Magnificent Milan

Duomo, Milan
Duomo, Milan

We spent 12 days in magnificent Milan, Italy and had an even better time than expected in this amazing city.  It’s the financial hub of Italy in the more prosperous north and one of the worlds great fashion capitals.  It’s a mix of the newest and greatest with the old classics being the foundation of the city.  (Don’t forget to watch our video at the bottom of this post)

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Bergamo and it’s medieval wonders

The Ancient Center in Bergamo, Ital
The Ancient Center in Bergamo, Italy

Another perfect day trip from Milan is the town of Bergamo, it’s a beguiling city with Romanesque, Renaissance and Baroque architecture.  It’s known for the juxtaposition of it’s upper ancient city- Citta Alta which can be reached at two different levels by funicular and it’s lower, more modern city. There was so much to see here, so leave early in the morning for a full day and plan to return to Milan later in the evening.  Trust us -you’ll need a full day!  Even better if you can stay over night or take a weekend as it’s one of the most beautiful cities in all of Lombardy and top of our must see list. Below is a short video of our day in Bergamo and continue reading for all you need to know about this wonderful city.

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The best day trips from Milan; Lake Como area and Bergamo

From the dock at Lake Como
From the dock at Lake Como

The best day trips from Milan; #1 Lake Como-Como,Bellagio & Varenna, #2 Bergamo

If you have time to pull yourself from your Milan adventures and want to explore some of the other towns reachable on a day trip then read on.  Milan is a great base for exploring the Lombardia region and is also very close to Switzerland which can be reached by train in a little over an hour.  Here are a few suggestions on some side trips that we really enjoyed and think you will too!

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The Monument Cemetery of Milan, Italy

Monument at the Milan Cemetery
Monument at the Milan Cemetery

It was on our list of ‘to do’ things in Milan but we just happened to have tripped into it while walking about close to our neighborhood apartment.  That ‘to do’ item was visiting the cemetery.  I know, it doesn’t sound like something you’d typically do on a holiday but this place was both fascinating and spectacular.  The ‘Cimitero Monumentale di Milano’ is grandiose, with sculptures that could grace the halls of the Uffizzi, sculptures that are provocative, sorrowful, longing, spiritual and celebratory.  It was hard not to feel a welling of emotion surrounded by all these monuments to loss.

The Cemetery designed by Carlo Maciachini was officially opened in 1866 and was planned to consolidate a number of small cemeteries around the city into a single location.  Many of the tombs were designed by well know artists of the time and range to the extremely elaborate.  I can’t imagine the cost of many of these, the scope of work here. It’s mind-boggling and I don’t even know if the talent would exist now to be able to requisition a monument like these. 

We only had time to visit one side of the cemetery, its huge!  Here is a link to the pics, have a look- you’ll be totally amazed!

 

Terrific and Tantalizing Turin

Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy
Piazza Castello, Turin, Italy

We reluctantly left the warm sunny coast of the Italian Riviera and headed to Turin in the Northwest of Italy with Italia Rail on one of their faster, Freccia trains.  As we headed into the hills we left behind the sunshine and became shrouded in a blanket of grey, foggy clouds and drizzling rain that became the backdrop for most of our Turin sightseeing. Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region in northern Italy known for its refined architecture, many museums and cultural exhibitions, its miles of Portico covered streets, its café life and love of the Aperitivo.

 

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A day trip to Santa Margherita and Portofino

If you find yourself in the Italian Riviera, you must take a day trip to the picturesque towns of Santa Margherita and Portofino to see how the other half lives.  It’s a playground for the rich and famous where the well heeled pull in on their yachts for the upscale shopping, cafes and restaurants.  It was one of our favorite stops and incredibly beautiful, just how you’d imagine a quaint, Italian seaside town. Check out the video of our day trip below, then continue to read about how it unfolded and how to make the trip yourself. At the bottom is a link to our picture gallery of Santa Margherita and Portofino.

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All you need to know about hiking and visiting the Cinque Terre, Italy

Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy
Corniglia, Cinque Terre, Italy

From Lucca, in the heart of Tuscany we boarded a train for about a 1:50 hour trip to the small city of La Spezia, in the province of Liguiria and the gateway to the Italian Riviera.  We were most excited about visiting this area after watching Rick Steve’s videos on the Cinque Terre about a dozen times and it did not disappoint.

We arrived to the most spectacular weather for mid December. It was 15-16 degrees Celsius everyday and sunny without a cloud in the sky.  It turned out to be a fantastic time to view this area as we didn’t have the crowds that inundate this area in the summer, it was like our own private viewing.  The weather gods were on our side as the locals told us they got hit with quite a bit of snow on Dec.17th four years previous although unusual for the area.   The only downfall was it wasn’t quite warm enough to swim although we did see an older couple rocking a speedo and bikini for a swim by Portofino.  We were so tempted as the beautiful blue waters were calling us and it seemed warm in comparison to the Rocky Mountain lakes like Windermere that we’ve dipped our toes into in the summer.

Click to read more and open our video below from our visit to the Cinque Terre.  Scroll down to continue reading about everything you need to know about visiting the Cinque Terre.

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Lovely Lucca

Lucca from a top the Torre Guinigi
Lucca from a top the Torre Guinigi

We  arrived by train from Florence following a little over an hour journey.  Our Airbnb host was gracious enough to pick us up at the train station and in minutes we were at our new temporary residence.  The train station is conveniently located near the center of the city and a few minutes’ walk into the old walled center where most of the exploring is to be had.

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A Day trip to Pisa

The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy
The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Italy

We had a glorious day in Pisa, the sun was shining and it was plus 15 degrees Celsius without a cloud in the sky. We left in the morning from Lucca and walked to the train station where we boarded for a 30 or so minute ride to Pisa.  From the Pisa train station it’s another easy walk of about 25 min. to the Piazza dei Miracoli where the Tower, Cathedral, Baptistery and main tourist sights can be seen. Pisa is easy to get to and well worth a day trip. The nice weather just added to the enjoyment of the day, we wished we had packed a picnic for the park area surrounding the Cathedral but we relished just laying in the campo and taking in our surroundings.

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Fantastic Florence

View of the Pointe Vecchio in Florence, Italy
View of the Pointe Vecchio in Florence, Italy

 

Check it of the list…. Florence is now done and we off to our next stop, Lucca tomorrow afternoon.  Florence has been great, we took it all in at a leisurely pace and opted to just wander the streets viewing the sights of the city as a five day resident. Our Airbnb apartment was fabulously situated, we just had to walk out our front door, over one of the bridges and we were in the thick of the historic center.

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Seeing Siena

Siena, Italy
Siena, Italy

 

Saturday morning we boarded a bus from Rome to Siena and a few hours later settled into our 3-star hotel for a five day stay.  We happened to be perfectly situated steps from the old city center so we dropped our bags and walked out the front door to explore. In minutes we knew we were in the heart of Tuscany, walking the medieval city and it’s labyrinth of narrow, cobblestoned streets.   

 

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Our last few days in Rome, Italy

Click on the pic below for a video of our last days in Rome and explanation below;

After checking off most of the sights on our Rome-to do list we just spent a few days wondering around, getting lost in the side streets and finishing up that list.  We spent an afternoon cruising the atmospheric neighborhood of Trastevere, stopped in a few more breathtaking churches and yesterday we dropped by the Vatican. We didn’t bother going in as they had some lineups and we have been before, instead we decided to save it for the spring when we return with some friends and family.

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