Italy, the land of ‘la dolce vita’, cappuccinos, hundreds of churches and good looking men, who walk down streets shouting ‘ciao bella’ after girls. I’ve always wanted to go but despite having grown up more or less right next to it (in Austria), I’ve never had the time to do it. But this summer I set aside a full week to take in the most important cities of North Italy and all their museums. Naturally, my best friend had to come along for this epic girl-trip. So we packed our trolleys (not backpacks) and some lipstick (instead of a gas cooker) and got on the train.
We take the night train from Salzburg the Venice. Thanks to my ability to sleep anywhere and at any time I awake fully relaxed to the gleaming sun of the ‘sinking city’. With the Vaporetto (public transport boats) we go to a different island to check in at our hostel. Exploring the city in the worst midday heat, we learn our first Italian lesson: siesta is an indispensable part of surviving as a tourist. But the San Marco Dome and the many beautiful alleys compensate for the long walks in the sun. I also get to see the Accademia but the exhibition is a little bit of adisappointment. We have a surprisingly affordable pizza next to a canal and go to sleep early.
Day 2: Just 8 euros get us to Verona and just walking through the beautiful streets takes our breath away. Our hostel is real villa with a beautiful garden, where we escape from the intense midday heat. Later, on the way to the most important sight, the arena, we take look at the gothic dome and I spend pretty much all of my shopping money on a dress and a purse.
We start off with some more roman relicts at the archeological museum then visit Julia’s house where we fight for some space to take a picture of the famous balcony, wonder why everybody touches the Julia statue’s boobs (later, we find out that it brings luck) and are rather bored by the other exhibits in the house then we buy a ticket for the opera Carmen in the arena, accidentally break into a garden (where we escape form the midday heat) and have a look at all the graffiti surrounding Julia’s tomb. A little pic-nic in the hostel’s garden then we get all dressed up for the opera with fellow travelers and head to the arena again.
The atmosphere is absolutely great and the stones seats still warm from the sun. After the second act it starts to rain and we have to take refuge within the arena until the rain stops and the performance can continue, because of the break we are too tired for the last act and leave early – a truly Veronese experience.
After breakfast, we head towards Milano and fall in love head over heels with the city. We visit the Duomo (dome) and climb all the way up to the roof, the only real sight in Milan before sitting down for a very over-priced cappuccino and some rich-people-waching. Refueled we are ready to fully concentrate on the activity Milano is really about: (window) shopping. A few Dolce&Gabbana, Versace, Bershka, Armanis and shoe shops later, we decide to go for dinner, where we get into a bloody fight with the Milanese mosquitos (bring mosquito spray if you go to Milan). Tired, we take a cab home.
A little tired from all the sightseeing and shopping, we decide to go to Como Lake for a swimming day. We have breakfast at a little cafe to confirm the reputation of Italian coffee and then we take the train to Como. One hour later we look at the beautiful lake and smile. Five minutes later we look at stunned locals at our wish to swim in the lake. They strongly discourage us from swimming in the ‘dirty’ lake. We walk around a little but in face of not even one bather we are too scared to even let our toes touch the water and return a bit frustrated to Milan. Back there fashionable Milanese people make me self conscious, so I panic-purchase some nail polish to update my look. I insist on doing my nails on the department store’s bathrooms. Susi thinks that I am a little bit crazy. Getting back home turns into a nightmare, but we save the day with some frozen daiquiris and gelato (again).
Day 6: Back to the cafe for breakfast. Milanese tram travelers are on our side in argument with the ticket inspector before we finally make it to the train station and to our last stop: Florence. We go through a rigorous sight-seeing program, only stopping for ice-cream breaks. The Medici palace and their tomb cappella, the Uffizi gallery and a Santa Croce... it’s hard not to be impressed.