20.05.2016 - 27.05.2016 19 °C
Taking advantage of our current unemployment, we have taken a quick trip before Laura starts work. We took off on our first ever Ryanair flight to see five cities (plus three day trips to towns) in only eight days in Northern Italy.
Cheap flights mean an early start - train from Cambridge at 04:44, flight from Stansted at 06:40. We then had a huge day of walking and sightseeing in Turin. We began with a walk along Via Roma, through town squares and cloistered shopping streets. First stop was the cathedral - which holds the Shroud of Turin (allegedly the loincloth Jesus was buried in, although carbon dating disagrees). We thought it would be funny to visit the dedicated “museum” of the Shroud, but the joke was on us... it was closed from midday-3pm (as is common in Italy).
An espresso boosted our energy for our afternoon walk towards the river Po on Via Po.
Given the wealth of a Egyptian artefacts in Europe, we were apprehensive about spending time and money on another Egyptian museum, but we were glad we did. This Egyptian museum, the largest outside Egypt, is varied, interesting and well set out, and has a free audio guide.
We had purchased a 24 hour museum pass which also got us entry to the wacky Cinema Museum (incredible movie-themed rooms and a series of science displays and optical illusions). We then ascended the tallest masonry structure in Europe (the Cinema museum).
We then set out for our accommodation. We had read that you can only buy tram/bus tickets from tobacconists, and they were all closed, so we walked the 80 minutes home on tired legs... We found out later that you can buy tickets on board for just €1 more than at tabacconists… Doh!
After a deserved sleep in we took a short tourist boat on the river Po and later a bus up the hill to Basilica de Superga (the scenic tram up the hill was under repairs).
We had then booked a cheap ‘Flixbus’ to Milan which was actually quite nice, had Wi-Fi and was quick.
That evening we experienced the famous Italian predrink culture - buy a drink called an "aperativo" at the right bars and get snacks/tapas for free. We drank/ate at a fashionable aperativo bar called Ritas, after a walk along Milan’s canals, which were packed with young Milanese for Saturday night drinks.
The next day we split up as Laura has visited Milan before. I took a quick look at the glassy shopping building and the busy square, climbed up to the spires on the roof of the church thing, and then looked at sports stuff at the sports place where they were about to host some sports event.
Laura window shopped... I think...
We then reunited at the Milan opera house for €11 last minute tickets to a pair of short operas. Impressive!
Afterwards we went to a wine bar we had read about for a different style of aperativos, and shared a pizza on our way home.
We were up early the next morning for another budget Flixbus to Florence. Once we checked in at our AirBnB, we strolled through the squares of Florence, circled the cathedral and visited Michelangelo's David and the other art of Galleria dell'Academia.
We then checked out the cafe at the library which has a view of the cathedral.
The next day we were initially frustrated that our bus to a small Tuscan wine town was delayed, but found out later that a burst water main and subsequent collapse had shut down Florence. Laura was so excited by the engineering aspects of this that we took a walk down the road that evening to gawk at the damage (from a safe distance). Before we had even found out we did manage a day trip to Greve in Chianti. This town had a modern wine tasting shop where you enter the size of your tasting into a machine and it fills your glass for you.
On our final day in Florence we again took a day trip, this time to visit the towns of Lucca and Pisa.
In Lucca we walked along the top of the grand city walls, and climbed two clocktowers - one with trees on the top.
In Pisa, we also got away from the main crowd to explore the squares and streets... But really all you want to see is what we did first:
Once back in Florence we ate dinner at the number one ranked restaurant on tripadvisor - a gourmet sandwich bar. The sole worker recommended we tried the local pastrami-style meat with a light cheese and chutney. Yum!
The next morning we caught an early high speed train to Verona, and had a relaxing day walking around town. They have an arena which is older than the colosseum and again, city walls. The city walls cross over a river and merge into a great castle, built in the 1300s to protect against other provinces, but it was bombed by retreating Germans in the 1940s and then restored in the 60s-70s.
Our final day consisted of a whirlwind tour of Venice. We caught a vaporreto (ferry) to Murano island where we saw an expert glass blowing demonstration. We then came back to the mainland where we wandered around the maze of small streets, stopping at intricate bridges and hidden public squares.
We finished our walk at the famous St Mark's square. I was surprised how intricate and golden the inside of the basilica are... I had thought it was famous largely because of the location.
We paid to also explore the art on the upper floors and exterior balcony which had a great view over the square.
Then it was time to get to the airport for our inevitably delayed flight... Meaning we arrived at close to 1am back at Stansted... Too late for a bus to Cambridge. On the bright side we've now used uber.