 

We went on two tours in Milan - both extremely good and recommended. Do remember that none of the tours offer a pick up from your hotel - so it is your job to figure out how to get to the meeting point. The first was a tour to the village of Turino from where we boarded the Bernina Express towards the Alps and onwards to the lil Swiss town of St Moritz. The highlight of this tour is the train ride through the mountain passes - it is very exciting for kids and adults alike! The climb is quite scenic and your eyes will never tire looking at nature's bounty. Keep your camera(s) charged and ready to click !! It was 28C in Milan versus 10C at St Moritz - cold!! The guide took us on a beautiful walk along the lake and then there was some free time to spend drinking in the natural beauty of which we could never get enough!

The other tour we did was that of Lake Como and Bellagio. The drive to the village of Como is so spectacular, and once we get to the village, there's a little cathedral there to see. We spent the best time lounging by the side of the pier on the benches there. There are free bikes to ride around a LOT of space for children to run - win win !! The tour continues with around a 45 minute cruise to the village of Bellagio. Sumedh was happy to look at all the ducks that seem to love the waters in Italy and at one point we also spotted a gorgeous Big white Swan when we docked at Bellagio! 

It is worthwhile to mention that we had Indian food delivered to our hotel twice by the Taj Mahal restaurant and they offer excellent service! Here's a link to their presence on Zomato  (https://www.zomato.com/milano/taj-mahal-isola/menu)


We flew back home from Milan with our hearts bursting with memories - this is a trip we'll always remember. We managed to fall in love with everything - the culture, the vast blue expansive skies, the friendly amiable Italians and the yummy food! 

And yes we're already planning our next holiday next year to a new destination - let's see where we end up going!!!





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