New Year's in Italy – Part III

So the story continues… Having done the area north of Como with winding crappy Italian roads, winding great Swiss roads, snow, ice and wonderful views, it was now time for the south.

Day three was Milan Day. We ditched our car and took the train to the city for some serious shopping and sightseeing. As it turned out, we got neither.

Milan is overrated. At least, that’s the impression I got. Sure, you can’t walk through the Galleria without marvelling at it’s size, walk past the Duomo without admiring its towers and pinnacles or avoid drooling at all the millionaire stores like Gucci, Armani and Prada. But that’s about it. From the moment we got there, we split up into “families”, of which most went on into the crowd to spend their money. However, since our “family” couldn’t afford the fancy shops where a t-shirt costs 1500 euros (and I wasn’t that interested in shopping in the first place), we decided to have a look at the city outside the Galleria-Duomo area.

So we went for a stroll to the Castello Sforzesco and Parco Sempione, continuing to some art museum nearby for a toilet break and ending up at Chiesa di Santa Maria della Grazie, where da Vinci’s Last Supper can (or rather cannot) be seen. Don’t expect to be able to pop in for a quick peek, you have to reserve a time in advance and the next available is three months away. So, screwing that we instead met up with the rest of the shoppers and went for some genuine Italian aperitivo by the only water you can find in Milan: the Naviglio Grande. It’s a winning concept, really: buy a drink for 5 euros and eat as much tapas as you like. A few rounds of that and we were ready to head back to Como.

Highlights day 3:

  • The Duomo
  • The Galleria
  • The apertivios

The next day it was time to initiate the grande finale. We left Como behind and headed south east towards Bologna. On the way we stopped for lunch in Parma, which was easier said than done. It was completely hopeless to find an open, decent priced, Italian restaurant in the City of Food. Everything was either closed or a bit too expensive. So we ended up in the gutter with a pizza slice. Anyway, Parma wasn’t all wrong. The town was cute and we did get a nice piece of real parmesan with us.

On towards Bologna, then. Bologna with it’s 26 km of archways, the world’s oldest university, the leaning twin towers and decent cappuccinos at the town square is a perfect place to spend New Year’s Eve. This year, however, we would not see any of that, but instead the inside of one of A’s friends girlfriend’s flat. We were invited to spend the evening with a bunch of Italians and some Spaniards (if I got it right), which turned out to be a really pleasant night with lots of food, wine and laughs.

Highlights day 4:

  • Parmesan from Parma
  • Bologna
  • The New Year’s party

The week was quickly coming to an end and it was time for the family to break up. While the others went back to Milan/Como, we went on to Venice, while in the neighbourhood. After some final sightseeing and brunch in Bologna, we took the train to Venice and arrived when the sun had already set. Since we still didn’t have a place to stay for the night (we were waiting for a possibility to stay at one of A’s friend’s flat), we locked our stuff up at the train station and went for a walk in the City of Bridges.

If you ever go to Venice, be sure to check it out by night. If you were to compare the lit façades during night with the grey and gloomy ones during daylight, you would immediately understand which ones were more impressive. So grab a tripod and go to Piazza San Marco and take some nice night photos to show up at home. Also check out the nice alleys on your way there and back.

Most of the hotels in Venice are expensive as hell, but with the help of my sister we found a quite decent one really near the train station. 80 euros for a double room with bathroom. Simple, but functional. The next day we did the whole city in abot 8 hours, and that was quite enough. The canals, bridges, gondolas and alleys are really stunning, but after a while you’re rather full of it. There’s just more canals, more bridges, more alleys and more churches wherever you go. So if you catch the main sights, you’ll definitely have your share of the spirit of Venice on your way.

Highlights day 5:

  • Piazza de San Marco by night
  • Trenitalia’s regional trains

Now, there wasn’t really a day 6. Since our flight departed at bout 6 in the morning and we had to get from Venice to Malpensa airport, there wasn’t much time for sleeping. Being completely satisfied with our visit in Venice, we went back to Milan by train. Luckily, J’s friends happened to be in Milan at the same time, so we more or less forced ourselves into their hotel room while they were still at the opera. After that, and before letting them go to bed, we went for a midnight snack at the only bar still open at that hour. I have to say that the food we ate was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. None of us knew how it was supposed to be eaten; on the accompanying bread, or just like that, or even at all…

The last hour before getting on the shuttle bus to Malpensa airport, we spent in a sofa in the hotel lobby, casually chatting with the reception clerk and trying not to fall asleep. Then it was off to the airport and back home after a really intense but wonderful week in Italy.

Check out the pics in the gallery.

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Filed under Parties, The thing they call Life

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