Weekend in Milano

Our Italy trip started in Milan, but we quickly headed out of the city due to insanely high hotel prices. I still wanted to get a glimpse of the city, so we decided to spent our last few days in Italy exploring it.

As I was discussing our trip on facebook, one of my penpals from when I was a teenager/young adult noticed we were heading across the pond. As we got closer & we finalized items on our end, she decided to come down from Luxembourg so we could meet.

Duomo in Milan - so impressive!
Duomo in Milan – so impressive!

It was totally cool to be able to meet someone I wrote to for years & years – and to hit it off enough for an entire weekend. There was a bit of exploring of course.  We visited Duomo and had dinner on a rooftop overlooking the impressive structure.

Old school trolley line in Milan
Old school trolley line in Milan

We rode the old fashioned trolley through the city. We visited the canals of Milan, walked through Castello Sforzesco and the neighboring Parco Sempione and also took a stroll through the Cimitero Monumentale.

Arco della Pace
Arco della Pace

It seems like a lot of exploring as I type it, as when we were there I felt bad I wasn’t doing more. Truth was, I was exhausted from non stop travel for two weeks. So, we also spent a lot of time eating & drinking & talking which was also nice. I think I even saw midnight two nights in a row!

Canals in Milan
Canals in Milan

It was a super cool way to end our Italy trip. We loved so many things about Italy and truthfully, it was a bit of an adjustment when we got back into the states. We immediately noticed the difference in food and wine, and I admit I was quite cranky the first few weeks. I loved Italian service and it really is annoying to have your meal interrupted every 5 minutes with questions, or being asked if you want dessert as you take your first bite of a meal, or being brought your check as you take your second bite. (I know, I was a server & I was guilty of all of these at one time or another – it is especially bad at corporate places where these things are mandated)

Impressive monument
Impressive monument in Cimitero Monumentale

I was really nervous traveling to a country where I didn’t know the language and it ended up being not so bad. I picked up some tourist phrases before we left & picked up a bunch more words while we were there. Overall, we encountered a lot of friendly faces and it has me so excited for future travels outside the US.

Modern structures in Milan
Modern structures in Milan

For now, we will continue to explore this great nation, even if we eat out a little less. (my waistline just cheered!)

Murano, Burano & Venice from the Sea

Since Venice is really a collection of islands, we really wanted to see the city from the water. Eschewing any normal organized tour, we decided to do our own ferry tour. It worked well when we visited Bermuda, so why not here?

The city from the water
The city from the water

The gondolas in Venice are strictly a tourist industry. Ferries are the way most people get around, if you have a little more money there are hundreds of water taxis zipping up and down the canals. Like cars in any big city, there are those who have private boats. From what we saw the private boats are more of a pain than a benefit, most of them are tied and tarped and look like more work to take out than to walk.

Water taxi on the Grand Canal
Water taxi on the Grand Canal

There was a ferry station right in front of the train station and we immediately bought a tourist day pass for 20 euros per person and jumped on the first ferry. Earlier in the day it was much easier to grab seats so we managed to take some great pictures. The ferry made a stop on the island of Giudecca and then headed towards San Marco Plaza which was very cool to see from the water.

Piazza San Marco from the water
Piazza San Marco from the water

Our next destination was Murano, famous for glassworks. We spent an hour or so wandering around, trying to figure out how to safely transport a piece I wanted in the RV. I decided against any purchases, but it was still nice to walk around & soak in the atmosphere.

Murano
Murano
Boats, canals, architecture - it doesn't get old
Boats, canals, architecture – it doesn’t get old

The next island we visited was Burano and I really liked this island. It’s known for its colorful buildings & it didn’t disappoint. We started having dreams of a vacation home here until I started reading an article about the challenges Burano has. Could you imagine living on an populated island with no grocery store? I guess a lot of people fall in love with the place, but the day to day living is much harder than is imagined.

Colorful Burano
Colorful Burano
Burano
Burano

After spending some time walking around Burano, it was time to head back to Venice. We did one more tour up the Grand Canal and saw the famous Rialto Bridge finally. It was under construction so not as grand as we would have liked to photograph, but at the same time it’s always nice to see structures getting some love & attention.

More beautiful Venice
More beautiful Venice

Overall, I think seeing Venice from the water is well worth figuring out the ferries. We both really ended up enjoying our time in the city and we are so glad we made it a stop in our trip!

Venice
Venice

Venice, Italy

Ah Venice. I admit, I didn’t expect to be so enchanted by you. I expected you to be overrun with tourists, bad restaurants and trinket shops abound. And you were that, to a degree. But thankfully you were a lot, lot more.

Our first look at The Grand Canal
Our first look at The Grand Canal

One of our MO’s when we travel is we wander. We explore. We often shun the normal ‘must see tourist attractions’ for the chance to sit at a bar & soak some atmosphere in. We heard the best way to see Venice was to get lost & we took that advice to heart.

Getting lost in Venice
Getting lost in Venice

Our first day was a half day since we arrived from Florence early in the afternoon. We opted to stay in Mestre at the Best Western Hotel Bologna – one due to the price, and two because transportation was easy to get into Venice in only 10 minutes. We attempted to take the bus, and missed the first one. No worries – they run every 10 minutes, so we waited for the next one. We saw signs that if you don’t have a pass, you can buy one from the driver if you have exact change. As we boarded I asked in Italian for two passes. The driver completely ignored me. I asked again and the driver refused to look at me, or remove his headphones & just shook his head.

Venice
Venice

Our first (and only) not so pleasant encounter, and of course it was on a bus. (It’s one of my least favorite modes of travel). We walked over to the train station, got a ticket, hopped a train & boom – into Venice in a jiffy. Also – it was half the price of a bus ticket!

More wandering around Venice
More wandering around Venice

Walking out from the train station, you are instantly transported into the magical city of Venice. Amazing buildings, a busy Grand Canal – I was so excited to finally see it!

Beautiful Venice
Beautiful Venice

Since it was already past lunchtime, our first order of business was to find food. We crossed the Grand Canal and wandered until we found a restaurant called Al Garzoti that looked decent. One of the best little discoveries, as there was no English spoken, no English menus and gondeliers were eating there. We took that as a good sign, as we tend to have higher hopes here in the states when we see firefighters or EMS hanging in a place. It has great potential to be cheap, yet good local food.

Overall we were treated to some great food!
Overall we were treated to some great food!

We wandered around some more and landed canal side at a bar, sipping wine and people watching. It was a really nice way to pass some time & give our feet a rest.  We also explored part of the Cannaregio area of Venice, landing in another bar for some food & drink. This stop was a rare meal that really wasn’t up to par with what we had experienced so far food wise.

Wine, canal side.
Wine, canal side.

The next day we headed in & decided to walk from the train station to San Marco so we could view St. Mark’s Square. We loved wandering in & out of alleyways and even though it’s only about 3km, it took us quite a while to get there. Once we were there, it was similar in experience to Duomo in Florence. The mass of people, the hawkers selling selfie sticks – it was nice to see, but also nice to leave. We planned a little badly, needing lunch while we were here. We lucked out & found this hole in the wall with reasonable prices & really delicious food.

St. Mark's
St. Mark’s

Going back we had a rare moment where I wanted to strangle Keith, as we added quite a few kilometers following his directions back to the train station and I was getting pretty tired – it’s why I am the navigator. :)

Wandering around Venice
Wandering around Venice

All in all a wonderful time in Venice. With one more day left, I decided I really wanted to see Venice from the water & also visit the island of Burano & Murano.  Next post!

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